My Trip to Brazil

   

Picture, Left: Plenary Session, Right: African Countries Group Session

From 1 to 5 December 2010, Brasilia, Brazil, I had an exciting opportunity to participate in the 1st World Conference on the Development of Social Security Systems organized by the Brazilian Government, international civil society organisations and international trade union organisations. About 677 delegates from 90 countries around the world attended and participated in the conference, bringing the total number of participants to 1089 participants including myself and National Council of Trade Union (NACTU) representative, the only participants at the conference from South Africa. South Africa was supposed to have sent 20 participants, 10 from government and 10 from civil society but only the two of us managed to attend.

On my way living to Brazil, I told myself that I knew the airport logistics, since I went to Kenya earlier this year until some ladies at OR Tambo International’s check-in point demanded a letter confirming that I am going to attend a conference in Brazil. Adam at that moment didn’t have a hard copy of the letter and the ladies said “you can go down stairs and print it at the internet cafe, otherwise you won’t go”. At that time there was only an hour left for me to check in and go to the boarding gate. I went down stairs at Telkom internet cafe and the internet was working but printer was not working, then I went one shop to the next with no success. One last shop was the photo shop which I believed I will be assisted but it was of no assistance. “We are not allowed to insert flash drives in our computers, it is a policy to protect the system from viruses” The lady at the shop said. Then at last when I went back to the check-in point, miracle had happened, the ladies were gone and I said to myself “thanks God”.

It was only when I went to the boarding gates and realised “there is no escape”. But I managed to open my lap top and show them a saved letter, and then I was given a go ahead to board the plane.

Ten hours of non-stop plane on air and another one and half hour was the time I spent to finally reach Brasilia, via Sao Paulo. On arrival at the hotel, all I needed was a warm bath and good night sleep and enthusiastically dreaming about the following day.

Finally the conference day approached an in a nut shell this was my observation. The conference has been an exciting opportunity for me and so many other participants from around the world to debate and agree to disagree on how social security systems could be developed in those countries that have not yet developed it. It has been a platform for Brazil and other Latin American countries to showcase their work in terms of their social security strategies they are implementing. With a push to universalisation of social security systems, activists, government officials and trade unionists have agreed that every country need to develop social security systems for advancing the lives of their counties citizens.

The conference was also useful for me in terms of linking social security systems and the work that we do as Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) Mopani district and as a member of People’s Health Movement (PHM). Health, Social Assistance, Housing, Unemployment Insurances all forms part of the social security systems.

It was agreed that countries need not to start new social security systems campaigns but to incorporate the social security concept in their current campaigns such as the resources for health, pushing countries which are in the process of amending their constitutions to consider putting social security systems as basic rights on their bill of rights section. Inclusion in the economic trade agreements and many other initiatives should touch on the concept of social security and or social protection.

It was also resolved in an African regional group discussion that African regions, Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa shall show solidarity in each other’s work relating to social security. An international coordinating committee should be formed and linked with other existing regional committees and institutions that are working on the realisation of social security systems. The outcomes of the World Social Security Forum which happened in Cape Town, South Africa from 29 November to 4 December 2010 is an example of initiatives that have to be linked together to avoid duplication of work, especially advocacy work. I believe that linking the outcomes is key, since the two conferences had similar objectives which one of them was about discussing universalisation of social security.

A follow up forum for the Brazil conference will be held in Dakar, Senegal in February 2011 to discuss further moving forward with the social security systems realisation. Those who are interested in attending and participating in the forum should go to www.fsms.org.br (World Social Forum on Health Website) or send an email to fsms@fsms.org.br . The next host for the Social Security Forum will be Qatar in November 2013 following the one that happened in Cape Town.