Law for Development: Strengthening Social Protection Systems in Africa

Law for Development:
Strengthening Social Protection Systems in Africa

10th and 11th November 2016
Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)
Marie-Schlei-Saal
Stresemannstraße 94, 10963 Berlin, Germany
Organized by BMZ, Ruhr-Universität Bochum and African Law Association

The conference will set its focus on the role and interactions of state law and customary law for social protection in African countries. Social protection can be broadly understood as the protection of people against various life risks such as illness, unemployment, old age and poverty. Challenges and opportunities for international development cooperation, especially in light of plural legal reality where ‘the state’ is not the only social protection actor, will also be subject of discussion.

Social protection is recognized as a Human Right (see Art. 9 ICESCR, Art. 22 UDHR) and widely perceived as a crucial means for combatting poverty and inequality (e.g. as part of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda). From a development point of view it is thus interesting to take a close look at the nature of national social protection systems: their constitutional basis, the design of legal entitlements to social benefits and the level of their implementation by efficient and fair administrative procedures and accountability mechanisms. The question also arises to what extent potential beneficiaries actually make use of the services provided by the state.”

In this context, one has to take into account that most countries – particularly in Africa – have plural legal systems, in which different legal orders (e.g. state law, religious law, ‘customary law’, international law, etc.) coexist and interact. Thus, the specific plural legal constellation of a country shape also the direction of social protection. In several African countries religious law and customary law, which are predominantly unwritten and preserved orally, as well as by virtue of acceptance through respective communities, are constitutionally recognized to a different degree. ‘Traditional’ forms of social protection may become the predominant regulating normative tool for providing social services, where state agencies are not or marginally present on the ground. An analysis of the current level of social protection in Africa should therefore not only look at approaches of the state, but also look at customary systems of social justice.