Financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond

Ana Zeballos spoke on behalf of the GCSPF at the Civil Society Meeting “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”, Cluster 2: socio-economic response: social protection, gender, youth, health, education, and human rights. The consultation with NGOs and Civil Society Organizations was held under the auspices of the International Labour Organization and coorganized by the NGO Committee on Financing for Development and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). The event was held on 11 March 2021.

The concept note and programme of the event are here. Ms. Zeballos highlighted the need for the establishment of a Global Fund for Social Protection, and notes of her intervention are below and the PDF version is available here. Members of the Global Coalition also participated at the High-level meeting.

Background

One year has passed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world is still struggling to curtail the health crisis alongside a growing socio-economic crisis. The impact on the health, livelihood, and well-being of people around the world has been dramatic. Even prior to COVID-19, many countries were struggling to cope with growing debt burdens and limited fiscal space to finance the SDGs. National budgets are strained, forcing policy makers to take tough decisions on financing public health or providing stimulus to offset the social and economic pressures. Efforts such as the Debt Service Suspension Initiative helped many countries slow the downward spiral but were just small steps and did not solve the problem. Much more far-reaching efforts are needed to meet the magnitude and scale of the crisis.

Recognizing the urgency to develop a coordinated response to enable ambitious financing solutions, the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica along with the UN Secretary General launched an Initiative in May 2020 on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond. Various stakeholders were invited to contribute to six open-ended discussion groups, which ultimately led to a comprehensive menu of policy options. The policies aim to address the current emergency and to promote a swift and sustainable recovery that will pave the way for a more inclusive, resilient development paradigm. Ministers of Finance reviewed the recommendations, which were subsequently welcomed by Heads of State and Government during the UN General Assembly in September 2020.

The overarching objective of this process is to identify concrete, ambitious and actionable recommendations for financing a socioeconomic recovery based on the Menu of Options (or if needed beyond). A work plan has been established for Cluster 2, organized around three main themes: 1) Global Standards and Norms which aims to commit governments to align national frameworks with human labour rights; 2) Alignment of national spending, planning and implementation to promote socio-economic impact investing in areas such as decent work, SMEs, social protection, universal health coverage, gender, youth and education; and 3) Enabling environment and private sector engagement aimed at promoting innovative finance instruments aligned with the SDGs and national priorities and developed through social dialogue.

To ensure the exercise benefits from a broad set of expertise and captures a range of considerations and priorities, a number of stakeholder consultations are planned. The consultations are expected to support FfD policy implementation and identify actions needed at both global and country levels that are aligned with the Cluster 2 ambitions. The outcome of the consultations will be compiled and incorporated into the final set of recommendations that will be presented during a High-Level UN meeting expected to take place during the General Assembly in September 2021.

Financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond
Cluster 2: socio-economic response: social protection, gender, youth, health, education, and human rights

Consultation with Stakeholders
11 March, 2021; 8:00– 10:15 am EST

Universal Social Protection

Contribution by Ana Zeballos, Coordinator, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF)1

Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion. I am really pleased to speak on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF). We are a global network of civil society organizations, trade unions and think tanks committed to the realisation of ILO-Recommendation 202 on social protection floors.

We are calling for the implementation of the four Essential Elements of the ILO Recommendation 202, and the establishment of a Global Fund for Social Protection2 as a key strategy to make this happen.

Social protection is a universal human right that reduces and prevents poverty during the life cycle, demonstrated to have a direct and positive impact on health, food security, and inequality. It is therefore an important instrument to distribute wealth and to realise gender equality as well as to achieve more inclusive and socially cohesive societies, a key purpose of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is showing us the urgency for universal social protection systems to protect people, and in particular the most vulnerable. While countries may have expanded social protection programmes on a short term basis many people are still falling through the net, among them undocumented informal workers, migrants, homeless, refugees.

Even though high income countries have put in place social protection responses these measures are very uneven between countries and in many cases, merely temporary.

An Oxfam study of emergency responses between April and September 2020 in 126 low and middle income countries shows that:

  • In 81% of the countries, emergency responses cover less than half their population.
  • In 29% of the countries, fewer than one in 10 people have been protected as workers in the informal sector.
  • Benefits provided to families are short-lived and too low to pay even for basic needs.
  • In low- and middle-income countries average investment has been just 0.46% of GDP, with only two of these countries reaching 2% (“Shelter from the storm”, Oxfam).
  • Most programmes recently set up are not long term
  • 2.7 billion people still have absolutely no access to social protection
  • The financing gap for low-income countries is about 78 billion USD, about half of total official development assistance provided in 2019 by OECD countries

The Corona crisis urges strengthened international solidarity, global cooperation and pooled funding to ensure investment in and development of inexistent or underdeveloped social protection systems in low-income countries, underpinned by strengthened tax capacity and international regulation to reduce tax evasion and avoidance.

There is political momentum for a Global Fund to support countries with financial and other resources – according to the financial capacity of states and disbursed according to social needs. Excellent financial management, transparency and accountability of the Fund, together with effective engagement of social partners, civil society organisations is essential. Decisions regarding design and implementation of social protection programmes to be supported by the Fund have to be taken by the government of the recipient country, based on national dialogues with social partners and civil society with support by the UN and its specialised agencies.

We believe the Fund is necessary to fulfil the right of millions to have social protection in line with International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as international labour standards and to achieve SDG goal 1 target 3.

Social Protection is a human right, as yet unrealised. The gap is still large. The time is right for the Fund, the time is now.

Thank you very much.

Notes:

1 This is based in the internal document “Q&A on the Global Fund for Social Protection” prepared by the GCSPF working group for a Global Fund for Social Protection.

2 A Global Financing Mechanism for Social Protection. A proposal for the decade of action on the Sustainable Development Goals 2020-2030, April 2020, http://www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org/2020/04/a-global-financing-mechanism-for-social-protection/