This article was written by Enkhzul Altangerel and Lois Austin.
The benefits of social protection and humanitarian actors working together in different ways across the “nexus” is well-recognised. In order to address the wide range of needs (in the last year, often pandemic-related), and particularly those of a socio-economic nature, the use of cash has been the response of choice for governments expanding their social protection systems as well as for humanitarian actors in a range of sectors, including child protection.
The "Interactive Learning Webinar: Connecting Child Protection, Social Protection and Humanitarian Cash – Working Together to Protect Children from the effects of COVID-19 and beyond", held on 18 February 2021, organised by UNICEF, IFRC, FCDO, and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, provided the opportunity to hear from humanitarian and social protection actors as they share their experiences in linking child protection approaches with humanitarian cash interventions and social protection, drawing on the recent policy paper published by The Alliance for Children Protection in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF, and Save the Children. The discussion also addressed some of the challenges in bringing these areas together in a number of humanitarian contexts and illustrated practical ways in which the sectors can pull together to deliver greater results for children.
The webinar started with a number of expert speakers sharing different perspectives and experience of the linkages between child protection, social protection and humanitarian cash. Facilitated by Laura Lee, the Co-Lead of the COVID-19 Focal Point Team for the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, we heard from:
- Hani Mansourian, Coordinator, The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action
- Alison Sutton, Global Director Child Protection, Programme Quality and Impact, Save the Children
- Julia Grasset, Senior Cash and Market Specialist, Save the Children US
- Hushain Shakir, National Coordinator, Good Governance & Social Accountability, World Vision Bangladesh
- Dr. Kathryn Taetzsch, Global Director, Humanitarian Cash & Voucher Based Programming, World Vision International
Social Protection & Child Protection: Working Together to Protect Children from the Impact of COVID-19 and Beyond
Hani started the discussion by highlighting the key points from the new policy paper released by the Alliance. He emphasized how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain the virus have exacerbated existing threats to children’s well-being and survival by reducing access to critical social services, impacting livelihoods and income security, and heightening the risk of children’s exposure to violence, abuse and neglect. Hani underlined that the protection of children throughout and after a crisis needs a combination of social and child protection services, through a coordinated approach to strengthening the social welfare workforce, referral pathways, and information sharing on preventive and mitigation measures. Emerging evidence suggests that such integrated approaches can bring better outcomes for children. For example, cash transfer measures have been shown to address some of the drivers of abuse and neglect, by tackling poverty, and increasing women’s empowerment and school enrolment for adolescent girls. Hani concluded by summarising four key actionable recommendations from the paper on linking child protection and social protection at the levels of policy, programme, monitoring and evaluation, and systems strengthening.
Strengthening flexibility and effectiveness of CVA across humanitarian-development nexus through better accountability mechanisms
Building on Hani’s overview, Kathryn talked about the global cash response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a massive scale up of social protection programmes, with over 200 countries and regions introducing or expanding cash transfer related measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis on households. Humanitarian and development organisations have also expanded cash assistance programming, including World Vision which has reached over 6 million people in this way. Yet, these measures are mostly temporary in nature. For more effective leverage of humanitarian and social protection assistance, and for building of effective systems, Kathryn emphasized the importance of strong accountability mechanisms. Programmes such as Citizen Voice and Action, implemented by World Vision in over 50 countries, have been instrumental in achieving governmental accountability for better services, through changing laws and increasing investments for health and education services. Citizen Voice and Action, which is built on humanitarian accountability mechanisms, can be applied to development settings as the case below illustrates.
Citizen Voice Action: The Case of Bangladesh
Hushain presented World Vision’s application of the Citizen Voice and Action approach to improve access and effectiveness of social safety net programmes in Bangladesh. Through conducting over 500 scorecard sessions, and close to 190 meetings over the course of three years, the programme has helped minimise inclusion errors and strengthened equitable access to cash transfer programmes. The programme has also contributed to reduction in early child marriage, domestic violence incidences and school dropouts.
Monitoring and Evaluating the impact of cash programming on child protection outcomes
Alison re-emphasised the need to provide sustainable support to address the needs of families and mitigate their vulnerability to shocks. There is a need to move beyond siloed approach to system building and focus on the achievement of outcomes for children and the role of every sector in this. This requires better integration and increased engagement at community level. To achieve this, there is a need to focus on measurement and evidence and the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) toolkit created by Save the Children and the Alliance is designed to facilitate this. The toolkit has been piloted in North West Syria and contains three tools which aim to help close the evidence gap that exists in cash and voucher assistance child protection programming by identifying child protection risks and mitigation strategies and monitor child protection outcomes. The toolkit is available from the Alliance.
Julia then informed us of Save the Children’s development of a bilateral referral system in Colombia for a humanitarian cash transfer and child protection programming implemented to support refugees from Venezuela. Qualitative evaluations showed that cash transfers enabled family reunification, reduction in risk of child labour, early marriage, and recruitment by armed groups.
The webinar concluded with a group activity session, during which the participants discussed the opportunities and challenges that may be faced in implementing the recommendations proposed in the policy paper. The feedback from the group sessions can be found here.
This blog post is part of the Linking Social Protection with humanitarian cash webinar series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by IFRC, UNICEF and FCDO on the topic. To set the scene, don’t forget to watch the foundational webinar on this topic: Demystifying the entry points for humanitarians. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary or the whole series, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!