About the event

Welcome to “Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?”!

This event has been developed as a virtual live space for learning, interaction, collaboration and knowledge-sharing on social protection, leveraging the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to build stronger and more efficient policies.

Join hundreds of fellow social protection experts and practitioners for three days of sharing experiences, peer-to-peer learning and engaging in discussions about creative solutions for public policy.

You will also have the opportunity to interact with leading experts in the field to tackle your most pressing challenges. We will promote participation through different session dynamics.

All aspects of the event have been developed with inputs from partners and collaborators across the global South.

To ensure the active participation of a wide and diverse audience, the event will take place on three different days and across three different time zones. Sessions in English, French and Spanish will be provided.

We are glad to have you with us!

Registration to the event will be open soon.


In the aftermath of COVID-19, the need for adequate, comprehensive and high-coverage social protection has never been more evident. The pandemic has been a wake-up call, alerting national governments and the global community to the urgency of accelerating progress in building and extending social protection systems to leave no one behind.

There are clear signs that the health crisis has spurred government action on social protection. According to data from the World Bank, 200 countries and territories had planned or put in place over a thousand social protection measures in response to the pandemic by July 2020.

A significant number of countries have introduced new schemes, expanded the coverage of existing ones and increased benefit amounts to address growing needs. Governments across the globe have mobilised an enormous amount of resources and effort—often struggling in the process—to protect those who were most affected by the pandemic, building on existing systems where feasible. Countries with solid social protection foundations were able to respond more swiftly and effectively.

In many countries of the global South, COVID-19 has also revealed the weaknesses of existing social protection programmes and systems. Two major shortfalls are worth highlighting:

  • significant gaps in coverage, adequacy and comprehensiveness of provision. Most countries still have a long way to go to achieve universal social protection, providing equitable access to comprehensive risk coverage through a coherent system to the entire population when in need.
  • significant delivery, implementation and capacity challenges, compounded by a lack of preparedness for programme and system adaptation (‘shock responsiveness’) to help respond to large covariate shocks.

Looking beyond the short-term ramifications of the lockdowns and disruptions of global supply chains, the medium-term effects of the global recessioncaused by COVID-19and their implications for different types of livelihoods in different countries are not yet clear.

Governments will need to invest further in social protection programmes and systems to ensure preparedness for—and resilience to—future, overlapping, shocks. There is currently a high demand for innovative approaches that can leverage the capacities of existing systems. In this sense, the current crisis provides a tremendous opportunity for change, which must not be wasted.

Conference objectives

The organisers have developed the e-conference with the following objectives in mind:

  1. Provide a virtual global forum to assess, exchange knowledge about and facilitate learning on social protection responses to COVID-19.
  2. Discuss the future of social protection in the context of the pandemic, which has led to an economic crisis worldwide.
  3. Celebrate the achievements of the socialprotection.org platform over its five years of activity.

Guiding questions

Several crucial questions regarding the future of social protection programmes and systems have emerged over the last few months, which will assist in framing the discussions in this online event:

  • How to rapidly and effectively extend the coverage of social protection schemes to those not yet covered, to support them in the wake of the present health crisis and beyond (coverage)?
  • Which additional measures or services are needed to meet the diverse needs of different segments of the population, both immediately and in the future (comprehensiveness)?
  • How can we ensure that people’s needs are adequately covered, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond (adequacy)?
  • What does it take to react in a timely manner (before any negative coping strategies are adopted) and provide predictable, timely support to affected population groups (timeliness and predictability)?
  • How can we make cost-effective use of all available resources for social protection responses during times of crisis (cost-effectiveness), including working more productively across sectors (e.g. e.g. alongside humanitarian and disaster risk management actors)?
  • What must be done to guarantee the rights and interests of all affected population groups when designing and implementing social protection responses during times of crisis (accountability to affected populations)?
  • How can we ensure that the impacts and lessons learned from social protection responses to COVID-19 can be sustained in the long run (sustainability)?
  • More broadly, what systems and processes along the social protection delivery chain do we need to prepare in the future, to ensure that all the objectives above can be effectively met in time for the next shock (outreach, registration, enrolment, payments, information systems, etc.)?

Event format

The e-conference will make use of a wide range of methodologies and tools to give each attendee the opportunity to make their own personal learning journey, develop practical takeaways and action points from the conference and share results during the event (and beyond).

We will have a mix of panel sessions with inputs from policymakers and practitioners from countries of the global South, as well as international development partners and researchers, and a wide range of collaborative interactive sessions guided by experts on specific topics.

English will be the main language used in the e-conference. To ensure smooth communication among all participants, simultaneous translation into French and Spanish will be provided for almost all sessions on day 1 and day 3. On day 2, hosts will be able to choose the language to be used in their sessions (however, simultaneous translation will not be providedfor all sessions).

Day 1

The first day of the conference will discuss the guiding questions framing the event through a regional lens. In three region-specific sessions (Asia and Pacific/Middle East and North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa/Latin America and the Caribbean), social protection experts will be able to assess the various social protection responses to COVID-19, followed by more detailed insights into specific country cases and an open and collaborative peer-to-peer exchange among participants.

Day 2

The second day of the conference will provide an open space with a thematic lens to focus on specific questions related to social protection responses to COVID-19 and beyond. Partners of socialprotection.org will be invited to host specific thematic sessions of interest to the global social protection community. For this purpose, three different session formats will be provided, which can be offered throughout two different time zones (Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean), supported by custom virtual tools. Participants will have the opportunity to join one or several of these sessions throughout the day.

  1. Clinics

    Clinics aim to provide tailored advice on specific practical questions related to the design and implementation of social protection responses to COVID-19.

  2. Round-tables

    Round-tables will be an opportunity to share knowledge from experts on a specific topic of interest and enhance discussion with the audience.

  3. Virtual Expo

    The purpose of the virtual expo is to showcase products and services related to social protection responses to COVID-19 and beyond and receive feedback from the audience.

Day 3

The sessions on the last day of the e-conference will apply a global lens, bringing together all participants across different time zones. Selected participants will be invited to summarise the discussions, lessons learned and conclusions of the first two days, responding to the guiding questions framing the event.

The e-conference will then conclude with an expert panel, with selected participants invited to represent the global social protection community providing an outlook on what is next for social protection. Focus will be given to universal social protection and to the future of adaptative and shock-responsive social protection.

Throughout the e-conference, virtual tools will be provided to allow all participants to document their personal learning journey and share the results with the audience.