Reflections on the International Conference on Resilient Social Protection for an Inclusive Development – Part II
The International Conference on Resilient Social Protection for an Inclusive Development ended today, 19 September 2019. The event took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was organized by UNICEF, ILO, GIZ, the World Bank and other partners.
Social protection experts from all over the world were reunited to discuss policy design and implementation issues, supporting the Government of Nepal in the development of a core package of social protection for all.
The full recordings of each session are available at socialprotection.org, which livestreamed the event. The summaries of the last day’s main sessions can be found below.
Improving productivity through social protection: In addition to providing a safety net for the most vulnerable people, social protection can also support people to become more productive. This can also facilitate people to move up the ladder of prosperity. In some parts of the world, public works programmes have proven how productive social protection can function successfully.
Main Outcomes: The session started with definitions of key concepts and scope: productive inclusion programmes can vary greatly on their extension, targets and objectives. Some of the programme objectives mentioned during the session included:
- ensuring decent wages that could support workers and their dependents,
- providing cash income that could be invested in other income generating activities;
- producing sustainable assets and improving infrastructure that benefits the local population.
As a key mechanism for employment, sustainable livelihoods and infrastructure improvement, these programmes are important elements of resilient social protection systems.
In that sense, evidence shows many positive impacts as a result of those programmes, including increased income, access to credit, skills training and others. Furthermore, mainly from the effect of improved infrastructure, these programmes can lead to better roads, increased farming yields, improved access to health services, etc.
Apart from the challenges common to the design of any social protection program, policymakers face a particular set of challenges when designing productive inclusion and public works programmes: interventions must be developed according to the needs of the region, but always considering scalability, sustainability and, if possible, cash plus interventions.
Brazil’s Brasil Sem Miséria programme, for example, had different interventions for rural and urban settings, combining grants with training, mentoring and psycho-social support for the participants.
Examples of good practices from all over the world were brought to illustrate the importance of incorporating cash plus interventions to the programmes, enabling participants to improve their overall living condition in the long term.
Promoting social inclusion: impacts of social protection on vulnerable groups
This session will look at how to design inclusive and robust social protection programmes that reach and support particularly disadvantaged and excluded groups such as people living with disabilities, minorities, and women and policy options to consider when designing inclusive schemes.
Main Outcomes: The session started with a remark on the importance of establishing social protection floors and strong social protection systems: social protection was again acknowledged as a key instrument to reduce inequality, mitigating shocks and increasing productivity. Global evidence illustrating the impact of social protection in the reduction of inequality was shown to the audience.
Following the session’s objectives, the role of social protection for people with disabilities was also addressed. The Nepali context was brought to attention: the country’s disability allowance lacks on coverage and provides a benefit that is insufficient to fulfill people’s needs. Furthermore, there are major problems in targeting and in providing access to the benefits, which hinder people’s access to an already insufficient system. The key lesson is that programme design for disabled people should make an extra effort to correctly identify people that are eligible for the program, providing relevant grants and ensuring they are able to receive it.
Other social protection schemes targeted to vulnerable people – particularly women and mothers -were also addressed during the session.
The Bangladeshi experience was brought to illustrate the wide range of social protection programmes to cover for the country’s most vulnerable populations: in total, 132 programmes are currently in place, which demonstrates the relevance of social protection schemes to improve the living conditions of marginalized and vulnerable groups.
Following up on the case studies, Iran’s efforts towards universal health coverage were discussed during the session. Targeting vulnerable groups, which include disabled people, rural workers, youth and women, the country aims to provide free and accessible health care for its citizens. Furthermore, the policy includes a component to prevent HIV contamination among vulnerable youth.
Closing the session, Turkey’s experience with migrants was brought to exemplify two important social protection mechanisms for reducing inequalities and protecting vulnerable populations: social safety nets and conditional cash transfers for education.
Developing systems: policy integration, implementation systems and financing
This session will discuss the systematic approaches of social protection to ensure that people are covered against poverty and risks throughout the lifecycle. The discussion will also focus on how social protection strategies and programmes are to be coordinated with those of other sectors, including employment and food security. The session will also discuss how integrated social protection information systems can be developed in Nepal.
Main Outcomes: A discussion on Nepal’s social protection policy integration, implementation and financing opened this last session. Presenting the legal framework and financial regulations of Nepal’s social protection system, the numerous schemes currently existing in the country were identified. The presentation highlighted the difficulties in establishing effective coordination and accountability among different levels of government – which continues to be a challenge hindering the schemes’ successful implementation.
The country also presented the structure of an integrated social protection framework and a detailed list of possible interventions thought to address a different set of social issues.
The session also addressed the importance of complementary policies for the effectiveness of social protection policies.
Throughout the conference, the challenge of financing social protection was addressed many times. It is important to note, in that sense, that social protection does not always present immediate results – and, in fact, its return on investment is quite difficult to determine.
To increase the complexity of the issue, there could be barriers to hinder the realization of social protection systems. Context factors (sometimes unpredictable) can have significant impact on the effectiveness of programmes – including ones that were initially well designed.
In that sense, evidence shows that context highly affects the effective of social protection. The importance of cash plus interventions add to this issue: they are essential to overcome some barriers, particularly in the household levels, and ensure the full accomplishment of social protection policies.
Lastly, the session addressed challenges of financing social protection: while, ideally, social protection should be financed with domestic revenues, there are increasing constraints to revenue mobilization in independent tax policies.
The debate also highlighted that policy flexibility, attention to the local context and centralized coordination mechanisms are essential for the establishment of the necessary fiscal space for the social protection scheme. Furthermore, including social protection on the national budgets could greatly contribute to more transparency and accountability.
Conclusions and call for action
More than sharing experiences and good practices on social protection, one of the main goals of the Conference was to promote informed policy debate to support the Government of Nepal and its relevant ministries in their efforts to promote and advance an inclusive social protection agenda for the country.
In that sense, after the policy dialogues and sessions were ended, ministries and government officials were reunited at the Conference’s venue to agree on an action plan for social protection.
In their speeches, ministries acknowledged the importance of the event for highlighting matters of concern, good practices and recommendations. It was mentioned that the debates and evidence presented throughout the Conference provided invaluable subsidies to this call for action and for government actions to follow.
Following up on the Conference’s debates, the ministries established key priorities for Nepal’s social protection:
- the creation of an integrated social registry, with demographic, social and economic data;
- the need to assign institutions and agencies responsible for the development of that single registry, as well as ensuring its update and monitoring;
- the need to link social protection with key services;
- the need to invest in productive employment and social security;
- the need to expand coverage of specific programmes, particularly child grants.
Lastly, the ministries reminded that the recommendations from the conference will be in the centre of the government’s actions and reaffirmed their commitment for the establishment of more effective and comprehensive social protection schemes, particularly for vulnerable populations.
Nepal is forwarding efforts to improve its existing programmes and, within its institutional and fiscal capacity, promote equality of opportunities and ensure that the human rights of all people are secured.
The Conference presented evidence and recommendations that could support not only Nepal’s government, but any agency interested in forwarding social protection in its local context. We hope that the sessions and materials will be a source of inspiration for the development of more inclusive social protection policies.