Social Protection in a Context of Fragility

Social protection has increasingly been considered as a policy-level intervention for reducing vulnerability and extreme poverty, and this can take on a variety of forms. However, increasing attention has also been given to conceptualising social protection – and we wish to look specifically at cash transfer programmes here – as playing an even broader role, one that contributes developmentally and structurally to the transformation of a society. As such, this paper wishes to consider these potentialities of social protection for more specific application and consideration in contexts of fragile states.
The notion of fragility is a complex one and is often very subjectively determined. However, at its root, fragility speaks to a state’s feeble political processes to manage changes in the state-society relationship, and a consequent inability or reluctance to deliver on pro-poor policies. As such, there are significant challenges to the conceptualisation and implementation of social protection programmes in fragile states. If conceptualised more broadly than simply addressing vulnerability and extreme poverty, social protection mechanisms could play a significant role in a fragile state’s progress towards stability through the reduction of vulnerability amongst its citizens, through a renewed social contract with its citizens, strengthened legitimacy amongst its citizenry, and through improved governance of its polity.
These are key components to the transformation of a state from fragility to stability, of the transformation of a citizenry from vulnerability to resilience, and for the graduation of people in poverty to people who play a significant political and socioeconomic contribution to their environment. This paper hopes to explore social protection more broadly conceptualised through a governance perspective in order to understand its various potentialities in a context of fragility. After the conclusionof the theoretical premises of the paper, it explores these issues practically through three case studies: Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, contextualising social protection in fragility.