The ‘Strengthening capacity on risk informed and shock responsive social protection in ASEAN’ webinar took place on 2 March 2019.  The webinar presented work done under a joint United Nations (UN) project titled, ‘Strengthening capacity to design and implement risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection systems in ASEAN Member States’, implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

The joint project aims to improve the availability of policy and operational options for ASEAN Member States (AMS) to strengthen the shock-responsiveness of government-led social protection systems. The project outputs include a regional synthesis report with case studies on Thailand and Lao PDR, and the ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster-responsive Social Protection to Increase Resilience.

The project aims to strengthen the capacity of the ASEAN Member States (AMS) to design and implement risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection systems to reduce the vulnerabilities of at-risk populations, strengthen their capacity to respond to and recover from shocks, and thus enhance households’ resilience to mitigate the effects of shocks and improve preparedness for further crises.


The project outputs include:

1) A regional synthesis report with case studies on Thailand and Lao PDR,

2) four in-depth country studies on Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines and Viet Nam, and

3) ASEAN Guidelines on Disaster-responsive Social Protection to Increase Resilience. Technical inputs from these studies were incorporated into the ASEAN Guidelines.

The purpose of the webinar was to discuss the ASEAN regional study and the ASEAN guidelines drawing on the following research questions:

  1. What factors enable social protection systems and programmes in AMS to be responsive to shocks and to deliver an effective response?
  2. How will the ASEAN guidelines support AMS to respond to disasters?

The webinar was organised by Oxford Policy Management (OPM), FAO and WFP. The event was moderated by Ellen Kramer (Regional Programme Advisor, WFP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, WFP RBB), alongside presenters Maham Farhat (Consultant, OPM, Social Policy), Rodolfo Beazley (Senior Consultant, OPM, Poverty and Social Protection) and Hang Thi Thanh Pham (Senior Resilience Officer, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, FAORAP).


The recording is available here and the presentation here.


A Regional review on shock-responsive and risk-informed social protection in ASEAN

Maham Farhat provided some background information on OPM’s regional synthesis report and an overview of shock-responsive social protection experiences in the ASEAN region. The report was based on case studies conducted in Thailand and Lao PDR and an extensive literature review and focused primarily on social assistance and natural-disasters.

Using a conceptual framework (see figure below) that breaks down social protection systems into different components (blue) and types of responses (green). The report analyses different aspects of social protection systems and how they can respond to shocks.


In terms of SRSP experiences in the ASEAN region, the report found few experiences in place; documenting only some examples of “vertical expansion” (e.g. Pantawid CCT in the Philippines and response Typhoon Haiyan in 2013) and design “tweaks” (e.g. the Pantawid CCT suspends conditionalities when a state of calamity is declared).

Reasons for this limitation are attributed to the fact that SRSP is still a new policy area, the long tradition of employment-based social protection, and that social assistance systems are still evolving.

Rodolfo Beazley followed, explaining the different enabling and constraining factors around SRSP within ASEAN in respect to the following social protection systems components:

  • Coordination: Most AMSs have Disaster Risk Management (DRM) plans, polices, and frameworks (enabling factors). However, DRM implementation and mainstreaming are limited (constraining factor).
  • Delivery: There are mobile networks, formal banking, and systems for transferring cash electronically in selected AMS (enabling factor), but there is continued reluctance to transfer cash directly to beneficiaries; inflexible delivery systems; and targeting mechanisms that are not designed to capture the effects of sudden crises (constraining factors).
  • Enabling the development of information systems is the ongoing debate around the topic in many countries. However, data integration, low coverage, and challenges to data quality are constraining factors.
  • Financing: Most AMSs have budget provisions for DRM activities (enabling factor). Though, there are, as an example, no predefined commitments to channel resources through social protection after a disaster (constraining factor).


Rodolfo finished the presentation by outlining some broad policy recommendations for members states:

1) Continued investment in the development of social protection systems;

2) assessments of diagnostics, feasibility, and appropriateness of social protection systems to respond to shocks;

3) avoiding overburdening nascent social protection systems; and

4) investment in shock-proofing existing social protection systems.

He also presented recommendations in relation the components of SPS, namely coordination, delivery, information systems and financing, as well as in relation to types of responses (vertical expansion, horizontal expansion, and piggybacking).


Guidelines for disaster-responsive social protection towards resilience in ASEAN

Hang Thi Thanh Pham’s introduced the ASEAN Guideline on SRSP. She began by presenting the guideline-project approach, the findings of the country in-depth studies, including the emerging options and roadmaps to support AMS, using Cambodia and Vietnam as examples.

The ASEAN region is growing fast, having more than doubled gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from 2000-2007. Extreme poverty has decreased significantly but is still high in some countries (90% of the Philippines still live on less than $1.25/day). The region also suffers huge economic loss every year due to disasters. Under the framework “ASEAN Vision 2025: Forging Ahead Together”, the ASEAN community cooperates on various matters, such as disaster, climate change, emergency response, and social protection.

Within this context, the project approach combined two interlinking processes: Country level and regional level.


During the analysis of social assistance programmes in Cambodia, the project found that the Health Equity Fund (HEF) is the country’s largest social protection programme, with great potential for shock-responsiveness, while cash transfer programmes are still at an early stage of development. The government has plans to increase social protection coverage and to design risk-informed flexible systems.

With respect to DRM systems, they found that Early Warning Systems (EWS) in Cambodia do not support risk and vulnerability analysis or forecasting, being available only for sudden disasters (e.g. floods) and not for slow onset disasters (e.g. drought).

The project identified the following options to explore shock-responsiveness in social protection programmes: 1) through the HEF, since health challenges are assumed after disasters; and 2) through the Mother Child Cash Transfer, because pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable in disaster contexts. The roadmap proposed for Cambodia is illustrated below.


Pham also presented the findings and recommendations for Vietnam and finished her presentation by presenting the content of the ASEAN Guideline to support AMSs in SRSP and reflections and lessons learned for moving forward. The ASEAN Guideline consists of Rationale, Framework for SRSP, Principles and Approaches, the 5 building blocks, and How to annex (illustrates questions to consider, examples, tips, Do’s and Don’ts, and gateways to further tools and guides).

Moving forward, Pham stressed the importance of interlinkages between the country level actions and regional level collaborations, as shown below.


If you have any thoughts on the topic discussed, we would love to hear them, add your comments below!

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Laws and Policies
    • Expenditure and financing
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
    • Informations Systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
  • Programme design
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Resilience
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not's