On 26th January 2017, socialprotection.org presented the webinar ‘Constituency Building and Fiscal Space for Social Protection – Navigating Political Space’. The webinar brought together macro-approaches and first-hand experience to discuss the impacts of the political and fiscal climate and popular mobilization on the development of social protection programmes around the world. 

The webinar included presentations from Dr. Jeremy Seekings (Interim Director of the Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa, South Africa) and Ms. Aura Sevilla (Project coordinator at the Coalition of Services for the Elderly, Philippines), and was moderated by Dr. Daniel Horn (Economic Advisor on Social Protection, HelpAge International). The event was organized by HelpAge International and the UNDP’s International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth. It was the final webinar in the ‘Fiscal Space for Social Protection’ series.

The recording is available here and the presentation here.

 Dr. Seekings opened the webinar with a presentation addressing the affordability of social protection in contemporary Africa. His presentation drew particularly on three case studies, Botswana, Zanzibar and Zambia, and analysed the presence of what he termed the ‘affordability gap’. This, he explained, is the gap which commonly exists between the international actors and the national governments in terms of their assessments of the affordability of cash transfer programmes. The reasons for this, Dr. Seekings went on to explain, can be due to fiscal, political and normative reasons. The interaction of the factors impacting the affordability gap were subsequently demonstrated through facts and figures from the case study countries. Particularly in the cases of Bostwana and Zanzibar, Dr. Seekings explained the impact of the changing fiscal environment on social protection spending. In addition, Dr. Seekings emphasised the role of coalitions in promoting social protection reform. Despite this political pressure, he explained that the affordability gap commonly persists as coalitions are generally unable to secure the expensive programmes advocated by international actors, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO). Dr. Seekings’ cases of Botswana, Zanzibar and Zambia effectively demonstrated the variety of political pressures which impact government investment in social protection reform.

The subsequent presentation, delivered by Ms. Sevilla, added valuable first-hand experience of constituency building for social protection through the case study of the Philippines. Ms. Sevilla’s discussion complemented Dr. Seekings’ through her demonstration of the significance of civil society and coalitions for encouraging social protection programmes. In the Philippines, Ms. Sevilla demonstrated, the grassroots organization Confederation of Older Persons Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) was central both to the introduction of social pensions in 2011, and to the doubling of the budget for this scheme every year since. Ms. Sevilla explained that through lobbying and mobilization, the number of social pensioners in the Philippines has increased from 130,000 in 2011 to over 2.8 million in 2017. The figures clearly demonstrate the huge opportunities available through the coalition and mobilization of constituencies, however Ms. Sevilla was also clear to highlight the challenges. These include the variety of opinions both within government, and between different organizations of older people, in addition to changing government policies and priorities. Despite this, Ms. Sevilla concluded by stating that committed organizations can successfully pave the way for social pension systems, and social protection programmes in general.

The webinar followed with questions from the audience, answered by Dr. Seekings and Ms. Sevilla drawing on their expertise from the field. These included queries concerning policy design, the specificities of programme restrictions, and the creation of effective coalitions. Dr. Daniel Horn administrated the question time, and after thanking the panellists and audience, concluded this final webinar of the ‘Fiscal Space for Social Protection’ series.

Watch the recording of the webinar here!

This blog post is published as part of the Webinar Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by socialprotection.org and partners on a variety of themes related to social protection. If you have any thoughts on the topic discussed, we would love to hear them. Please add your comments below and we will get back to you.