The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that labour peace is essential to prosperity.

Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) at the ILO

ILO’s commitment to the advancement of the social economy is grounded on the conviction that in a globalised world “productive, profitable and sustainable enterprises, together with a strong social economy and a viable public sector, are critical to sustainable economic development and employment opportunities” (ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation). A definition of what we mean by Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) was achieved on the occasion of the ILO Regional Conference on Social Economy held in South Africa, in October 2009.

The ILO has been a pioneer in promoting the social and solidarity economy. As a way of illustration, its Cooperatives Unit was created in 1920. ILO’s work on cooperatives is guided by the ILO Recommendation on the Promotion of Cooperatives, 2002 (R.193). In addition to a number of technical activities conducted at country level to support the development of cooperatives (advice on policy and law, capacity building, international networking, etc.) the ILO, through its Cooperatives Unit (COOP), has undertaken considerable work at regional and global levels in the field of cooperatives and social and solidarity economy as a whole. For instance, the ILO has launched in collaboration with the International Co-operatives Alliance an initiative on the contribution of cooperatives to sustainable development. This aims at bringing cooperative voices into the discussion around the post-2015 development agenda. Moreover, since 2010, the ILO has held, in close collaboration with the ILO International Training Center in Turin, three Academies on Social and Solidarity Economy, in Turin, Montreal, and Agadir, bringing together academics, practitioners and constituents to discuss the subject. As part of the Academy, an online course on SSE has been developed, as well as the “Collective Brain”, a virtual interactive space aiming to enrich the ILO Academy on Social and Solidarity Economy. In addition, the South-South and Triangular Cooperation “Meeting Point”, as well as the other social network tools (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook) exist.

The ILO also aims, through the ILO Social Finance Unit, to improve access to finance through the promotion of social economy organizations such as microfinance and microinsurance schemes. Other initiatives carried by other ILO’s units or departments include the efforts made by the Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) to document and to support initiatives by trade unions and other workers organizations in the area of the social and solidarity economy. This covers efforts to organize informal economy workers through cooperatives as well as support job preservation through worker buy-out. ILO ACTRAV has recently supported an initiative from the Greek trade union federation (GSEE) to create a support structure for such activities in Greece. Furthermore, the ILO has been drawing on the strength of SSE entities for HIV/AIDS prevention and impact mitigation in the world of work. The HIV/AIDS and the World of Work Branch (ILOAIDS) runs a programme on economic empowerment of HIV vulnerable populations along transport corridors (South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Through this programme, the ILO assists cooperatives, their apex bodies and other social economy stakeholders in empowering economically and socially targeted HIV vulnerable populations and enabling access to markets to develop or sustain viable businesses. Finally, ILO’s Partnerships and Field Support Department (PARDEV), through its Emerging and Special Partnerships Unit supports scholarships and research papers from social partners and experts from the South, to support South-South and Triangular Cooperation, on the topic of Social and Solidarity Economy.

Relevant publications and outputs

“Social and Solidarity Economy: towards inclusive and sustainable development” – Reader of the ILO SSE Academy 2014. Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

“Social and Solidarity Economy: Our common road towards Decent Work” – Reader for the ILO SSE Academy 2011. Available in English, Spanish and French.


Simel Esim (esim[@]; Roberto Di Meglio (SSE) dimeglio[@];