We are posting here 12 questions that were not answered by the panellists during the Webinar on "How can social protection systems respond to the COVID-19 crisis?" so that we can start a discussion around them.

Question 1: Hello, could you please pass us the link for the interagency tool used for one of the slides. Also, could you please specify why you have classified it as a covariate shock only when there is also an external shock of the stoppage of economic activities and societal social distancing. Is this not idiosyncratic as well? From Ruby Khan

Fabio’s Reply: Dear Ruby, here is the link to ISPA’s  CODI – Core Diagnostic Instrument - : https://ispatools.org/core-diagnostic-instrument/ , you can click in Data Collection Framewok and when the excel file opens look for the tab: Program Inventory Table. As for the second part of your question, covariate shocks are those shocks affect large number of people with a community, region at the same time such as closure of big factory; floods; droughts; a recession. Idiosyncratic shocks are those that affect just one person (or a few) at time.


Question 2: How do you think in case of Bangladesh can overcome these shocks through SP where the country is heavily dependent on its remittance - 1. through garments industry and 2. labor market? From Fatema Khyrunnahar

Question 3: Many labour migrants sending countries (like Kyrgyzstan, where I am) are suffering from a decrease of remittances and increased need for social protection. How can we address social protection issue of labour migrants who lost their jobs and would be unemployed? And what measures should the government take to compensate for the reduced remittances? Thank you. From Hyo Jeong Jung

Question 4: I see that adaptive livelihood initiatives are placed in the medium term. However, livelihoods and weather on which livelihoods depend cannot wait for the crises otherwise farmers dealing in perishable commodities are likely to suffer. Failure to harvest at the right time regardless of COVID 19 may result in post-harvest losses. How should we balance these livelihood challenges in the midst of COVID19 with social protection especially those that demand immediate responses? From Moses Chibole

Question 5: Could you give more examples (in addition to Brazil and Thailand) of the implementation of new platforms to register non-beneficiaries of programs? What should these platforms have to be effective? What are the common mistakes when implementing this type of platforms for new registrations? From Karla Macias

Fabio's reply: Argentina, Costa Rica and Peru have also set up online platform to apply for emergency benefits. These platforms need to register the information provided by the applicant and cross-check it with other databases to check/assess the eligibility status of the applicant and transfer this information to the payment system. It is too easy to assess what has been the most common errors of these systems, but they do run the risk of excluding those who do not have easy access to internet or do not know how to handle online platforms. Civil society organization and grassroots movement have a key role in supporting those who are at risk of being excluded to apply. Government also needs to communicate clear what are the necessary steps and things of alternative ways of registration to make sure these groups are not excluded.

Question 6: Dear Michael: Concerning access to health care in the short-term, e.g. based on waiving fees, what recommendations do you have for LICS and acute crisis-affected countries with already high rates of undernutrition (stunting/waisting), with weak SP and other systems, low budget, dependent on international resources, where insufficient resources to offer universal access to health care system. Risk of out-crowding of resources in favour of direct public health interventions related to C-19 pandemic. In if to focus on a priority category: who to focus on? On elderly, rather than on under-fives/ PBW? Have there been projections done concerning the risk of raise of undernutrition as indirect effect of crisis (e.g. like during Ebola)? What concrete recommendations in such an environment, for both humanitarians and gov’t/ donors? From Sigrid Kühlke

Question 7: What about potential disruptions in food supply systems? What can SP offer to prevent or mitigate these? And what implications would this have in terms of urban vs rural focus of SP interventions? From Alejandro Grinspun

Question 8: Have there been any examples of urban population targeting? Rural areas is an area that WFP has definitely perfected - but would benefit from social protection programmes that target urban population who are likely to be disproportionately affected. From Wanja Kaaria

Question 9: All speakers presented options to better respond to COVID-19 that are state-centered, centrally produced and top-down. I think we need to change the framework. How can we better link informal and formal social protection systems for a response that is indeed more democratic, context-based and sustainable? From Matteo Caravani

Question 10 (via Twitter): A question to @ValentinaBarca on the challenge of mass enrolment to emergency benefits as part os #SPresponses to #COVID19: should countries consider auto-enrolment options? In contexts where a comprehensive social registry is not in place, is commonly easier to identify those who are not poor (for ex. trough income tax registries) rather than finding the poor. Do you see it as a feasible solution for horizontal expansion? from Anna Carolina Machado

Question 11: In a context of crisis, where it is hard to make sp programmes available and accessible, how do we ensure programme design and benefit delivery is gender-sensitive? From Patricia Velloso

Question 12: A lot of countries are relying on statutory social security schemes to provide relief to informal workers (daily wagers, etc.). This may be a temporary fix but it’s not sustainable and in essence, you are exhausting contributions of insured persons on people who have not made any contributions. What are your thoughts about this? From Rabia Razzaque




An initial answer to Question 0 (not above):What should be social protection advocacy in humanitarian context? What kind of evidences should be useful? from Veena Bandyopadhyay

Dear Veena, the ‘advocacy’ should be around always seriously considering the strength of existing social protection systems (both programmes and their operations/capacity: data, people, registration approach, payments system etc) before setting up any humanitarian response – and building on those where feasible. This doesn’t necessarily mean working through government systems, but alongside them – and in continuous coordination with them. From day 1 this may mean thinking long-term in terms of transitioning back to government and therefore making sure responses are aligned (e.g. in terms of targeting, transfer value etc) and ideally setting the foundations for something that government may take over and build on. A lot more to be said, but this will be discussed extensively in the Webinar on the 16th – register HERE https://socialprotection.org/lessons-learned-and-opportunities-linking-s...!

On Q 2 and Q3 I feel less equipped to respond, beyond stating the obvious that the lack of the 'informal' safety net posed by remittances requires urgent intervention - as you both suggest. There have also been some initial steps negotiating reduced transaction fees with service providers.

On Question 4: From Moses Chibole

Dear Moses, absolutely – ideally we would view this as a continuous cycle of overlapping (different) shocks in any given country. We presented a very simplified version in the framing, you are right! While we are fighting the pandemic shock there are several others that countries are facing routinely – some of them recurrent and predictable (e.g. dry season and drought, regular flooding etc). These have a different cycle and require just as urgent measures.. many of them ideally set up beforehand (ex-ante) rather than after. A focus on livelihoods, harvest cycles etc is at the heart of routine social protection provision and requires strengthening no matter what (a lot of great work on this from FAO and other organisations). In fact – most of the shock responsive social protection literature focuses on exactly these problems you mention.. (see the resources at the end of the PPT).

Adding to Fabio's response on Q5 on new platforms to register non-beneficiaries of programs and weaving in Q10...

True that experience from COVID19 not clear yet in terms of emerging recommendations, but from existing literature on online registration mechanisms (from a forthcoming GIZ paper):

  • In routine/non-emergency times it is more common for countries to use digital windows as a complement to other registration approaches, or as a tool to enable continuous updates for beneficiaries. Most often, this is because of legal constraints – especially in contexts with no universal digital ID serving an authentication function (in other words, it is difficult for governments to trust digital registration/updating in the absence of a strong system for digital identification).
  • Of course, a digital citizen interface has distinct benefits - it can accelerate bureaucratic processes and reduce administrative costs, while guarabteeing ‘theoretical’ ubiquitous accessibility (where internet connection is provided and conditional on a set of caveats below) and the privacy they offer for applicants (no public queues, etc).
  • However, the potential for online registration and updates is contingent on several assumptions that not many countries fulfil. 
    • internet/mobile phone networks penetration in a country. Whilst internet penetration is gradually rising in LMICs, the current scale is inadequate to build inclusive registration systems if these are not complemented by other approaches
    • Even with rising internet connectivity, vulnerable groups are often late adopters of technology, and face standard challenges in terms of illiteracy (standard and digital illiteracy) and exclusion. Unless there are clear solutions to address this any measure enabling only digital registration would exclude those most in need.
    • Favourable laws and regulations. For instance, South Africa has been exploring the possibility of introducing a digital window, but is constrained by legislation which mandates that applications be made in the presence of a SASSA official. The core issue here is AUTHENTICATION and in fact most countries that have enabled digital platforms for registration have some form of a digital ID system with relatively high coverage.
    • Existing data sharing protocols with other government databases. Again, coutries enabling digital platfroms for registration can collect very little info and 'pre-fill' the rest via other government databases. This has advantages of course, but also LARGE RISKS that need to be carefully assessed (not ideal to be doing this in a crisis context).

In the crisis context of course we have said the 'pay now verifty later' approach is aso adopted.. but it is still to be understood to wht extent governments can do this in the absence of existing 'infrastructure' and systems such as those discussed above. 

ALREADY there is also extensive anecdotal evidence of these digital platfroms 'collapsing' under the strain of massive demand (they were created swiftly, have bugs, inadequate server capacity etc).

OF COURSE there are also MIXED solutions. Pakistan's combination of an SMS feature phone enabled communication campaign with one 4 digit number to call for additional infomation and very strict safeguarding rules for physical registration (see incredible photos via Sani Nishtar's twitter profile https://twitter.com/SaniaNishtar)is n nteresting example to be watched.

.......Much more to be said on adaptations to on-demand registrations required for COVID response, beyond just the safety measures (discussed very clearly in the Helpage webinar last week here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRbwqk1mQ3o&t=4508s). A new webinar is being designed for this specifically. I also paste a paragraph to reflect on how extensions of coverage can be achieved in many different ways...




Question 7: What about potential disruptions in food supply systems? What can SP offer to prevent or mitigate these? And what implications would this have in terms of urban vs rural focus of SP interventions? From Alejandro Grinspun

Dear Alejandro, great question - and this goes beyond my area of expertise - BUT I would recommend this useful article by a colleague looking at implicatiosn in India http://fas.org.in/blog/covid19-and-indian-agriculture/ -- more generally, a lot of the discussion today is on an 'early wave' of urban impact and a second wave in rural contexts (do share any thoughts or resources if you have any!).

This brings me to Question 8: Have there been any examples of urban population targeting? Rural areas is an area that WFP has definitely perfected (...) 

This is the case for most social protection programmes too mostly focused on rural rather than urban areas -- a great place to start is to read Ugo and others' Entering the city : emerging evidence and practices with safety nets in urban areas' http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/656081467980515244/Entering-th... ----  many of the COVID examples are trying to address just that: a lack of systematic focus on urban areas and the informal sector. Do please join the webinar on Informal Sector and have a look at WIEGO's work on this topic (https://www.wiego.org/our-work-impact/core-programmes/social-protection) as well as auseful blog from Gentilini here https://www.jobsanddevelopment.org/how-can-cash-transfers-support-inform....

Tough one to answer for Question 9: All speakers presented options to better respond to COVID-19 that are state-centered, centrally produced and top-down. I think we need to change the framework. How can we better link informal and formal social protection systems for a response that is indeed more democratic, context-based and sustainable? From Matteo Caravani

You are right Matteo! Crearing a simple and easy to understand framework to inform country thinking and the webinar series inevitably led to over-simplification.. and also making an explicit choice to put State social protection systems at the centre, while stressing those roles do not HAVE to be taken on by the State or even the SP sector. Hopefully the Grand Bargain webinar next week will help to address that gap.. togetehr with the one on informal sector alongside WIEGO and others. Any thoughts/ideas from you and your team also massively welcome!

Ultimately what we are seeing across countries is creative solutions that fit was is already in place, very often leveraging civil society informal SP in many different ways..

On sustainability, we did not even touch the longer term in the webinar - nd that is where we hope to get towards the end... (while planting seeds and ideas within each webinar on how to think long term within short term responses)

One more on my side - based on a further comment from Markku Malkamäki "Several development economists e.g. Debraj Ray, Sreenivasan Subramanian ja Lore Vandewalle have argued that the Covid-responses e.g. "flattening the curve" and "lockdown" have not been appropriate in Africa and in parts of Asia (e.g. India) see e.g. here: https://voxeu.org/article/india-s-lockdown and here: https://cepr.org/active/publications/policy_insights/viewpi.php? pino=102 https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/africaatlse/2020/03/27/coronavirus-social-distan...." 

In other words, the flattening of the pandemic curve is not a full assumption and different countries are choosing to do this in very different ways. We will discuss this somewhat in the forthcoming webinar on COVID and the informal economy.. but important to be thinking about this from Day 1.