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Dal quotidianio “TIMES OF ESWATINI”: Importance of social solidarity



HUMAN beings are social animals. By definition, social animals are animals which live in large genetically, traditionally, culturally and behaviourally similar and united groups which belong to the same species.
A society is a group of social animals. Typically, social animals have got shared origins, genetics, identities, histories, traditions, cultures, behaviours, beliefs, language, norms, values, visions, aspirations and a whole lot of other commonalities amongst them. Social animals are therefore essentially a group of the same or similar animals.
Although individual core or extended family units form the basic building blocks of any society, a real society consists of individuals far more than just those in the same family unit.
Social behaviour sees some individual members of society who have certain special skills, talents or capabilities being automatically assigned to collectively and co-operatively perform certain specific functions, tasks, duties or responsibilities for the collective benefit of the whole society.
It can be said that such special task groups provide social protection, social assistance, social security or social welfare to the whole society in a social solidarity kind of way. Such specially assigned individual groups within the same society would usually work together or spend distinctly more and more time together, and would also interact much more within their given task group than with other members of the same species outside of that social task group.
For example, worker bees and soldier ants would spend more time together taking care of their assignment and providing social protection to their whole community. The same scenario as described above, can also be said about human beings and their social solidarity behaviour in providing social protection services to communities in which they live and belong to.
Those people who can would, in solidarity, come and work together to help, assist or provide social protection to those in need. This is the natural origin of the concept and practice of social solidarity and social protection.
What exactly is social protection or social solidarity are all about? The unique phenomenon of certain distinct groups of animals within the same society working collectively and co-operatively together for the benefit of the whole society is called social solidarity.
Hence social animals have got this unique characteristic of displaying social solidarity behaviour. Social solidarity behaviour provides protection to disabled or less able individual members of society who unfortunately would otherwise not be able to individually survive that particular challenge if and when left alone to do so.
In collectively and co-operatively protecting vulnerable individual members of society from harm, society as a whole is also protected and preserved as a viable unit or entity. This is because the so protected vulnerable individual members of society may have been vulnerable and unable to protect themselves from that particular kind of adversity, but they may also have other very important roles which they and only they alone can play in that society, and roles which benefit society as a whole as well.
Such being the case, if society allows its vulnerable members to succumb to their individual vulnerabilities, it is society as a whole which would eventually suffer because it would lose certain members of society with irreplaceable social value elsewhere or in other fields in the same society.
For example, in the evolutionary history of humankind, it is known for a fact that human societies have always been collectively and co-operatively protected from attacks by wild animals and other rival groups by putting together and maintaining armies of able-bodied men and women to provide both protective and defensive military services.
Obviously, individual members of society would not stand any chance at all when faced even by just one lion, let alone by a pride of lions. However, against an army of strong and heavily armed, able-bodied young men and women, even a whole pride of lions has got no chance at all.
For the reasons that society as a whole needs strong and able-bodied men and women for its military or social protection, society would then collectively and co-operatively come together to ensure that those individual families amongst them who might struggle to raise their own children as individual families, due, say, to lack of resources, are actually assisted to do so, not only for their own benefit as individual families, but also for the eventual benefit of society as a whole when their otherwise poverty stricken or vulnerable but now socially protected children eventually join the army. This is what social solidarity is all about. And this is exactly what social protection is all about too. Hence, social protection is just social solidarity in action.
Academically speaking, social protection or social solidarity is defined as collective and co-operative protection which society affords or provides to its vulnerable members in their times of need. Social solidarity is the vehicle, activities or actions through which social protection is delivered.
As human beings, we have got certain basic needs without which we may not be able to live, make it or survive. Obviously, the most basic human needs without which we may not be able to live or survive are food, shelter, health, education, communication, transport, safety and security.
If and when left alone to fend for themselves, a majority of members of any given human society would definitely not be able to adequately provide for all their own individual basic human needs by themselves. Hence, as individuals, such members would not be able to survive.
However, collectively and co-operatively, human societies, have over the years, been able to ensure that all members of society have access to all the necessary basic human needs.
This is exactly what has kept all our different human societies alive and healthy up to this day. For all social animals, social solidarity or social protection is very essential and an absolute necessity for the survival of both individual members and also for society as a whole.
It is for this reason that social protection is both a basic human need and also a basic human right. This is one of the mains reasons why the ILO (International Labour Organisation) came up with the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention No. 102 of 1952, among many other social security conventions.
While the foregoing treatise makes it very clear that social solidarity or social protection are always needed for the provision of basic human needs such as food, shelter, health, education, communication, transport, safety and security, it took the ravages of the 2008 to 2010 global financial crisis for the United Nations (UN) to wake up to this fact. Hence it (the UN) then advocated for the implementation of what it called Social Protection Floors (SPF) across all countries in the world.
Unfortunately, up to this day, not all countries have heeded this wise UN advice. All basic human needs must be covered by social security and social protection. What the received doctrine of universal social protection floors means is that all countries of this world are supposed to put into place in-country social solidarity or social protection mechanisms which would, at the very list, ensure protection of their own vulnerable citizens and members of society from lack of food, shelter, health, education, communication, transport, safety and security.
The process of ensuring that this happens would usually involve, first and foremost, the putting into place of solidly built, strong, people based, people derived, people driven and people centred, tried and trusted national social protection mechanisms, systems, funds, institutions, processes and practices.
In order to be able to do this, it is advised that each and every country must legally enact National Social Security Acts which would ensure the legal institutionalisation of various purpose built and purpose specific national social security funds. Such national social security funds would cover each and every one of the basic human needs of food, shelter, health, education, communication, transport, safety and security.
For example, there must be put into place a National Food Security Fund (NFSF), National Housing Development Fund (NHDF), National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Workers Compensation Insurance Fund (WCIF), National Basic Education Insurance Fund (NBEIF), National Transport and Communication Fund (NTCF) and a National Safety and Security Fund (NSSF), among many other possible social security funds. All the above enumerated national social security funds must be legally and mandatorily contributed to by everyone who is capable of doing so.
This includes contributions from government first and foremost, and also from all employers, employees, workers, parents, volunteers, donors, etc. In order to succeed, all mandatory national social security funds must always be ring-fenced and protected from direct control or manipulation by any single individual, power, authority, body or organisation.
They must also be vigorously protected from abuse and absolute control by government. This is the received knowledge according to best practice standards. For example, social security funds must strictly and without fail, always adhere to the 30-30-30-10 rule.
This is whereby they must always ensure that not more than 30 per cent of their collected annual premiums are used to pay administrative costs, not more than 30 per cent are used to pay benefits costs, not less than 30 per cent are invested in designated investment vehicles and that 10 per cent are kept as reserves. Without such rules, social security funds can be easily abused.
Coming back to the small issue of definitions, we have already defined social protection as being the same thing as social solidarity, this being the collective and cooperative protection which society affords or provides to its vulnerable members in their times of need. Simply put, social security is legalised or compulsory social protection, ditto for social insurance.
What this means is that both benefactors and beneficiaries are legally compelled to financially or otherwise compulsorily contribute to social security, and that beneficiaries would also derive legally defined benefits as well.
On the other hand, social assistance is conditional social protection or social solidarity whereby beneficiaries would be assisted to overcome their individual social challenges without mandatorily contributing anything but on condition that they also simultaneously assist themselves to overcome the challenges which they face.
For example, school dropout single mothers may be offered free income, accommodation and food on condition that they go back to school and also on condition that their ‘fatherless’ children also go to school or go back to school as well.
This would assist these unfortunate people to complete school, get trained and perhaps get jobs thereafter so that they can be bale to independently look after themselves. Social welfare is unconditional social protection or social solidarity which is extended to those members of society who have absolutely no prospects of being able to help themselves in any way whatsoever.
These include the elderly, the very, very young, the disabled and the invalid. There is no better way to alleviate poverty that to provide universal social protection services through social solidarity.
The provision of social protection services is a national imperative for every caring, peace seeking and peace loving national government.