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Social and Solidarity Economy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Written by Alvin Leong (LLM, JD), an energy and environmental policy consultant and fellow at the Pace Global Center for Environmental Legal Studies.  He can be contacted at aleong@law.pace.edu.

On 19 July 2014, the intergovernmental Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) issued an outcome document (OWG Outcome Document) containing proposals for 17 goals and 169 targets.[1]

The OWG Outcome Document was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 September 2014 [2] and will be the ‘main basis’ for integrating sustainable development goals into the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be finalized at the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2015.

The OWG Outcome Document, in its introduction (chapeau), affirms that poverty eradication is the ‘greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development’ ( 2) and ‘people are at the centre of sustainable development’ (4).  Thus, in addition to the overarching aim to end poverty, the OWG Outcome Document proposes goals, inter alia, to promote ‘inclusive’ economic growth (Goal 8); make cities and human settlements ‘inclusive’ (Goal 11); and promote ‘inclusive’ societies (Goal 16).

What does ‘inclusive’ mean in these contexts and how can it be achieved in development?  The process of crafting the Post-2015 Development Agenda offers the opportunity to conceptualize development in a transformative way by integrating its economic, social and environmental dimensions.  Inclusiveness, within this integrative conceptual framework, should include the role of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) because the concept of SSE represents a fundamentally ‘inclusive’ and integrative approach. More concretely, SSE can be a functional component of the means of implementation to achieve the goals of poverty eradication and ‘inclusive’ economic growth, cities and human settlements, and societies.

SSE has been defined as ‘the production of goods and services by a broad range of organizations and enterprises that have explicit social and often environmental objectives’ that are ‘guided by principles and practices of cooperation, solidarity, ethics and democratic self-management.’[3]   SSE includes ‘cooperatives and other forms of social enterprise, self-help groups, community-based organizations, associations of informal economy workers, service-provisioning NGOs, solidarity finance schemes, among others.’[4]

SSE organizations and enterprises can play important roles in job creation and poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, education, healthcare, food security, access to water and sanitation, sustainable energy, sustainable management of natural resources, and promotion of stable and peaceful societies.[5]  In particular, SSE organizations and enterprises can provide pathways for poor and other marginalized people to gain access to labor, product and credit markets.  SSE organizations and enterprises that serve social or environmental values and are collectively owned and managed through participatory, democratic arrangements offer an alternative business vision and model to the traditional business model based on profit maximization (which, at best, adds on ‘corporate social responsibility’).  Because of SSE’s fundamental nature as a people-centered approach, SSE can provide a counterbalance to the possible privatization or corporatization of the sustainable development agenda, which has been a major worry to some segments of civil society.[6]

Because SSE is, functionally, a means of implementation to achieve the integrative inclusiveness that is an expressed objective throughout the SDGs, the concept of SSE is fully consistent with the OWG Outcome Document.  In addition, Section 1.b states: “create sound policy frameworks, at national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies to support accelerated investments in poverty eradication actions.”  Within this rubric, governments can adopt enabling legal, policy and institutional support for SSE as part of broader poverty eradication strategies.  In summary, no change to the OWG Outcome Document is needed for SSE to be considered a functional component of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, although it would be advisable for the UN General Assembly resolution or declaration adopting the Post-2015 Development Agenda or other relevant document to make reference to SSE as a means of implementation[7] for achieving truly ‘inclusive’ sustainable development, i.e., development that leaves no one behind.

[1] See http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/focussdgs.html.

[2] This decision was taken through a resolution adopted in a plenary meeting on 10 September 2014, A/68/L.61, as orally revised, and issued as A/RES/68/309.


[3] Social and Solidarity Economy and the Challenge of Sustainable Development, a position paper by the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy, http://unsse.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Position-Paper_TFSSE_Eng1.pdf.

[4] Ibid.  For more information about SSE, see RIPESS – Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy, http://www.ripess.org/?lang=en, and The Mont Blanc Meetings – International Forum of the Social and Solidarity Economy Entrepreneurs, http://www.rencontres-montblanc.coop/en.


[5] Cooperatives and the Sustainable Development Goals, A Contribution to the Post-2015 Debate, http://ica.coop/sites/default/files/attachments/COOPs%20and%20SDGs%20Brief%20Final%20April%202014.pdf.


[6] See https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/252-the-millenium-development-goals/52605-civil-society-rallies-to-prevent-privatization-of-post-2015-process.html.


[7] While SSE policies and practices have instrumental value as a means of implementation for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, it is also important to recognize that SSE concepts and principles have intrinsic value as a means of re-conceptualizing development as an ethical, values-driven and radically transformative project.



One thought on “Social and Solidarity Economy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

  1. Interesting article! Indeed SSE possesses features that bode well for sustainable development. The question is now how to have the topic represented within post-2015 debates, without overlooking the unique nature and the diversity of SSE organizations?

    Posted by Marie-Adélaïde Matheï | November 13, 2014, 12:54 pm


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