Social Protection as a Human Rights Imperative in Africa

The Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, Initiatives for Socio- economic Rights and the Global Coalition for Social protection Floors in conjunction with the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights cordially invite you to a panel discussion on Social Protection as a Human Rights Imperative in Africa during the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission in Nouakchott, Mauritania

Panellists

Moderator/Opening Remarks on Relevance of Social Security/ Protection as a Human Rights Imperative in Africa- Commissioner Jasmine KingChairperson Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Social Security and Protection: What Lessons for Uganda-Allana Kembabazi, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER)

ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors- Olufunmilola Adeniyi, Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape/Global Coalition for Social protection Floors

Date: 30 April 2018 Venue: Main Hall Time: 10:40 am

Download here the flyer of the event.

Concept Note

The right to social protection or security is well recognised in international and regional human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.  The right to social security is articulated in Article 9 of the ICESCR.[1] The Committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Covenant has clarified the nature of states’ obligations in this regard in its General Comment 19 on the right to social security. In that General Comment, the Committee notes that the right to social security implies two predominant categories of measures: social insurance schemes, where beneficiaries are requested to contribute financially; and social assistance schemes, non-contributory and typically taxation- funded measures which are designed to transfer resources to groups deemed eligible due to vulnerability or deprivation.[2]. According to the Committee, states must strive towards progressively realising the right to social security of every individual within their territories. The Committee has further noted that the realisation of the right to social security requires states to take measures to establish social protection systems under domestic law, ensure their sustainability, ensure that benefits are adequate in amount and duration, and ensure that the level of benefits and the form in which they are provided are in compliance with the principles of human dignity and non-discrimination.[3]

States are also expected to ensure that social protection is equally available to all individuals, and in this respect direct their attention to ensuring universal coverage, reasonable, proportionate and transparent eligibility criteria; affordability and physical accessibility by beneficiaries; and participation in and information about the provision of benefits.[4] In formulating the minimum core content of the right to social security, the Committee notes that states have the immediate obligation ‘to ensure access to a social security scheme that provides a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, foodstuffs, and the most basic forms of education.[5]

Under the African Charter, the right to social security is not explicitly provided. However, a combination of rights such as health, education, protection of the aged and persons with disability guaranteed in articles 116-18 can be invoked to secure this right. Recently, the African Union mandated the African Commission to draft a Protocol to the African Charter on Social Security and Protection. This is a significant step forward, which will strengthen measures aimed at realising the right to social protection in the region.

In addition, to these binding human rights instruments there have been other developments at the international and regional levels relating to the realisation of the right to social protection. For instance, since 2009, the United Nations has given serious attention to addressing inequality and poverty through the launching of the inter-agency group on Social protection Floors Initiative with a view to addressing the global economic meltdown of 2009. In 2012, the International labour Organisation Assembly adopted Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors. This significant document enjoins states to ensure the adoption of social protection floors which should at least guarantee access to essential health care including maternal health care, basic income for children, active unemployed persons and older persons.

More recently, the international community has given impetus to the realisation of the right to social protection through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, whose main aim is to combat poverty by 2030.[6] One of the targets of goal 1 is to ‘implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures to all, including floors and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.

At the regional level, the African Union Agenda 2063 aims at ensuring an economically endowed Africa based on inclusive goal and development. It further calls for ‘A high standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all citizens’ and envisages social security and social protection as a priority area.

The adoption of well-coordinated social protection programmes will go a long way in addressing poverty and inequality within a country as well as advance the realisation of socio-economic rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups. For instance, social protection can help in addressing food insecurity, thereby advancing the right to adequate food. Also, social protection programmes can help in realising the right to education of vulnerable and marginalised children. This is evident in cash transfer and school feeding programmes.

Experience has shown that social protection programmes can facilitate access to health care services in general and maternal health care in particular. More importantly, social protection programmes have been found to mitigate the impact of unemployment and poverty through cash transfers and other unemployment benefits. These beneficial impacts of social protection systems in advancing socio-economic rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups, testifies to the fact that there is a strong and symbiotic relationship between human rights and social protection. Sepulveda and Nyst have noted that ‘People living in poverty experience discrimination not only on grounds such as birth, property, national or social origin, ethnic origin, colour, gender and religion, but also because they are poor. From a human rights perspective, States are under a clear obligation to ensure that all individuals are able to enjoy access to a minimum essential level of economic, social and cultural rights, including an adequate standard of living, equally and without discrimination.[7]

Despite these benefits of social protection system, many African countries only pay lip service to ensuring the right to social protection for their citizens. In some situations, social protection programmes are implemented as a form of charity rather than a human rights imperative. This has robbed many Africans of their right to social security and avenues to escape poverty. Thus, the proposed Protocol to the African Charter on the Right to Social Security and Protection in Africa is a welcome development as it will further strengthen a rights-based approach to social protection in the region.

Against this backdrop, the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) and the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors in conjunction with the Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights propose a side event on Social protection as a Human Rights Imperative in Africa, to be held during the 62nd ordinary session of the African Commission. This side event aims at achieving the following:

  • To create awareness among states and other stakeholders on the human rights importance of social protection measures
  • To educate states and other stakeholders on the relevance of ILO Recommendation 202 on Social protection Floors in addressing poverty and inequality
  • To elicit debate on the provisions of the Draft Protocol to the African Charter on the Right to Social Security/Protection

Proposed Programme

  • Introductory Remarks: Commissioner King, Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
  • The Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Social Security and Protection: What Lessons for Uganda-Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER)

ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors- Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape/Global Coalition for Social protection Floors

The Report of the event is available here.

Notes:

[1] The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966,

[2] CeSCR, General Comment No. 19, para 4.

[3] Ibid para 22

[4] Ibid paras 23-27

[5] Ibid para 59.

[6] The Social Development Goals adopted by the United NATIONS IN September 2015

[7] M Sepulveda and C Nyst The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection (2012) 21.

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