On May 6, Mr. Vic Van Vuuren, the Chair of The UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) and Director of ILO Enterprises Department, was invited to speak at the session of “How can social entrepreneurs help the UN to achieve the SDGs?” during Catalysing Change Week 2021 (3-7 May) organized by Catalyst 2030.
The event was moderated by Sue Riddlestone from Bioregional, with two senior leaders from UN agencies as its panelists- Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) New York office of the Secretary-General, and Mr. Vic Van Vuuren, the Chair of UNTFSSE and Director of ILO Enterprises Department.
Dr. Carpentier started the discussion by asking the audience a key question, “Can the financial and economic system that we have now allow us to achieve SDGs by 2030?” She then recalled the development of the 2030 Agenda and how the pandemic affected our approach to achieving it. She also mentioned some concerning statistics that shows the investment in the Green Economy is still very low, and the recovery measures targeted at women are also at a low rate despite the increasing advocacy on these issues. She suggested that now is the opportunity to emerge with better and more efficient set of policies and address the preexisting condition that prevented social entrepreneurs and micro and small enterprises from actual striving. She gave five recommendations to rebuild a more resilient, green and inclusive, connected recovery that benefits the most vulnerable people: 1) comprehensive and holistic policies to promote entrepreneurship development that motivate and capacitate entrepreneurs and SMEs to tackle the underperforming SDGs; 2) stronger coordination among stakeholder ecosystem; 3) digitalization; 4) investment in entrepreneurial education and skill training to stimulate entrepreneurship mindset; 5) collection of high quality, reliable and comparable data to measure policy effect. She highlighted three areas where we need to invest in post-COVID-19: social, medium and small enterprises, women, and green. (Read relevant articles on this topic by Dr. Chantal Line Carpentier: New Economics for Sustainable Development: Alternative economic models and concepts, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development: A powerful global framework.)
Mr. Vic Van Vuuren’s intervention focused on the contribution of social enterprises to SDGs and the importance of partnerships to strengthen the social enterprise role. He first clarified that at the ILO and UNTFSSE, the term social enterprise rather than social entrepreneur is used. This type of enterprise, which does not have a single legal form and it depends on different national regulatory frameworks, has two dimensions, the economic-entrepreneurial and the social. He emphasized that the SDGs will not be realized by 2030 if we continue with business as usual. Efforts need to be stepped up to accelerate the pace. A growing interest in forms of economy that are “people-centered and planet-sensitive” has positioned Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) as a significant element in transformative change and achieving the SDGs. Regarding the contribution of the social enterprises to the SDGs, Mr. Van Vuuren pointed out specific aspects where SSEs are playing or can play a significant role. He concluded that in general, UN Agencies and civil society organizations have recognized the importance of SSE as an innovative development approach to tackle such issues as job creation, fight to social exclusion and inequality, promotion of gender equality and just transition in an integrated and holistic manner. To unlock the promising potential of SSEs, partnership among different actors is the key at all levels. He particularly mentioned the challenge at national level, SSE policies and programs should be mainstreamed within the national development plans and policies. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of creating enabling conditions in developing economies (e.g. legal framework, access to finance, statistics in place). Many members of the UNTFSSE, such as ILO, OECD, UNDP, are working in different countries to support governments in such direction. Partnerships and social dialogue should be at the core of these policy-making processes. (See the priorities of the UNTFSSE.)
The panel further explored and developed some recommendations on how international organizations and social enterprises can work together to meet the challenge of achieving the SDGs by 2030, such as co-designing cooperation programs, building network for SSEs to seek resources and support, and promoting exchanges and knowledge sharing.
Catalyst 2030 is one of the observers of the UNTFSSE. Catalysing Change Week is an annual event of Catalyst 2030 where social entrepreneurs, representatives from the private sector, governments, funders, and other agencies involved in systems change gather to showcase their systems change efforts and the best practices that can accelerate the work in pursuit of the SDGs.
The recording of the session can be viewed here.