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About this book

The book relates three years of history of social movements from Asia and Europe who work on social justice, as a rough overview. The work for the book is mainly done on the ground, day after day, working in villages and cities, with people and their organisations, organising resistance and preparing alternatives. It is based on the fact that European and Asian concerns are identical, in spite of divergent levels of development and wealth, and that the existing international initiatives, such as the ILO’s social protection floors, or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are perfectly compatible with neoliberal policies.

The book goes beyond and sees social commons as a strategic tool for transforming societies. It is basically a project for the sustainability of life, of humans, of societies, and of nature. The book describes the ideas at the basis of the work in different sectors. It is not about the practice of social policies but about the ideas and discourses that can in the end shape the political practices. In sum, this book, presents a new social paradigm. It concretely shows how social justice and environmental justice do go hand in hand.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This book tells the story of the work of the Asia Europe People’s Forum on social justice, work of grassroots social movements and of academics from both continents. In times of the coronavirus it is crystal clear that solid and public health systems should be at the core of the social protection systems that we need and want, linked to democracy and environmental preservation, guaranteeing food sovereignty in a context of just trade. Our plea is for a totally new approach, linking health and social protection to all other elements social movements are fighting for and linking also to the new thinking on commons and on participatory approaches. We not only repeat, then, the old claims for protection and solidarity, we also renew the arguments in favour of them. In this way, we believe this is a truly innovative approach.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 2. Why Social Justice?

Abstract
The corona crisis also has a silver lining: never before has the need for a comprehensive social protection been so clear. It now becomes somewhat easier to defend welfare states, which came about one century ago through a long history of social struggles. In the South, though, they remained very imperfect and incomplete. During the past decades, they were hollowed out by neoliberal policies changing their fundamental philosophy of ‘protection’ into ‘activation’ for labour markets. All international organisations, from the World Bank to the European Union now defend social protection as a production factor, at the service of markets and mainly in favour of the poor. They do not exclude privatisations and deregulations.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 3. Global Charter for Universal Social Protection Rights: For All and by All

Abstract
AEPF drafted a Global Charter of Social Protection Rights. Its main objective is to promote a different philosophy on social protection, one that goes beyond the traditional rights, that encompasses environmental needs and bridges the unacceptable gap between production and reproduction. In our perspective, social protection is a commons, emerging from the democratic and participatory actions of citizens with demands for public authorities. Social protection is not a correction mechanism for the economic system but should be transformative, that is, contribute to a better productive system and to the sustainability of life, strengthening other actions that work for system change. We see social protection as a collective and democratic endeavour for achieving a life in dignity for all. The text is not a text with demands, but with principles.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 4. From Social Protection to Social Commons

Abstract
Markets and economies have changed these past decades, which means social protection systems will have to change as well. We know that all people have the same needs, but there is no blueprint for any alternative. The new thinking on commons can help us out, focusing on rights, democracy and participation. It can allow us to preserve some basic and important principles of social protection while taking into account the needs and priorities of local communities. Furthermore, it helps to better articulate several territorial levels—from local to national to continental to global—since at every level democratic procedures can be put into place to say: ‘social protection is ours’. Social commons will be universal and multilevel. They will also be transformative, preserving the sustainability of nature, people and societies.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 5. Assuring Affordable, Accessible and Quality Public Services for All: Health, Education, Water, Transport and Energy

Abstract
While the world has all the necessary resources for a life of dignity for all, our common world, the air we breathe, the water we drink, our forests and seas, and hence also our human rights to life, food, shelter and freedom are violated. Neoliberal ideology is the root cause of all major difficulties with universal social services at this point in time. Neoliberalism only believes in market solutions, and has redefined the role of States. This has to stop. Essential for a dignified life are social services: health care, education, water, public transport, housing, communication and so much more, all the things people need for being free of want. Many governments seek solutions through ‘Private Public Partnerships’, that is agreements with private companies. Research has indicated this rarely is in favour of public entities, let alone of workers and citizens, and offers very profitable opportunities to corporations. International trade agreements do the rest. They are no longer primarily about tariffs and quotas, but they act as a type of ‘Trojan horse’ to carry provisions that facilitate privatisation and new rights for multinational investors. Real alternatives can be found in re-municipalisation and in social commons.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 6. Labour

Abstract
Again, the initial position of Europe and Asia is very different, but the challenges faced today are similar. Labour rules are much stronger in Europe, but the new developments in the labour market have huge consequences, especially for young people. What is different now compared to previous years is the worsening of the climate crisis, the current coronacrisis and the re-emergence of authoritarian populist movements and even governments. Even if some of them do promote ‘social’ measures, these are mostly of the ‘traditional value’ kind and far from being emancipatory. Both developments mean that the space for progressive social movements is shrinking. What needs specific attention is the growing informalisation of labour markets, the growing precariousness of livelihoods, the gender dimension, the role of China and the weakening of trade unions, especially in the context of growing robotisation.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 7. The Right to the City and the Right to Housing

Abstract
Housing is part of social protection and has a specific mention in the programme of the Sustainable Development Goals. The basic call of the COVID -19 lockdown was: stay home, stay safe. This assumes that one must have a home to be safe in. Millions of people do not have the luxury of a safe and secure home. For them, the lockdown was nothing short of a disaster. In a large part of the developing world, the urban poor live in huge sprawls in overcrowded quarters without basic amenities. The first level of housing-based struggle has been the one to fight against eviction from these meagre dwellings because the people who lived there were in constant danger of being bull dozed and evicted to face a worse homeless fate. Neoliberalism and the commodification of land have been the biggest hurdles to the creation of public, social, or affordable housing. Real estate speculation has created immense pressure on land. Given this, the chances of prioritising housing as a social need are close to zero unless there is enough pressure from those who have no access, and or those who campaign for social protection of all kinds.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Chapter 8. Global Voices: The Way Forward

Abstract
A clear common view starts to emerge: whether we speak of labour rights, public services, housing or commons, or even democracy or the environment, there is a consensus throughout to recognise the importance of social justice and of social protection in particular. Furthermore, it is when listening to people on the ground, working with Dalits or with poor people in European cities, that the discourse of the academics acquires its significance and its meaning. Our Global Charter helps to make the link between our common narrative and the daily practices and struggles for economic and social rights. The objective is to protect the individual and to preserve our societies. The crisis is showing once more that the needed sustainability cannot be achieved within the neoliberal and authoritarian systems we are living in. Therefore, the most urgent and most compelling task is this: to build strong solidarity movements.
Francine Mestrum, Meena Menon

Backmatter

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