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The world of work is changing very rapidly. In the European Union, 11 million people are out of work, including 4.6 million young people.[1] World-wide, the ILO speaks of almost 200 million unemployed people and almost half of the total workforce, or 1.5 billion people are in vulnerable employment.[2] Governments are all in austerity mode and claim to have no other possibility than try and believe better skills and flexible labour markets will bring solutions.


Chances are minimal they will ever succeed.

(Conférence internationale à l’occasion du 30ème anniversaire de l’Institut des Droits de l’Homme, Lyon, 5-6 février 2016)

 La protection sociale est aujourd’hui au centre de l‘attention politique. Il ne s’agit pas pourtant d’un renouveau de la pensée sociale, mais d’un projet politique néolibéral au service de l’économie. Il convient dès lors de la repenser et de redéfinir sa finalité. Dans un premier point, j’expliquerai que la protection sociale est un droit humain, au croisement de l’individuel et du collectif. Le deuxième point concerne une proposition pour redéfinir la protection sociale en termes de communs sociaux. En troisième lieu, il faudra se demander si ces communs, par définition collectifs, sont compatibles avec les droits humains. La réponse est positive, à condition de modifier le concept d’individu qui sous-tend les droits humains. Ainsi, quatrième point, il sera possible de faire de ces communs sociaux un projet d’avenir pour l’émancipation des individus et des sociétés.


(Conferencia ‘Con todos y para el bien de todos’, La Havana, 25-28 de enero 2016) 

We live in a paradoxical time. While, on the one hand, international organisations are promoting social protection in the South, on the other hand, existing welfare states are being dismantled in the North. However, there is in fact one single logic at work. What is being introduced in the North as well as in the South is a neoliberal social paradigm in which ‘social protection’ acquires a new meaning, different from what it was in the past. Hence, the North and the South are facing identical challenges and alternatives are urgently needed.

In this contribution, I want to first identify the major characteristics of neoliberal social policy. I then want to point to the difficult relationship the left has with social policies and welfare states. Third, while social policies certainly cannot be abandoned, the search for alternatives will have to take into account the needs of our times and of current generations. In the fourth section, I want to propose an alternative that uses the concept of the commons as an anti-systemic tool allowing to link up with the struggle for climate justice. Social commons, then, as I will explain, will be a transformative and emancipatory project promoting social and political agency, it will allow to defend the sustainability of life, of people, of society and of nature, while it can contribute to change the economic system.[1]

In 2015, for the first time ever, global extreme poverty will fall below 10 %, according to the World Bank in a triumphant press release of three weeks ago. But the Bank remains cautious about its in 2013 defined objective : to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, or to have it at around 3 %.

This is obviously good news. The United Nations just adopted its ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ as a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals and objective number one, the halving of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015 has been met. The World Bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2014/15[1] estimated extreme poverty in 2011 at 14,5 %, expecting it to lower to 11,5 % in 2015.

Global poverty, then, is diminishing. Some may remember that at the start of this century a percentage of around 20 was mentioned for 2010. In the past year, many scholarly articles were published saying that new measurements would further diminish extreme poverty, others estimating it to remain stable and still others expecting it to rise.

It is sometimes difficult to believe and it can be useful to try and follow the thread, look at how debates are developing and put the poverty measures into their right context. It is useless to try and prove the figures are ‘false’, since that would imply other figures are ‘right’ and that thesis particularly has to be rejected.

Brochure for Bread for the World:




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