Mutual benefit societies and their role in universal social protection

Mutual benefit societies and their role in universal social protection

Society faces the challenge of achieving international commitments on sustainable development, universal social protection and universal health coverage through ambitious social security programmes based, inter alia, on the contribution of the mutual benefit model, recognition of its potential and the enhancement of its added value.

Mutual benefit societies have played a significant role in the International Social Security Association (ISSA) as its founding members. The ISSA Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies was one of the original technical commissions created in 1951. Its’ purpose is to provide networks for mutual benefit society specialists to collaborate in advancing discussion on technical aspects of mutual benefit societies and foster research and analysis on specific areas of social security.

The mutual model of governance embodies the principle of solidarity, which is central to social protection. This model fits somewhere between public and private ownership.  It plays an essential role in national health systems, family support, as well as in other areas of social services.

Since the inception of the International Social Security Association, the mutual benefit movement has been a key part of the ISSA and it continues to align its work with international institutions, representative organizations and global coalitions in order to promote the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report: The contribution of the mutual benefit movement to universal social protection, produced by the National Union of Socialist Mutual Benefit Societies (Solidaris), Belgium, on behalf of the ISSA Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies, is written with these goals in mind. The report is a valuable resource for the creation and development of systems of universal social protection and universal health coverage, with mutual benefit societies as both actors and partners worldwide.

The report sets out a strategy for expanding the mutual benefit movement, based on seven building blocks.

  1. Political strategy and study of context
  2. Operational development plan
  3. Legal framework and effective enforcement measures
  4. Financial resources and expenditures, and their control
  5. Governance (mutual-based democracy and partnership)
  6. The mutual benefit network as a lifelong global companion
  7. Capitalization and sharing of experiences.

The first point is to carry out an in-depth study of the existing social protection system, and to develop a political strategy, which, to the extent possible, is the subject of a national consensus.

The second building block is the creation of an operational plan for the development or extension of mutual benefit societies. This operational plan should focus on strengthening governance mechanisms and capabilities, ensuring proper management, and establishing indicators.

The third element is to seek legal recognition of the movement, including the aspect of compulsory social protection, within a coherent and complete framework. Fourthly, it is needed to address the financing of social protection, including financial accountability measures.

Next steps involve social mobilization: The fifth building block is the implementation of a multi-stakeholder framework for collaboration and dialogue. Sixth is promoting action through the many sectors that comprise the mutual benefit movement to provide lifelong services and ensure the social, physical and psychological health of members.

The role of the seventh building block is to ensure exchange of experiences and the exploration of synergies within the mutual benefit movement.

The social contract must be given concrete form based on guiding principles and supported with appropriate mechanisms for implementation. The strength of the mutual benefit movement is that it can work directly with government and institutions to make this vision a reality.

The current priorities of the ISSA Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies are focused on the changing needs of an ageing population, social security coverage in a changing world, the role of social security in promoting inclusive growth and social cohesion. In line with these priorities, the Technical Commission is widely acknowledged by its ongoing contributions to ISSA research and innovation activities on topics such as coverage gaps for difficult-to-cover groups, caregivers training, rehabilitation, innovative experience in relation to palliative care and the older adult.

Read the full report here: