This week’s webinar, titled Shock Responsive Social Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean: recent regional experiences, discussed the role of shock response in social protection policies, implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Valentina Barca (senior consultant, Poverty and Social Protection portfolio, OPM) moderated the discussions, while Rodolfo Beazley (Senior Consultant, Poverty and Social Protection, OPM) and Francesca de Ceglie (World Food Programme, WFP) and OPM’s Social Protection and School Meals Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean) presented the subject and responded to questions.

The webinar was hosted by and organised by Oxford Policy Management (OPM). The event continued the Series of discussions on Shock Responsive Social Protection.

The recording is available here and the presentation here.

Preliminary findings on shock responsive social protection in Latin America and the Caribbean

The webinar highlighted how social protection systems have been emerging in LAC, particularly in the realm of shock responsive mechanisms. These systems are designed to respond on the local level to shocks and crises with efficiency and efficacy. Organisations and research institutions, like WFP and OPM, are representing partners throughout the process of shock responsive policy design and implementation. The discussions focused on six case study countries (Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Dominican Republican, El Salvador and Peru), therefore all featured the involvement of OPM in partnership with WFP.

In his presentation, Rodolfo emphasised that LAC shocks in the environmental, economic and political spheres have been increasingly common in the last half century. To promote preparedness and respond to and prevent problems associated with these shocks, LAC countries have been increasing their institutional capacity to respond to shocks, by improving investments in social protection.

OPM’s approach to evaluating institutional shock response capacity includes the following:

  • Evaluate preparedness:
    • Targeting - Identifying/selecting beneficiaries
    • Delivery - Transferring cash/in-kind benefits
    • Coordination and financing - Aligning resources and actors for an integrated response
  • Evaluate response:
    • Piggybacking - Use an existing programme’s infrastructure
    • Shadow alignment - Humanitarian system runs parallel to the social protection programme
    • Refocusing - Reprioritise existing resources
    • Horizontal expansion - Increase the number of beneficiaries in the event crisis
    • Vertical Expansion - Increase the value or duration of the benefit for existing recipients

Piggybacking and the role of the WFP

In LAC countries, WFP has been involved in piggybacking on social protection programmes, by improving their capacity to deliver responses to shocks. For example, in Ecuador, the international organisation helped the government to provide cash transfers during the 2016 earthquake.

WFP also played an important role in the Dry Corridor of Central America, established after the El Niño in 2015. They provided assistance to 1 million people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and supported local public policies towards relief responses and recovery efforts. Francesca emphasized that, beyond piggybacking, WFP also contributes to advocacy and generating evidence, regarding gaps in local social protection systems.   

Main findings

In practical terms, the findings clarified that most of those investments in shock responsive social protection are in response to problems in the economic sphere, such as the impacts of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

In addition, LAC countries also prioritise policies involving non-contributory cash transfers. To illustrate this, Rodolfo used the case of Brazil, which increased Bolsa Familia benefits by 10% during a recent Food, Fuel and Financial (FFF) crisis.

Although Social Protection systems are not designed to deliver short-term response, a broadened strategy can include institutional capacity for times of shock crisis.

The webinar closed with Valentina moderating the Q & A session:  

  • With respect to other contexts, such as in Africa, how do you handle lacking minimum institutional capacity?
  • How do you create social registries? Must they cover 100% of the population?  
  • How do you respond in a timely fashion to a disaster to avoid exclusion and inclusion errors?
  • Are there examples of countries that have been developing strategies and operational plans to institutionalise the use of social protection in shock response?
  • How do you respond to seasonable shocks, especially related to climate conditions?
  • How are insurance financing mechanisms related to the immediacy of response?
  • Brief comments on the gender dimension of shock response and social protection.
  • What are the impacts of local level corruption in the mechanisms of shock response?

Watch the webinar recording here!


This blog post is part of the Shock-responsive Social Protection Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by OPM on the topic. Please join the Social protection in crisis contexts online community if you are interested in following the most recent discussions on the topic. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Programme design
    • Targeting
  • Programme implementation
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Resilience
  • Latin America & Caribbean
The views presented here are the author's and not's