Most countries face a major development challenge in the growing need for social welfare, particularly in the area of health care.
In an environment in which globalization tends to propagate a single development model favouring private insurance, it is important to coordinate the positive efforts of all those who promote innovations in the fields of education and social welfare. The aim is to ensure the growth and long-term viability of mutual benefit models. Because we wish to strengthen and expand solidarity-based social protection systems with the support of educators worldwide, EI has teamed up with AIM (Association internationale de la mutualité) and MGEN (Mutuelle générale de l’Education nationale - France) to create a network called Education and Solidarity. The network will be launched during an international conference to be held next May in Paris. The conference will address the rapid growth in health care and social welfare needs which, in the coming years, will exceed GDP growth in every country. Faced with government shortfalls and sometimes even withdrawal, strictly commercial insurance systems have gained influence and are finding a large potential for growth, driving a deep wedge between the individual options they market and existing mutual benefit schemes. The market-driven approach often leads to the exclusion of society's most vulnerable members and to unethical speculation over a basic right like health care. On the continuum between state-driven and market-driven systems lie alternative models based on the following core values:
- Solidarity: Members benefit from the group's strength and resources.
- Non-profit status: Mutual schemes bring together people rather than capital. There are no shareholders to pay. Like the wealth created, the resources pooled by members remain the group's collective property.
- Democratic process: Members elect the managers and participate in decision-making bodies either directly or through representatives. Each member can run as a candidate for the management committees. Members or their representatives set objectives and allocate resources.
These solidarity-based systems (mutual benefit, microinsurance, etc.) carry significant economic and social weight across the globe, with millions of policyholders, hundreds of thousands of employees and hundreds of billions of Euros in assets under management. These schemes are not prone to government withdrawal or to the risk selection mechanisms of market-based approaches. A solidarity-based organization offers the advantage of a more sustainable social contribution because it is not subject to mobility, capital volatility or speculation-related financial risk. Our aim is to defend the idea that in future, every citizen in every country should have the choice between being a customer of an insurance company or being a stakeholder in one's own social protection system in cooperation with others. This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 27, September 2008.