Intersessional Panel Discussion on the Right to Social Security – Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, November 1, 2021 – World – Community News
Social Security

Intersessional Panel Discussion on the Right to Social Security – Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, November 1, 2021 – World

Nov 1, 2021

Distinguished Vice President of the Council,
Colleagues and friends,

This is an important discussion – the Human Rights Council’s first deep dive into the universal right to social security.

There is no better time to talk about social security and social protection.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and the changing world of work, make realizing this right a matter of utmost urgency.

In 2020 alone, 255 million jobs were lost due to the pandemic. Gaps in the coverage of social protection systems and inadequate social security benefits contributed to the inequalities that have accelerated and deepened the effects of COVID-19.

Social security facilitates access to health care, protects people from poverty and guarantees essential economic and social rights, including food, water, housing, health and education.

States clearly recognized this in 2020, when they responded to the pandemic with unprecedented social protection measures to mitigate its social, economic and health impacts.

From Malawi to Peru, the Philippines, Finland and the United States — and in many other countries in between — governments quickly expanded their social assistance programs by introducing new remittances for many people typically excluded from aid — including informal workers, most of those are women and freelancers, many of whom work in the growing gig economy.

In Argentina and Bolivia, for example, domestic resources were mobilized to promote more progressive tax systems, creating more fiscal space for social protection.

But many of those measures were temporary. And much more needs to be done in each region to make the right to social security a reality for all.

More than half of the world’s population currently lacks social protection coverage, according to the ILO’s World Social Protection Report. Only 26% of children worldwide receive Social Security benefits; less than half of women with newborns worldwide receive maternity benefits; and only about 30% of people with severe disabilities receive disability benefits.

The ongoing transition to a green economy and the introduction of new technologies into the world of work are also changing the landscape of work, especially for the most disadvantaged. Social Security is an essential toolkit to help workers navigate these changes – building invaluable resilience for the economy at large.

Dear colleagues,

Social security is a fundamental human right – indispensable for the exercise of many other rights and necessary for a dignified life. Its content can guide states in designing comprehensive social protection systems and help them move from the temporary and ad hoc measures of the early months of the COVID-19 crisis to longer-term policies supporting sustainable, resilient societies.

Renewed solidarity – within every society and between nations – is a cornerstone of the Secretary-General’s common agenda, which aims to fight inequality and guide how better to recover from the pandemic.

International cooperation to help less developed countries ramp up their social security systems is essential – and will benefit everyone.

My Office works to promote well-designed and human rights-based social protection systems, prioritize healthcare budgets, and increase the participation of health professionals and communities in the implementation of social protection schemes.

We actively support countries to ensure that everyone – including women, the elderly, members of minority communities, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, migrants and LGBTI people – has access to social protection, well beyond COVID-19.

The pandemic teaches us that it is essential for states to support universal social protection – everywhere.

Social protection systems are not a drain on resources: they are an invaluable investment in healthy societies.

I wish you a fruitful and enriching discussion.