Social Protection in a World of Crisis: Learning from the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus

This paper explores the social protection response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to learn lessons on how to build the resilience of their social protection system. These countries made substantial efforts to address the most serious consequences of the pandemic, pragmatically harnessing existing programs to reach vulnerable groups, while also introducing innovations to fill gaps in the existing social protection system. Rigidities in administrative systems, complex eligibility criteria, as well as weaknesses in information systems, limited governments’ ability to quickly identify and reach those households that were most vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic with adequate support. These challenges strengthen the case for investment in crisis preparedness – most immediately by improving the functioning of social protection systems and setting out the design features and delivery systems to support a response to future covariate shocks.