Today, 18 September 2019, was the first day of the International Conference on Resilient Social Protection for an Inclusive Development. The event, organized by the Government of Nepal, UNICEF, ILO, GIZ, the World Bank and other partners, took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was livestreamed by socialprotection.org.
The Conference brought together social protection experts to discuss key issues and support the Government of Nepal in the development of a core package of social protection for all.
This blog presents a summary of the main sessions of this first day, as well as their main outcomes. The full recordings are available here.
Social Protection in South Asia: The keynote speeches shared a broad perspective of the government’s vision regarding the importance of investments in social protection systems.
Main Outcomes: Social protection is recognized by the government as a key component of Nepal’s development agenda: an essential mechanism to reduce poverty levels and increase the population’s resilience to disasters and shocks.
On the main session, government officials and social protection experts highlighted the importance of investment in social protection, as well as the need for inclusive policy design and implementation.
Important contextual factors were mentioned as key concerns for the development of social protection systems: the country’s poverty and vulnerability to disasters were frequent topics, addressed by most of the presentations.
Speakers also listed challenges and concerns regarding the design and implementation of social protection schemes, including:
- the need for coordination between different government agencies on the implementation, expansion and integration of programs, as well as the delivery of benefits;
- the political will and commitment necessary for the establishment of social protection programmes;
- the need to design programs that are sustainable through political change and social turmoil;
- the need for establishing efficient monitoring and evaluation frameworks;
- the need to improve social registries and databases;
- the need to develop adaptive social protection policies that can support the country’s shock-preparedness and response;
- the need to find fiscal space to establish and maintain social protection programmes.
Furthermore, early childhood, poverty, shock-resilience, gender inequality and productive inclusion were mentioned as key issues and priorities for the development of social protection schemes.
Addressing Inequalities in South Asia through Social Protection Policies: Inequality remains at the top of the development agenda, with rising evidence about the impacts of poverty and unequal life chances on productivity and growth. This session explored some of the key trends shaping the poverty and inequality debate in the region, as well as recent advances in measuring inequality of opportunity.
Main Outcomes: This session highlighted that investments in social protection in South Asia are considerably below the global average, even though the region figures as one of the world’s poorest. Speakers highlighted difficulties in accessing social protection programs and the inequality of opportunities with deep and complex root causes.
Different methodologies for assessing the inequality of opportunities were presented by the speakers. D-index, Gini, HCI, tree classification methods, intra-household analysis and a variety of dimensions and indicators were used to present the current context of the region.
Although the methods varied, some of the concerns were common: expenditure levels and the need for fiscal space, for example, were mentioned across the presentations.
Examples of good practices – such as Maldives’ social protection policies – were brought to illustrate the path ahead. Furthermore, a number of social protection interventions – on social assistance, social insurance, labour market and microfinancing programmes – were mentioned as part of the efforts to reduce inequality.
Speakers also noted that inequality is reflected differently in the accessibility to programs: from lack of information to literal difficulties in transportation to receive the benefits.
Lastly, the speakers acknowledged social protection as a key tool to reduce inequalities in its multiple forms and achieve a more sustainable development.
Investing in the future: Child and family benefits: In this session, panellists discussed experiences, potential and challenges of child and family benefits, such as child grants, as a key way to invest in future generations.
Main Outcomes: The importance of investing in early childhood was highlighted throughout the whole day. Speakers brought evidence of the positive impacts of investing on child grants, including the full development of cognitive capabilities, nutrition security and school attendance.
Furthermore, well-implemented child grants can have positive impacts on smallholder agriculture, health and gender equality.
The benefits of child grants are so widely acknowledged that Universal Child Grants have become a priority: efforts are being carried out to ensure the expansion of existing programs to more regions and households.
Thailand’s Child Grants program was mentioned as an example of good practice: although the exclusion error rates are high (around 30%), the program had significant positive effects. Strong partnerships and monitoring systems were mentioned as some of the key factors of the program’s success.
Additionally, the case of India’s Kanyashree Prakalpa was presented as an example of successful program that combined cash transfers with cash plus interventions. Designed to prevent child marriage among adolescent girls in the Bengal region, the program managed to achieve almost full coverage on its target region.
Its highlight, however, were the interventions combined with the cash transfers, which included training and awareness-raising initiatives to ensure the program goals are reached and maintained even after the girls are older.
Shock-responsive social protection: Building resilience and protection against shocks
During this session, panellists discussed the role of social protection systems in helping states respond to natural disasters and shocks: a topic of major importance to Nepal.
Main Outcomes: The current situation of Nepal was analysed in detail, with evidence from coping mechanisms and damages caused by different kinds of disasters around the country.
Understanding how communities cope with losses caused by different kinds of disaster hazards is essential to tailor social protection programs and increase their adaptiveness.
As discussed during the session, the acknowledgment that shocks may happen must be a key component of a good social protection policy design. Additionally, more than preparing the programs, there is a need to ensure that their implementation systems can support sudden expansions needed in times of crisis.
As it was pointed out, being able to keep social protection programs delivering their benefits despite the crisis is already a great challenge – one that requires extensive planning and coordination to happen. In a moment of crisis, social protection programs must be able to share payment systems, include or expand beneficiaries and maintain its monitoring framework, without losing touch with their main objectives.
Implementing successful adaptive and shock-resistance social protection systems also require extensive financial planning. Multiple examples around the world demonstrate that the lack of proper planning results in slow and insufficient responses to disasters.
Furthermore, financing shock-responsive policies result in increased accountability, faster responses and faster reconstruction.
The development of shock responsive social protection systems should focus on the elaboration of a national plan, identifying vulnerable communities, risk-prone areas and programs that could be expanded in case of disasters.
The session also brought examples of good practices in Malawi and Myanmar, raising attention to the challenges that Nepal will have to face in order to build effective shock-resilient social protection programs.
The conference provided an important space to discuss the current situation of Nepal’s social protection system, as well as good practices and experiences from other countries. Across the varied topics and challenges addressed during the day, one thing is certain: social protection is a key instrument for inclusive development.