This blog summarises the exchanges and key messages raised by the expert panel at the webinar ‘‘Building back better: How can Adaptive Social Protection ensure better preparedness for future shocks?’’. This is the first webinar of the Adaptive Social Protection webinar series held on 25 May 2021 and organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the World Bank Group and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, IPC-IG.
The use of social protection systems in managing covariate shocks, such as COVID-19, is usually framed conceptually under the term “Adaptive Social Protection” (ASP). Whereas very well elaborated conceptual approaches to ASP exist, its practical operationalization and learnings from the field, are still not sufficiently distilled, built on, and shared. Against this background, the Global Program “Social Protection Innovation and Learning” (SPIL) apply a multi-stakeholder strategy to disseminating, implementing, and further developing the ASP concept via three interrelated areas of action, being one of them the foster of global knowledge exchange through a series of webinars.
This first webinar was devised to draw attention to the analytical framework on ASP (in order to examine how social protection systems can be made more capable of building back better and ensure better preparedness for future shocks), showcased concrete experiences in the operationalization and distilling the lessons learned on what it does take to translate into reality the ASP approach and its Building Blocks.
The session was moderated by Ralf Radermacher, Head of Program at GIZ, and featured contributions by Christian Bodewig, Lead Economist at World Bank; Dr. Ahmad Hamad Abuhaidar, Director at the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development; Sarah Bailey, Head of Programme at WFP; and Dr. Ben Hayes, Strategy Director at AWO.
Adaptive Social Protection - Building Resilience to Shocks
Christian Bodewig started the session with a presentation on the ASP Building Blocks analytical framework as developed by World Bank. Taking the experience from the Sahel Region, considering the need for a firmer conceptual framework to think around strengthening of adaptive social protection systems, an ASP framework around building blocks was developed in collaboration with several partners. The main objective of the framework is to build resilience of poor and vulnerable households and to increase their capacity to prepare, to cope with, and to adapt to shocks.
It is important to highlight that the concept is continuous in time comprehending periods to build households’ resilience before a shock by reducing their vulnerability and providing information beforehand; but also, during and after a shock in order to minimize immediate impacts and to adapt for the future. Therefore, it is particularly important to invest in building the national capabilities on dealing with shocks and building resilience.
Diving into the ASP approach, Ms. Bodewig argued the concept has 4 building blocks: programs & delivery systems; institutional, arrangements & partnerships; finance; and data & information. Taking a step back during the need of strengthening ASP systems, the blocks were thought considering the desired outcome of reaching more people in a swifter way to increase resilience and reduce the number of people who are pulled into poverty due to shocks. The blocks were built trying to embrace key elements that investments and policy reforms should focus on to achieve a stronger system. Finally, the blocks should be seen as a group with transversal actions instead of separate figures with different importance. In short, the blocks allow policymakers to zoom in into key elements that need to be strengthened.
- Programs & Delivery Systems: considers the diversity of programs that are available to build resilience before shocks occur and how they can expand horizontally or vertically to achieve more people. Diversity, in this case, is critical. For the delivery systems, efficiency and effectiveness depend on the ability to identify and enrol those beneficiaries that need the support. Considering payments systems, the speed, accuracy, and scalability of benefit depending on modalities used are important, such as mobile money systems used by Senegal’s authorities to provide quick support last year after massive floods occurred.
- Data & information: involves both early warning systems to forecasting location, scale, timeline, and impact of shocks and their linkage to social protection system’s registries robust and regularly updated. Lastly, widely available and shared poverty and vulnerability data are important to design instruments and programs reaching a greater common understanding between multiple stakeholders.
- Finance: aims to ensure that there is finance available swiftly in order to be able to be responsive to shocks. Delays in this parameter would increase the likelihood of negative coping strategies. It is important to have a disaster financing strategy to differentiate frequently less intense shocks from more intense less frequent ones, and have different financial solutions for each type of shock.
- Institutional arrangements & partnerships: one important aspect here is government leadership and role in convening partners around a response policy/strategy. On strengthening national systems, the government taking the lead and focusing on clarifying institutional arrangements making sure the data flows, and there is an integrated joined-up response with coordination around the design and delivery of programs.
Looking ahead: “stress-testing” ASP systems
Colleagues from The World Bank Group and at the Center for Disaster Protection have been working towards developing a tool to assess the strength of ASP systems along the building blocks called “stress-testing” ASP systems. The objective of this tool is to give applicability to the building blocks concept, as well as tools to policymakers and partners to navigate under systems and open a discussion about which reforms to pursue and how.
The idea is to have a basic questionnaire to identify and rate a number (across several sub-questions) of ASP systems by the building blocks on a scale from latent to established. This is to measure how advanced the system of any given country is and to provide a more detailed discussion on what aspects to focus on given the advancement of the system. This work is almost completed and once steps are finished it will have a public announcement.
Further discussion on the topic
The session was followed by the intervention from different voices who shared their concrete experiences and the concept’s operationalization.
Dr. Ahmad Hamad Abuhaidar first mentioned the importance to look at the preparedness of social protection systems. In that sense, the Government of Jordan launched a National Social Protection Strategy (2019-2025) with three pillars: decent work and social security, social assistance, and social services. The National Social Protection Strategy includes coordination mechanisms between different actors and programs. One of the main programs is a cash transfer that went through a modernization and expansion aiming full automation of the process, linking the Jordanian Social Security Database to the National Unified Registry and including key modules of social safety in cash transfers’ registration, data verification, enrolment, and digital payment.
Dr Ahmad brought a practical Jordanian experience on responding to COVID-19. A National Social Protection Committee was formed from the beginning and included different sectors to coordinate interventions by various institutions and to follow up on the overall objective of expanding the coverage to those affected by the pandemic. Additionally, existing programs, comprehensive database and automated system were levered to help reach informal workers households more efficiently. Additionally, the created online registration platform allowed the opening of e-wallets to receive payments.
The Government also issued orders to protect the former workers and provide the unemployment packages and wage subsidies for individuals and firms affected. Nonetheless, the Government continued to provide social services including health, education, protection in terms of e-learning activities, and free treatment for COVID-19 patients.
For the financing, the Government had different resources, including the opening of a relief fund, a charity account, and a health account under the Central Bank to enable donations from individuals and the private sector, mobilizing more than 160 million that was mainly used to support social assistance intervention and strengthening the response trough health sector. On the other hand, the government reallocated financial resources from general budget to cash assistance intervention. The social security cooperation provided support to former workers through unemployment assistance benefiting over 1 million workers. Incentives for companies to formalized employees were applied achieving 30,000 informal workers.
The Jordanian Government also understands that an expansion needs to go hand in hand with the reforms to improve the financial sustainability of social security. Nonetheless, the Government is working to add a cross-cutting shock responsive chapter on the National Social Protection Strategy to improve its flexibility and resilience as well as the capacity to mitigate the impact of emergencies in people's life. Thus, the idea is to institutionalize the response to shocks in the in the future.
Afterwards, Sarah Bailey talked about how to effectively operationalize social protection programmes for Adaptive Social Protection. She brought up five points to keep in mind:
- Best to think about programmes and the systems that underpin them considering how its different tools, interventions and services can come together into a bigger picture. That is, thinking about how programmes are part of long-standing reasoning on how social protection can have more promotive and transformative impacts in terms of building human capital, increasing asset and savings, women's empowerment, climate change adaptation, diversification of livelihoods, and many other.
- It takes multiple programmes with adequate benefits, duration, coverage, and designs to incorporate on the risks that people face. Thinking about how this is linked to drive for universal social protection, progress on all fronts is a progress towards each agenda and it is not necessary to separate it.
- How programs can be adapted, or new ones created. Programmes already tend to be adapted in a few ways so that benefits can be increased to those already within programs. However, new persons, who might be outside of existing programmes and systems, can be reached either by expanding programs or developing tailored programs that draw systems that might be in place but due to a shock might need modifications. For instance, as response for COVID-19, school feeding programs were modified to make sure that children who were no longer physically present in school could still have support.
- Putting in place measures for adaptability for supporting resilience and respond to shocks before they occur is a huge opportunity, since it often occurs through the creativity and hard work of people who are in a very challenging situation to meet new needs that appears.
- Take steps on moving forward, developing or updating social protection policies and strategies to incorporate how resilience can be built and, in the face of shocks, adaptations that can be made. For instance, this would include linking policies and strategies with delivery mechanisms, lessons learned, innovations, digital processes, and others.
The last speaker, Ben Hayes, brought into discussion the challenges concerning data rights and a responsible innovation space. On spending the last decade looking at innovation in the humanitarian sector and other sectors as well, focusing on issues like detail biometrics, digital identity, cash assistance, PPP, and government responses to COVID, he observed huge challenges on data protection, construction of databases and repositories, or artificial intelligence, that can appear when it comes to social protection.
However, he noted that it is possible to pursue a meaningfully risk-based approach that does fully mitigate as many data protection risks as possible. It does require significant effort and political will tough. Dr. Ben highlighted how is also good news to see that privacy and data protection is now seen as a building block itself and added that the block could be break down into individual bricks such asthe enabling environment for human rights and data protection, tools of data protection by design and default, privacy enhancing technologies, governance frameworks, and high levels of transparency and respect for data subjects’ rights.
He concluded making three observations and speaking about what he has seen as key challenges. First, he remembered that data protection is too often an afterthought, meaning that only when everything is underway the question of data protection arises and, at that point, the chance to ask the question of how to build or deliver the program in the most “data protection human rights friendly way” has often been missed.
Second, the global data ecosystem and tools that we have at our disposal and are stacked against the rights of individuals. That is particularly the case with social media, but also is often the case with other elements of the technology stack that we need to develop to build practical and usable systems. Frequently, these tools are geared to the needs of the people who operate them, not the people who are subject to them. Additionally, the way the internet is architected often makes it extremely difficult to understand where the data is being processed, by whom and for what person. The challenge here would be how data subjects can be insert at the heart of activities to ensure that people’s rights are meaningfully protected.
His last point was that purpose limitation is a fundamental principle of data protection but is almost impossible to achieve. However, development and humanitarian sectors’ needs are stacked against this because you need data, but you do not know exactly what information you need, so there is an imperative to always collect more. Another challenge is on cooperating with governments, once they have issues of data protection for national security border, control of law enforcement, or surveillance, etc., and these make very easy for a protection mandate to be undermined once a data collected for humanitarian purposes is processed for non-humanitarian purposes.
The webinar ended with a Q&A session that you can watch here.
This was the first webinar in the "ASPects – Practice Exchange on ASP" series. These webinars are dedicated to bringing together practitioners, leading experts, and policymakers to share and exchange perspectives on Adaptive Social Protection (ASP). Each webinar within the series will focus on specific practically relevant aspects of one related ASP Building Block (Good Cooperation & Coordination – Social Protection Programmes – Data & Information Systems – Financial Resources).