Article by Jean Rossiaud, Sociologist and jurist, Dr. in Economics and Social Sciences


2023 will probably go down in history as the year of the great bifurcation of the SSE: that of the beginning of its  recogntion at institutional level. RIPESS – among other SSE umbrella organisations – actively contributed to this success, as Yvon Poirier wrote in “the long road to success“. The SSE movement has succeeded in getting international and multilateral organisations to officially recognise the SSE. This recognition gives the SSE movement throughout the world, and at supranational, national, regional and local levels, a real opportunity to demand the framework that SSE enterprises need to develop. That’s no mean feat… But beware! For a movement, institutionalisation, even if it is a sign of growing strength and maturity, also carries the risks of being locked into formal legal frameworks and losing its radicalism. Among the other organisations that make up the SSE movement, RIPESS must remain the one that makes a strong claim for the values and principles of a post-capitalist, solidarity-based, more egalitarian and fundamentally sustainable economy.

The ambitious agenda of the ILO and the UN

On 18 April 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Promoting the Social Solidarity Economy for Sustainable Development. This resolution explicitly follows the adoption on 10 June 2022 of the resolution on decent work and the social and solidarity economy by the 187 Member States of the ILO. In November 2022, the ILO adopted a seven-year strategy and action plan on decent work and the social and solidarity economy (2023-29).

The UN resolution provides for the first time a universal “official” definition of the Social Solidarity Economy, it “encourages States to promote and implement national, local and regional strategies, policies and programmes to support and promote the social solidarity economy as a ‘model for sustainable development'” and requests the UN Secretary General to prepare a report for the implementation of the resolution, and importantly, with the assistance of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Social Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) .

European Union recommendations that need to be taken on board

And that’s not all! On 9 October 2023, following a proposal from the European Commission, a Recommendation of the Council of the European Union was adopted on the establishment of framework conditions for the social economy. This is a political agreement between the ministers of the European Union which “principally recommends that Member States take measures (1) to recognise and promote the role played by the social economy, (2) to facilitate access to the labour market, in particular for vulnerable or under-represented groups, (3) to promote social inclusion, by providing accessible and quality social and care services, (4) to stimulate the development of skills, in particular for the digital transition, and (5) to promote social innovation and sustainable economic development”.

For RIPESS: maintaining its radical stance

Once again, RIPESS Europe has contributed to the recommendation of the Council of the European Union. In this brief, RIPESS Europe welcomes the recommendation, but calls on the Council to put in place strategic and regulatory frameworks based on sustainable funding at all institutional levels (European, national, regional and local) and on a partnership approach. Let’s go beyond a simplistic logic of short-term economic profitability! Finally, RIPESS Europe calls on governments to increase the weight given to social and environmental criteria in the awarding of public procurement contracts.

As part of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2023, Spain has been particularly proactive in building a political compromise around the resolution. To kick-start this ambitious programme, the Spanish government organised a European Social Economy Conference “Social Economy: People, Planet, Action” on 13 and 14 November 2023 in San Sebastian (Spain’s Social Economy Capital 2023). We took part in the conference and were able to see the huge opportunity presented by this recognition at institutional level, but also the risks of marginalising the values we uphold in terms of solidarity and sustainability.

The objective was to mobilize States, businesses, civil society and academic circles to realize the intentions declared in the resolutions of the United Nations and the European Union. More than 500 leading experts in their sector of activity participated in debates, workshops and visits to social economy businesses with the aim of promoting and raising awareness of this economic model. It concluded with the signing by 19 governments as well as by Social Economy Europe and the European Economic and Social Committee of the San Sebastian Manifesto. The Manifesto recognizes “that social economy entities are key players in the European single market and our societies, representing a significant share of economic production and innovation force in the European Union”. Finally, the Social Economy Europe Awards took place, rewarding the work of 12 organizations and 5 institutional authorities in their work to promote the social economy.

So, yes! The Social Solidarity Economy is becoming recognised  at institutional level. We’ve been calling for this for a long time, we’ve worked tirelessly on it and we’ve contributed to its success. It’s an essential step in our continuing campaign for a fair, democratic and sustainable economy. But we must always stay alert! Resolutions, however promising, are no more than political intentions. If they are not transformed into concrete achievements, we will be witnessing a vast operation of “social and solidarity green washing”. So it’s our responsibility to keep up the pressure on the institutions, always going back to the root of our critical mission on capitalism and growth. We must continue to defend the economy as a “common”, through the self-organisation of production, distribution and consumption, particularly in cooperatives. We must also ensure that the digital tools promoted in the SSE are “free”, “open source” tools, promoting an economy of sharing and solidarity, an economy transforming towards post-capitalist, solidarity-based and sustainable solutions (i.e. local, post-extractivist and circular).