Argentina, Costa Rica · Article · 13 October, 2021

Economic and Social Council (CES) in Argentina and Costa Rica: promoting social dialogue and strengthening democracy

EUROsociAL+ is assisting with the creation of the Economic and Social Council (CES) in Argentina, together with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and, in Costa Rica, where it has already been set up.

A body for dialogue and consensus

The Economic and Social Council (CES in its Spanish initials) is an institution which, at the beginning of the 21st century, has a presence encompassing practically the entire planet. In the European Union alone, there are already 25 countries that have their own CES, whose origin, although associated with different points in history, is linked to democratic consolidation and the participation in economic-social policies of the world of work and production. The European Union also has its own ESC, which is integrated into its governance structure and is made up of 3 Groups: Entrepreneurs, Workers and Diversity Europe (different social, professional, economic and cultural groups of States’ organised civil society).

Economic and Social Councils are institutions whose members are essentially organisations representing the social and productive interests of the countries. They are entities within participatory democracies, consultative bodies for governments and parliaments to listen to the opinion, guidelines and proposals of the organisations that constitute them. In the words of the president of the Consiglio Nazionale dell’Economia e del Lavoro de Italia (CNEL), Tiziano Treu, the CES is an expression of the richness of society: it promotes social cohesion through dialogue, participation and consensus; it is a consulting body and an institutional expression of organised society whose contribution to the democratic life of a country is particularly precious because it is based not only on high-level technical skills, but also on social expertise.

Currently, the role of the CESs has been enhanced by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which require reaching a consensus on very important solutions, and also due to the tensions arising from the increase in inequalities, which undermine the constitutional values of equality and solidarity.

The CES embodies its representatives’ pluralist doctrine, as an expression of freedom and the right of association; and the representative nature of the organisations that comprise it. This guarantees its authority, authenticity and capacity to defend its interests and the values of the social groups and the people that comprise it.

It is an autonomous body that enables the exchange of opinions and dialogue within a stable and recognised institutional framework. However, its activity does not replace other forms of dialogue that social and civil organisations freely practice in their relations with each other and in their conversations with the government and with other public institutions. In other words, a CES does not represent the sum of different pressure groups, but a forum for meeting and dialogue that enables a consensus to be reached between different interests.

 Creation of the CESs in Argentina and Costa Rica

 The Economic and Social Council (CES) of Argentina is a collegiate and citizen participation body created by the National Executive for informed debate and seeks consensus on strategic priorities. It brings together workers, businessmen and women, and representatives from the academic and scientific system, and from civil society in search of strengthening a culture of dialogue that promotes creativity and diversity with a common-sense perspective.

The EUROsociAL+ Programme, together with the ILO, is assisting with the formation and implementation of Argentina’s CES by supporting the drafting of the Draft Bill with the current advisers designated by Presidential decree. To do this, it formed an institutionalisation table that proposes a roadmap divided into four phases for the creation of the CES. In the first phase, exchanges were carried out with different CES experiences in the world (Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, the Dominican Republic and Brazil), sub-national/provincial experiences, namely the Argentine provinces (Buenos Aires, Chaco, La Rioja, Salta) and in the history of the country (2002). This exercise made it possible to gather inputs and take a comparative view based on the preparation of a preliminary bill of the CES law adapted to the social, political and economic context of Argentina, incorporating the perspectives of civil society. In short, the CES of Argentina considered the contributions of similar councils in other countries, the experience of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and that of different provincial and municipal social dialogue bodies.

Fase 1Stage 1
–        Construcción de in piso de información compartida sobre distintas experiencias y necesidades.

–        Acuerdos de procedimiento

–        Construction of a shared level of information about different experiences and needs.

–        Procedural agreements

Fase 2Stage 2
–        Incorporación de otras perspectivas de la sociedad civil–        Incorporation of other perspectives from civil society
Fase 3Stage 3
Evaluación de opciones sobre cómo abordar los principales ejes de un anteproyecto de leyEvaluation of options on how to address the main axes of a draft bill
Fase 4Stage 4
–        Acuerdos sobre primer borrador de anteproyecto de ley–        Agreements on the first draft of the preliminary bill

For its part, on 16 December 2020, Costa Rica celebrated the creation of its Economic and Social Consultative Council ( CCES). The creation of Costa Rica’s CES took place in a context of serious economic and social crisis, in which the increase in the fiscal deficit and the fear of an increase in the citizen tax burden caused a social revolt throughout the country, with protests in which the union movement and the business sector participated. The proposal to convene an Economic and Social Consultative Council was requested by the social sectors in order to facilitate a multi-sectoral platform for dialogue and the generation of agreements that would have the participation of the productive, labour, social and academic sectors, reflecting the economic, social and cultural diversity of Costa Rican society.

Several months later, on 27 August 2021, the CCES was formally convened, on the oath of 54 sector representatives before the President of the Republic, with the appointment of the CCES president José Zaglul and the holding of its first working session.

The CCES of Costa Rica is an optional Executive consultative body, to promote dialogue and the generation of agreements, which brings together developmental actors (workers, employers, academia and civil society) with the purpose of analysing government initiatives from a holistic perspective, which includes a gender perspective.

EUROsociAL+ has supported the formation of the CCES as of November 2020, with specialised advice based on a comparative analysis of different models of European and Latin American CCES and based on supporting the Executive Decree review creating the CCES – issued on 17 December 2020. The Programme technically and strategically assisted the stages of creation and convening, also facilitating, at the December event, the virtual participation of the presidents of Italy’s CNEL and Spain’s CES.

 CES’ perspectives

In the opinion of Tiziano Treu, the CES is part of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, pursuing objectives compatible with the achievement of social justice. The president of the CNEL adds that “today, more than ever, our society, disoriented and often divided to the point of defining itself as liquid, needs an amalgam consisting of the active participation of the people and organisations that make up our communities”.

To do this, it advocates for dialogue and social mediation, in order to govern the social complexity and economic dynamics of the market and strengthen democracies to defend it from individualistic and authoritarian standpoints. Through social dialogue  job opportunities can be developed to fight inequalities and obtain better living conditions for everyone.

Among the challenges faced by CESs in improving their action, he points to the digital world and its link with the labour market, the need to listen to young people, gender equality and the permanent incorporation of environmental and educational issues.

Article prepared by the Social Policies Area of EUROsociAL+, with the coordination of the Italian-Latin American Organisation, IILA

Pais: Argentina, Costa Rica
ODS: Reduced inequalities, Peace, justice and strong institutions, Partnerships for the goals
Área de Políticas: Social policies
Tipo: Article