Advocating for universal social security: how to win hearts and minds

While there is a global consensus that all countries should build national social security systems, there is significant contestation over the type of social security that should be established. A key debate is whether universal social security is feasible in low- and middle-income countries, with policymakers often believing that universal social security is unaffordable. The aim of this paper is to offer advice on how to advocate for universality in contexts where policymakers need to be convinced. It also highlights some common pitfalls that advocates of universality can fall into, which can hinder the effectiveness of their advocacy and policy dialogue. There are three components of advocacy examined within the paper:

  • The language used when arguing for universal social security;
  • The arguments with which to influence decision-makers; and,
  • The identification of the real decision-makers within any country and directing advocacy towards them.

While the advice outlined in this paper will not guarantee that policymakers will be convinced, it is likely to enhance the chance of success.