Roughly one year ago, on the 2nd of March 2021, members and interested partners came together for the 2nd Membership Assembly of the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection (USP2030), a worldwide alliance bringing together governments, international and regional organisations, social partners and civil society organisations, in a shared commitment towards ensuring social protection for all, as stated in the partnership’s Call to Action. At this point in time, the pandemic’s fallout had already drawn unprecedented attention to the crucial need for universal social protection. The COVID-19 crisis has made it more urgent than ever to deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially target 1.3, to implement national social protection systems for all, starting from a solid floor of basic social protection guarantees, the very mission of USP2030. The 2nd Membership Assembly had allowed for a reflection on the unparalleled developments since the onset of the pandemic. In the run-up to the 3rd Membership Assembly, it is time to take stock: What has happened in USP2030 in the past year?
The debates during the 2021 Membership Assembly had focused on two key issues for USP2030 and universal social protection that have gained considerable traction during the crisis, namely financing and digital solutions for social protection delivery. First, underlying the quest to achieve SDG target 1.3 is the challenge of ensuring sustainable and equitable financing for social protection systems. The discussions focused on sustainable financing strategies, considering the full range of policy options, building on enhanced domestic resource mobilization, and supported by international coordination and solidarity. This also implies building synergies with other development objectives rather than competing for resources, and strong links between resource mobilization and allocation with a medium- to long-term view. Members decided they wanted to jointly continue exchanging their views and advancing their thinking on these topics, leading to the recent launch of a working group on social protection financing.
In addition to mobilising resources for social protection, countries have also faced the challenge of identifying beneficiaries and delivering benefits in a transparent, timely and safe way, bringing the importance of social protection delivery systems to the fore. The exchanges highlighted the significant potential gains of digitalisation when understood as a means to improve the performance of social protection systems along the complete delivery chain, and when appropriately designed and implemented. However, digital solutions also risk reproducing patterns of exclusions and challenges regarding data security and confidentiality of private information. These discussions paved the way for the creation of the Digital Convergence Initiative (Towards convergence in digital technology for enhanced delivery of social protection) under the auspices of USP2030.
Throughout 2021, USP2030 members have also started to engage with other pressing societal challenges. In the run-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit held in September 2021, several organisations and countries decided to join efforts to enhance the linkages between national social protection and food systems, thereby capitalizing on synergies to accelerate progress towards SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). These efforts will be taken forward in the USP2030 working group on Social Protection and Food Systems Transformation. Furthermore, recognising climate change as a systemic risk that will ultimately affect us all, as well as the role of social protection for climate action, the USP2030 working group on Social Protection and Climate Change formed, aiming to provide a space for knowledge building and sharing, as well as a platform for international and multidisciplinary cooperation.
Over the next month, we will further dive into these topics in weekly blog posts authored by experts from these groups, reflecting on how we can advance towards the promise of achieving universal social protection, and the importance of universal social protection for addressing and supporting structural transformations. We will also make the link to the recent Global Disability Summit (16 and17 February 2022) and an upcoming virtual conference on 16 and 17 March that will discuss how the international community can best come together to leverage social protection systems for the full inclusion of persons with disability.
Finally, you can also listen to us; the first anniversary episode of the Social Protection Podcast hosted by socialprotection.org will be dedicated to USP2030, looking more closely what the promise of universal social protection means in different countries, and what steps are being taken towards this goal.
Countries and organisations are invited to join USP2030 to promote social protection and exchange information and ideas how to accelerate progress towards achieving SDG target 1.3. To join the nearly 50 countries and organisations already members of USP2030, interested governments or organisations should formally state their interest in joining and affirm their commitment to USP2030’s Call to Action. More information on joining the partnership can be found here.
This is the first blog post in the USP2030 blog series, part of the USP2030 campaign, which aims to increase awareness for the partnership and universal social protection more broadly, and systematically present the topics on which the partnership and its members are currently working. The campaign will take place in the run-up to the 3rd USP2030 Membership Assembly throughout the month of March 2022.