The National Insurance Services, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (NIS) is now the Focal Point for the International Social Security Association (ISSA) for English-Speaking Social Security Organizations. This was proposed by the heads of CARICOM and synergizes with the Director of NIS’s appointment, Mr. Stewart Haynes, as a Bureau member of ISSA for the triennium 2020-2022, representing the region.
The recognition of the appointment was done on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, via a virtual launch ceremony attended by representatives from the NIS, CARICOM, CARICOM Social Security Organizations in the region, the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The objective of the Focal Point Institution is to ensure that social security systems in the region capitalize on the benefits from ISSA’s products, services, international presence and relevant networking and knowledge building platforms. This affords them the avenue to benchmark, improve and enhance their systems’ administration, governance, institutional capabilities and financial management.
Director Haynes said it was a historic moment for regional social security systems. The Government, Board, Management and Staff of the NIS were humbled and delighted to serve in the distinguished position. He said the move helps to formalize and deepen the international partnership and solidarity with the ISSA.
Director Haynes said the partnership will help regional social security systems build resilience as they now have enhanced, dedicated and tailored access to the ISSA’s suite of products and services. These products and services are designed to build capacity, improve the administration of Social security systems, equip participants with practical knowledge to contribute to the development of regional social protection, facilitate networking opportunities to exchange experiences and ideas, share lessons learnt, and promote best practices and standards.
ILO’s Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Vinícius Carvalho Pinheiro, congratulated the ISSA and the NIS on the launch of the Focal Point Institution and emphasized the ILO’s commitment to the ISSA to work together to make social security a reality for all.
Pinheiro said the ILO’S portfolio in the region has grown significantly and focuses on positioning social insurance as the main component of universal and adaptive national social protection systems. To achieve that, there is a need for modern, more robust, and sustainable social security organizations, which cannot be achieved alone but through international cooperation, which creates opportunities to build social protection for all, step by step.
In delivering remarks, President of the ISSA, Joachim Breuer, said the Focal Point had been a longstanding ISSA project, which has finally become a reality. He noted the timeliness of the launch was important as social security copes with grave challenges and seize new opportunities.
Breuer said even before COVID-19, many social security institutions were undergoing policy and administrative reforms to meet rapidly evolving demands. He referred to one such demand regarding the digitalization of service delivery which was accelerated within the last year.
Further, he reiterated that the ISSA’s specific knowledge could be accessed through its unique products and services. These are guidelines and workshops that can offer significant support in the digitalization of service delivery. He said the essential role, which social security institutions plays was further highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to play the role, social security institutions must remain agile, dynamic and innovative, and critical enablers to this will be international cooperation and rapid access to the ideas and lessons of peers.
Mr. Leo Preville, Program Manager for CSME, delivered an address on behalf of the Secretary General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. Mr. Preville said that the launch of a dedicated Focal Point Office for the English speaking the Caribbean sends a clear signal that all members matter regardless of their size since most of the members comprise small island states.
He said the presence of the Focal Point Office in the region would serve to provide further technical support in the administration of the CARICOM agreement on social security and reassured CARICOM nationals as they migrate throughout the region.
The Programme Manager said given the unprecedented circumstances over the last few months, National Insurance Systems throughout the English Speaking Caribbean would be going through a period of review. As such, given its history of providing professional guidance and expert knowledge to its members, the presence of the Focal Point Office by the ISSA is most timely as the region’s social security institutions respond with appropriate social security measures and policies.
Mr. Preville recognized the NIS, the Government of Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines for hosting the first Focal Point Office. He said it is a firm indication that the Government places a high priority on ensuring that the workers of the Caribbean benefit from the highest possible quality of social protection. He also congratulated the Director of the NIS and Focal Point Officer, Mr. Stewart Haynes, for accepting the responsibility of leading the office as the ISSA deepens the relationship with the Caribbean.
The launch was followed by the first activity of the Focal Point, which was a webinar that addressed the potential of digital transformation of social security institutions to strengthen resilience in times of crisis.