Linking humanitarian cash and social protection – ECHO’s vision and practical examples from Somalia and Jordan
The benefits of social protection and humanitarian actors working together in different ways across the “nexus” are 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.
The webinar that occurred on 17 June 2021 was structured as a panel discussion: "Linking humanitarian cash and social protection – ECHO’s vision and practical examples from Somalia and Jordan". It provided the opportunity to hear from one of the world’s leading humanitarian donors – the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) – and partners in relation to implementing its vision for linking humanitarian cash transfers (HCT) and social protection (SP) in two different contexts. The expert speakers provided insights into two different mechanisms that are being adopted in order to forge these linkages.
You can find the webinar recording here and the presentation slides here.
The webinar started with Isabelle Pelly (DG ECHO) providing a brief overview of DG ECHO’s policy framework (which includes the EU Humanitarian Aid Communication Nexus commitments; the SPaN initiative; and key elements of the soon-to-be-published DG ECHO cash thematic policy on linking humanitarian cash and social protection). Isabelle set out the importance for ECHO, as a humanitarian donor, in contributing to social protection from a humanitarian perspective, underlining this as a priority in order to increase the resilience of the poorest households and ultimately lessen their need for humanitarian assistance. In addition, this approach is considered to be a way of facilitating the scale up of systems in response to shocks and crises, as well as providing ECHO with the opportunity influence how SP can benefit excluded and displaced people.
Then Quentin Le Gallo (DG ECHO) and Alessandro Bini from the Somali Cash Consortium shed light on ongoing approaches to developing and strengthening Shock-Responsive Social Protection (SRSP) systems in Somalia.
Quentin gave a concise overview of ECHO’s support to the cash and safety net programme in Somalia, discussing the three main priorities which are multi-purpose cash (MPC) assistance; cash and voucher institutionalisation (promoting the use of cash and vouchers to reach sector specific outcomes); and the linking of cash with safety nets, engaging with development counterparts from the outset to achieve complementarity. Quentin explained that the use of cash in Somalia, and specifically MPC, scaled up massively in 2017 in response to the drought (compared to 2011 when the use of vouchers had been dominant).
ECHO has gathered learning gained from the drought response, during which time ECHO focused on supporting MPC between 2017 and 2020 and 50% of the annual budget was going towards this. One of the lessons learned is the fact that countries with institutionalised shock responsive safety nets have a greater capacity to bounce back from shocks and this has been seen in Kenya and Ethiopia. Secondly the humanitarian cash transfer response in 2017 was scattered and lacked coordination whilst also adopting a term approach that was too short. Based on this learning, initiatives were undertaken including the establishment of a donor support working group on cash and safety nets in late 2017 to provide a platform for humanitarian and development donors to advocate for the development of a shock responsive social protection (SRSP) system, pushing for coordination with humanitarian cash transfers in relation the shock responsive component of the system and aiming to build learning and evidence, in part through supporting piloting efforts. The learning has shown that the shock response mechanism is the point in the nexus where links can be made between humanitarian cash and shock responsive safety nets.
Speaking on behalf of the Somalia Cash Consortium, Alessandro shed light on one of the two HCT/SP linked interventions that the EU/INTPA and ECHO is supporting. The intervention employs a life cycle approach looking at implementing three social transfer models with a focus on early childhood, youth and elderly. Each of the three social transfer models is designed with an in-built shock responsive component. Coordination has been achieved with different elements of the government and with a number of humanitarian and social protection actors in relation to decision-making in terms of activation of the shock response. Well defined roles for the different levels of the administration, going from the federal to the district level, are in place and decision-making power lies at the district level, so it is closer to the communities. The intervention includes a well-defined early warning trigger system – on the first level using well experimented remote sensor indicators which is then complemented with information collected at community level and with the social transfer clients to confirm the impact of the shock. There is coordination between humanitarian cash transfers actors and social transfer actors as well as with non-consortium members to avoid any duplication. For the safety net component funding has been provided by EU/INTPA and for the shock responsive component by EU/ECHO. So it is a programme that works on the nexus with the collaboration between humanitarian and development donors.
Massimo La Rosa (DG ECHO), Manuel Rodriguez Pumarol (UNICEF), and Meredith Byrne (ILO) then went on to discuss linking humanitarian cash transfers to social protection (including SRSP) and employment for national and forcibly displaced populations in Jordan.
Massimo emphasised that in spite of limitations, the operationlisation of linking HCT and social protection along the nexus is ongoing. Here, DG ECHO and the EU Delegation are working closely with UNICEF and ILO. Massimo reminded the audience that although DG ECHO has previously funded HCT in Jordan, due to the evolution of the programme, today the EU delegation, with transitional funding and longer-term development funding, is on the one hand supporting the safety net assistance for refugees and vulnerable Jordanian nationals and on the other hand supporting a large investment for self-reliance and job creation which ILO elaborated on later in the webinar.
Massimo spoke of the role that humanitarian donors have, not only in funding projects but in the spirit of the nexus to have a strategic dialogue, multi-year planning and an understanding of the next steps. In Jordan, DG ECHO has also tied these efforts together with development and peace components as well as linking with government policies. DG ECHO is working with the EU Delegation on social protection guidance and linking this to the policy on displacement and development based on the idea that nexus working is a co-responsibility of humanitarian, development and peace actors, particularly in countries where there is a large, displaced population.
Highlighting the work of UNICEF, Manuel emphasised the need to identify key accelerators for the process of transitioning from humanitarian to development action. In Jordan, as a joint effort between UN agencies, development partners and donors there have been four key lines of action:
- Foundation of evidence – identifying and establishing a harmonised tool that can be used for all populations to identify vulnerability and poverty and gaps in the provision of services before discussing transition. This has led to the testing of targeting models that can be used for all populations e.g. the cash transfers that UNICEF uses, based on vulnerability regardless of nationality.
- Policy and Coordination – in 2019 jointly with the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Social Development, UNICEF launched the national social protection strategy which is the framework for the country. A key lesson learned from Covid is the need to include a key chapter in the social protection strategy on shock responsive social protection.
- In terms of coordination, important groups, such as a Technical Working Group, have been established to support the national safety net, as well as a coordination group of humanitarian and development actors to help support the transition.
- National integrated service delivery/systems strengthening - jointly ILO, the World Bank, UNHCR, WFP and the donor community are working to ensure that all the systems needed to strengthen the national safety net and prepare for the mid-term transition in which they could absorb or delivery to help absorb or deliver these services have been put in place
- Exit strategy – establishment of the graduation strategy from UNHCR cash transfers and national cash transfers with ILO, taking both groups of recipients through the same paths in terms of skills building, job matching and productive inclusion initiatives.
There are some pending tasks – the regulatory framework in Jordan which currently does not allow for the provision of social assistance to non-Jordanians – finance for the government is a key aspect here; and in relation to exit, looking at building skills based on labour market needs but less so at re-starting the economic and creating jobs.
Meredith then went on to share what ILO is doing on the social insurance side. In Jordan the regulatory limitations do not allow refugees to access the social assistance framework but the national social security legislation makes no distinction based on nationality and this is beneficial for refugees and migrant workers. It introduces a pooled contribution where contributions are made in proportion to income earned which introduces an element solidarity. Moving away from cash assistance and introducing more stringent vulnerability criteria can however introduce perverse incentives for the declaration of work as in the short term, receiving regular cash assistance is seen as more stable. Here the coordination between the national systems highlights the need for social insurance programmes and social assistance incentives have to be closely aligned. This can result in a missing middle where for example refugees are poor but not poor enough for social assistance. The refugees can access the labour market through work permit modalities in Jordan but the occupations they can access are usually lower wage and lower skills and what they earn goes to meeting basic needs. The investment in medium term risk may not therefore be seen or calculated at all. ILO is therefore calling for a more flexible, adapted and integrated social protection systems so when a refugee or Jordanian worker declares their work their benefits aren’t cut from social assistance – there may be room for top ups or investment in contribution subsidies.
On the job creation side and in the current economic context, job creation is difficult. For ILO when jobs are created it’s through employment intensive infrastructure projects that are short term in duration and there remains the need to look at income stabilisation and how social insurance mechanisms, particularly in the case of Jordan, can be used to stabilise worker income where they are earning it.
The webinar ended with a Q&A session, moderated by Nupur Kukrety. Responses to the unanswered questions can be found here.