The Virtual Social Security Forum for the Americas saw a record of over 1,000 registered participants. As a result, it became the most attended virtual event of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) to date, offering rich exchanges between social security institutions and professionals from across the continent.
The Americas is a dynamic region, and ISSA member institutions are showing great dedication to the exchange of experiences and good practices. Before the Virtual Social Security Forum for the Americas, which took place from 1–3 December 2021, more than 4,600 representatives from ISSA members in the region had already participated in webinars and virtual events since 2020. With 1,000 registrations to the Virtual Forum, the Americas sets a new standard for upcoming events. ISSA member institutions also played a major part in the programme, the first two days of the event were built on their contributions, with over 75 speakers.
To continue providing services to the global membership, the ISSA quickly adapted to the new reality created by the pandemic and shifted all its events into an online format. Even though this is the first major virtual event for the region, the ISSA has been offering online capacity building webinars and courses since March 2020.
The Virtual Forum demonstrated once again the enormous innovative power and resilience of the members to ensure the continuation of services during the crisis. Sharing those experiences with colleagues across borders is a way for institutions to be better prepared for any future crisis. “It is only together that we will be able to identify solutions and work towards stronger social security systems”, said Professor Joachim Breuer, ISSA President, in his opening speech at the Virtual Forum.
Social security responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the chapters presented in the new ISSA report Priorities for social security: Trends, challenges and solutions – The Americas. The other chapters were: evolving management practices, maintaining and extending coverage, meeting the needs of an ageing population and promoting inclusive growth and social cohesion. The report created a basis for discussion during the forum.
Starting with a high-level plenary session on recent developments and future challenges for social security in the Americas, the first day featured eight different parallel sessions with in-depth presentations and discussions. Some sessions tackled social security and COVID-19, the short and middle term responses, and the longer-term impact and sustainability. Other sessions focused on leadership and innovation, pensions, health coverage, gender considerations, prevention and more.
Day two opened with a session on the future of social security management in the Americas, with perspectives from Central, North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. It was followed by sessions focussing on good practices of members, which provided highly practical take-aways for participants. Solutions for the extension of coverage, protection of vulnerable groups and the unemployed, improving service delivery, increasing technological capacity, and using chatbots, are examples of the topics covered in these sessions.
To round up the day, a special session highlighted the winner of the ISSA Good Practice Award for the Americas and member institutions that have successfully completed the ISSA Recognition Programme and obtained the ISSA Certificate of Excellence during the triennium. While the ISSA Good Practice Award went to Employment and Social Development Canada for an innovative approach to improving social security services, the Mutual for Safety CChC (Mutual de Seguridad CChC) of Chile and Derrama Magisterial of Peru were in the spotlight for achieving ISSA Recognition and recertification.
On day three, participants enjoyed an enriching conversation with Angel Gurría, the former Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Mr Gurria put great emphasis on the importance of upskilling and reskilling of workers in the new and digitalized labour market and tackling the informal economy. The importance of addressing informal employment and finding ways of including more people in social security coverage was in various ways echoed by the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Inter-American Development Bank in the following session. The Virtual Forum closed with a high-level session on meeting the social security needs of the population in the Americas, with ministers and government representatives from Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, and the United States.
Video recordings of all the sessions and all the presentations are available for ISSA members on the event web page of the ISSA website.