Statement of the GCSPF to the 2nd ILO Development Partners Meeting

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) presented a statement in the opening session of the 2nd ILO Development Partners Meeting, ILO Global Flagship Programme on Social Protection Floors, that was held in Geneva last 25 October 2017.

Download here the pdf version of the Statement.

Statement of the GCSPF to the 2nd ILO Development Partners Meeting
ILO Global Flagship Programme on Social Protection Floors
Geneva, 25 OCTOBER 2017

Honourable Chair,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Global Coalition on Social Protection Floors (GCSPF), I would like to thank you for giving us the floor in this high level segment of the 2nd ILO Development Partners Meeting.

Following the negotiations and the adoption of Recommendation 202 in 2012, a number of civil society organisations decided to establish a coalition to rally support for social protection floors. Today, the GCSPF brings together over 90 different civil society organisations, trade unions and think tanks from all continents, all committed to the realisation of universal social protection.

Our key objective: ensure that the realisation of social protection floors remains high on the political agenda, at international, regional and national level. Apart from our advocacy efforts, we build capacity in our respective networks about SPF’s. Each organisation has expertise in the field of social protection, be it in terms of informing, organising and empowering communities and vulnerable groups, service delivery, research work, monitoring and advocacy. There is, as a result, quite a bit of know-how within the coalition, and we are very keen, not only to share it with you but more so to put it to good use in the development, implementation and monitoring of SPF’s, both in their horizontal and vertical dimension, in countries around the world.

Since the 1st ILO Development Partners Meeting, the GCSPF has organised a number of side events, in close collaboration with governments and UN organisations, advocating for SPF’s as critical components of sustainable development. To name only a few, we would refer to:

We have delivered a statement to the UN Commission for Social Development in February 2017 requesting delegates to consider the elaboration of an ECOSOC Resolution on social protection systems, including floors as a necessary step towards universal and comprehensive social protection for all. We recalled that social protection this has been firmly recognised in the Agenda 2030, with social protection referenced under SDG 1, 3, 5, 8 and 10.

Another statement was delivered only a week ago to the IMF, calling for the development of a rights-based universal social protection strategy and closer coordination of their work in this field with the ILO.

Finally, we have participated in the networking meeting of tripartite and development partners from West and Central Africa held in Dakar, Senegal in May 2017, focusing on implementing social protection floors. This networking meeting was very useful, as it brought together government representatives, social partners and other relevant stakeholders. We firmly believe that this kind of exercise is necessary and crucial, especially at the national level. Because we all want to move from talking to walking. We want to act and see impacts.

Firstly, we need, as development partners, to keep on investing in bringing these different stakeholders together, country by country, so that they can agree on their roadmap to develop, implement and monitor their SPF, tailored to the national context. Meaningful participatory engagement of all including civil society and people who are entitled to social protection floor coverage is crucial in our efforts. They must be at the table to insist on the necessity of a rights-based approach and to showcase their innovative (community-based) initiatives in the field of social protection. Secondly, once we move to implementing the roadmap, we need to have a clear division of tasks with each of the stakeholders assuming the responsibilities allocated to them. Obviously, we will also have to talk about financing social protection systems. There is a national and an international responsibility to guarantee social protection for all. We call on you to give high priority to sustainable and equitable financing for social protection.

As civil society organisations, we acknowledge our role in building further capacity in our respective networks so that they can take up their responsibilities, in terms of service delivery, research work, monitoring and advocacy, as well as informing, organising and empowering communities, with special attention paid to vulnerable groups. We also continue to invest in supporting national coalitions or networks composed of trade unions and other civil society organisations so that they can interact with decision makers at all levels. It is the role of international organisations, national governments and bilateral cooperation agencies to reach out and effectively involve local civil society in their efforts to build social protection floors. We take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to such a process, and we propose that a few countries could be identified where we could bring our collective strengths together, using multi-stakeholder strategies for the development, implementation and monitoring of social protection floors. We could discuss this idea further with all of the coalition in January 2018.

Together we can transform this world, that is not a burden, it is a privilege. As GCSPF we are ready to seize that opportunity and to ensure that no one will be left behind. We hope we can count on all of you to embark on this journey together.

Thank you very much for your attention.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) expressed its deep concerns about the report’s findings and the IMF's approach towards social protection in general.  The statement was sent to Ms. Christine Lagarde  (Managing Director of the IMF) and the Executive Directors of the IMF in order to draw their attention on the issue and in the hope to influence a reconsideration of their position.

Download here the pdf version of the Statement.

25th of October 2017

Dear Ms. Lagarde,

Dear Executive Directors,

Following the recent publication of the Independent Evaluation Office’s (IEO) evaluation report on ‘The IMF and Social Protection,’ the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPFs) – a global network of over 90 civil society and trade union organisations, representing millions of people worldwide - wishes to express its concerns on the findings of the evaluation report and  the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) approach towards social protection more widely, as it diverges strongly from the internationally-agreed agenda on social protection.

The objective of universal, rights-based, social protection is enshrined in numerous international laws and agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art 25a), ILO Convention 102 on Social Security and Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors, and most recently the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Target 1.3). It is also an agreed objective of the Global Partnership on Universal Social Protection, bringing together the World Bank, ILO, OECD, African Union, IADB, and numerous other international organisations, national governments, lending institutions and civil society organisations to promote the expansion of social protection to all.

Therefore, we are particularly concerned with the report’s affirmation that the IMF’s approach towards social protection has been principally oriented around the desire to reduce social protection coverage and contain expenditure, rather than ensuring adequate levels of protection for all. As regards old-age pensions, for instance, the report explains that the IMF has not been interested in ‘social issues such as the extent of pension coverage in the population or the adequacy of the pension replacement rate’ but rather in ‘macro-critical issues associated with existing pension systems, such as fiscal sustainability and the short-term expenditure burden’. Similarly, the report states that the IMF’s approach towards reforming social protection to strictly target social safety nets to the poorest has been motivated by a desire to ‘provide value for money and be affordable’.

In keeping with the normative framework established in ILO Recommendation 202 (2012) on social protection floors, we affirm that the key objective of social protection is the universal provision of economic and social security through basic guarantees on income and essential social services throughout the life course. While we consider long-term budgetary sustainability to be important in order to safeguard social protection systems for future generations,  a definition of affordability based solely on considerations of fiscal cost and expenditure burdens will only compromise the adequate financing of social protection systems and their effective functioning. Therefore, policies aimed at macroeconomic growth and stability should be consistent with this framework, thereby safeguarding individuals from the myriad risks inherent in market economies.

We also would like to stress that the IMF’s focus on budgetary cost-savings appears to overlook the fact that adequate, comprehensive and universally accessible social protection has been proven to have important economic benefits. During the financial and economic crisis 2008/2009 evidence showed that social protection served as an important economic stabiliser to create and maintain sustainable market economies through aggregate demand. Moreover, numerous studies confirm the importance of social protection in supporting educational attainment and skill development, and promoting access to quality employment and reducing informal work. Nevertheless, the IMF’s appears to view social protection as merely a cost that must be contained and not an investment in human capital, economic growth and sustainable development.

While the IEO report leaves out any evaluation of whether the IMF’s approach to social protection reform has had any negative impacts on beneficiaries or on national development overall, several studies have highlighted the negative social impacts of the IMF’s policies. The targeting mechanisms promoted by the IMF, usually by proxy means test (PMT), have been shown to typically exclude 50 per cent or more of those that should be eligible by virtue of income level, according to research published by the ILO and Development Pathways[1]. The evidence base clearly shows that PMTs are unfit for purpose where the goal is universal social protection coverage. A recent report[2] from the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and Public Debt has moreover highlighted how IMF programme conditionalities on social protection have contributed to increased poverty and financial insecurity, greater income inequality, higher levels of informality and increased gender inequalities. The reforms have also at times been associated with greater civil and political unrest, as recently demonstrated in Romania and Greece. An approach to social protection that leaves a high proportion of low-income people without any assistance, and which contributes to such negative social and political impacts, must be immediately reconsidered.

We also note with concern that the report affirms that over 70 per cent of the surveyed IMF staff working on social protection reported having minimal to no interaction with the ILO, despite the existence of binding ILO standards in this area as well as the more developed technical expertise of the ILO in this field. While the recommendations of the report suggest that the IMF engage actively in inter-institutional cooperation on social protection and find ways to work constructively with development partners, it also does not specifically call for work with the ILO, who has the principal mandate for addressing this issue. We stress that such joint cooperation would be important going forward.

With regard to the development of a clear strategic framework on social protection, setting out the scope and objectives of the IMF’s involvement, we wish to stress that such a strategic framework must be clearly aligned with the wider international agenda on social protection and the SDGs specifically. As the IMF is committed, within the scope of its mandate, to the global partnership for sustainable development and declares officially that it supports its member countries in the pursuit of the SDGs, it appears unreasonable to embark on a social protection strategy that is counter-productive to the attainment of the SDGs and poverty reduction in general. Moreover, as concerns the financing of social protection, we would encourage the IMF to deepen its role in the eradication of tax fraud and evasion at the national and international levels, and to recommend to member countries abetter implementation of taxation policies, and the introduction of new sources of revenue.

With regard to the recommendation that the IMF provide tailored advice for particular country situations, especially for countries where social protection is judged to be a macro-critical priority, we wish to emphasise again that any advice given by the IMF on social protection must be aligned and clearly coordinated with those international institutions that have greater expertise on social protection and hold a direct mandate to address these issues, in particular the ILO. Furthermore, we stress that the expertise and participation of civil society organizations and trade unions in social protection reforms at the country level is crucial for the success and acceptance of such reforms.

In short, the Global Coalition urges the International Monetary Fund to consider the concerns raised here in developing the IMF strategy on social protection, and to respect the primary mandate of the ILO and other relevant international actors on social protection.

We welcome the IEO report's recommendation for the IMF's Executive Board to review its work in this area as an important opportunity for the IMF to change its current approach on social protection and to ensure henceforth that IMF programmes are coherent with the internationally-agreed objective of universal, rights-based social protection, as enshrined in the SDGs and laid-out by the ILO Recommendation 202.

Given the on the ground expertise of our members, we would like to express our availability to assist in the IMF’s development of a new social protection strategy.


Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

List of member organisations:

Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) and Global Network Asia
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Development Research and Training (DRT)
Friends of the Disabled Association (FDA)
Global Social Justice
Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary
International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA)
International Presentation Association
JusticeMakers Bangladesh
National Union of Organizations on Intellectual Disability
Phenix Center for Economic & Informatics Studies
Social Watch
Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII)
VIVAT International
World Solidarity - Wereldsolidariteit - Solidarité Mondiale
Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
International Movement ATD Fourth World
Passionists International
Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR)
Asia-Europe People’s Forum - Secretariat for Asia
International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW)
Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries
Social Justice in Global Development
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
ActionAid International
Advocacy etc.
Consultancy and Training for NGOs
Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP)
Amel Association International
Association Points Cœur
B.I.R.S.A. Mines Monitoring Centre
Brot für die Welt
Cambodian Women Movement Organisation (CWMO) and Global Network Cambodia
Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC)
Chipembere Community Development Organization
Church of Sweden
Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) and Global Network Cambodia
Concern Worldwide
Concern Worldwide UK
Congregation of The Mission
Corporación Solidaridad y Desarrollo - SODEM
Daughters of Charity
Democracy and Workers Rights Centre (DWRC) and Global Network Arab Countries
Development Initiatives
Dominican Leadership Conference
European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN)
Franciscans International
Free Trade Union Development Center
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Gambia Future Hands On Disable People
General Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU)
HelpAge International
International Alliance of Women (IAW)
International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW)
International Disability Alliance (IDA)
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
International Kolping Society (IKS)
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Labour and Economic Development Research Institute (LEDRIZ) and Global Network Zimbabwe
Labour and Education Foundation (LEF) and Global Network Pakistan
Labour Education and Research Network (LEARN) and Global Network Asia
Labour Research Service and Global Network Africa
Labour Resource and Research Institute (LARRI) Global Network Namibia
Lanka Net
Loretto Community
Marianists International
Modern University for Business and Science (MUBS)
National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE)
Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP)-Asia
NGO Forum for Health
Platform for Social Protection
Programa Laboral de Desarrollo (PLADES) and Global Network Latin America
Proyecto de Derechos Econónimos, Sociales y Culturales (PRODESC)
Psychological Research & Development Council-India (PRDC India)
Salesian Missions
Samadeepa Development Center
Save the Children
Service and Research Institute on Family and Children (SERFAC)
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
The Grail
Trade Union Right Centre (TURC)
Trickle Up
UK Child Poverty Action Group
UNANIMA International
Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail
Workers Education Association Zambia WEAZ and Global Network Zambia
World Federalist Movement
Youth For Action

Individual members:

Daniel Horn (UK)
Michael Cichon (Germany)


[1] ILO and Development Pathways (2017) Exclusion by design: an assessment of the effectiveness of the proxy means test poverty targeting methodology

[2] UN Human Rights Council (2017) Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights

Panel “Financing Universal Social Protection in Developing Countries”
A Session at the Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank. October 11, 2017
Statement to open session
Barry Herman

Download here the pdf version. Visit here the report of the session.


I am pleased to moderate this discussion of financing social protection floors, a topic that has gotten increased political attention over the past year or two and that will get more over the next six months as I will explain. My hope is that the attention matures to the point that some countries and institutions take additional steps to deepen national systems of social protection, increase the scope of protection, and that countries provide more peer-to-peer learning and also international support to developing countries seeking assistance in strengthening their systems. In particular, I hope that steps may be taken to assure that the financing for what the International Labor Organization has defined as national floors of social protection is fully available into the foreseeable future, year in and year out, in bad times as well as good ones.

Before starting the discussion, let me try to specify the financing challenge so we are all “on the same page”. When we talk about social protection, and especially social protection floors, we are referring to government cash transfers that may range from public support to mothers and children, support to the disabled, support to the involuntarily unemployed, support to the aged and to other people in need, as in the provision or financing of health services. Countries differ in how many types of assistance their governments offer and how much of the population in need they should reach and are able to reach. Countries also differ in whether they seek to target their assistance to specific populations, e.g., the “extreme poor”, or offer the support universally as a right. The ILO and the World Bank have jointly committed to promote “universal” social protection, which will entail significant, regular and reliable budgetary outlays. Whatever the scope and ambition of the national social protection systems, it is essential that the public resources for them be available. Protection fails to protect without adequate financial resources.

We may conceive of government budgets as having four categories of expenditure. One is wages, salaries and purchased inputs for government expenditure programs. A second is the transfer payments made to individuals, including the social protection system. A third is payment of interest and principal on the public debt, and the fourth is public investment. In most countries, the mandatory first use of public revenues is public debt servicing. The lowest priority is investment, which is typically postponed when revenues dip during economic downturns. In addition, in times of austerity, government expenditure programs may be reduced, wages may be cut and the work force may be reduced to absorb the reduction in public revenue; for example, budget constraints may translate into fewer teachers and thus more students per class. In addition, governments sometimes are forced to cut back on social transfers, which may be seen as a violation of an implicit social compact and as a challenge to trust in government. I will come back to this point in a moment.

We may similarly conceive of government budgets as having two main categories of funds. First is taxation of incomes or economic activity, but including as well royalties on mineral exports and other categories of revenue inflows that a government counts on every year. The second category is borrowing, whether from domestic sources in local currency or foreign sources in foreign currency or any combination that fits the state of development of the financial sector and of the access to foreign financial sources. Governments borrow especially to finance public infrastructure investment that will deliver services over decades but they also borrow to meet temporary shortfalls in revenues, as during economic downturns. In addition, many developing countries also receive foreign grants in aid, either targeted to specific expenditure programs or as general budget support.

What we want to focus on today is how to make sure that the transfer payments and public health system that make up a country’s social protection floor are fully funded over the medium to long run and are not jeopardized by any of the various volatilities to which we have become especially sensitive in recent years. As I said before, social protection is not protection if it does not protect, especially in times of personal or economic crises. Unfortunately, the people in many countries can tell us about instances in which social protection did not protect. How do we make sure that stops being the case? How can we protect social protection, especially at the level that ILO identifies as the “social protection floor”?

One answer that we don’t accept is we only offer tiny programs or none at all and leave many needy people in distress, hungry, weak and prematurely dead. If we believe in human rights, we believe there are legal (if rarely enforceable) obligations on governments to address the need for social protection. Even if you reject that the human rights argument applies to you or your institution, most people have a sense of justice and feel an obligation of justice or at least an obligation of charity. All the major religions embody that intuition. So, our starting point is that all our governments should have universal floors of social protection. How do we assure they are appropriately and assuredly financed? Who is the “we” in that last sentence? That is our theme for today.

Finally, let me say why the organizers of this session ask this question now. It turns out that this topic has made it to the intergovernmental agenda of the United Nations through the Financing for Development process. An intergovernmental FfD Forum was created at the international FfD conference in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in order to follow up on the negotiated conclusions and recommendations reached there. The FfD Forum agreed at its May 2017 meeting that the issue we are to discuss here warrants more international attention. It thus agreed to hold some further policy discussion at its next meeting in April 2018. I think the organizers of this session hope to inspire those present today to begin to focus on what might be considered next April, what specific proposals might warrant further study as a step toward action, what modalities of international cooperation might be boosted, such as additional official development assistance to help speed along the development of well financed social protection systems, and other actions.

To that end, let us begin our discussion…


Notes on a session at the Civil Society Forum
IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings
Washington, D.C., October 11, 2017

The NGO Committee on Financing for Development, Social Justice in Global Development, Brot für die Welt, and the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund jointly organized a session on financing universal social protection in developing countries at the Civil Society Forum of the 2017 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Download here the pdf version of this report.


Governments at the United Nations agreed in the May 2017 Financing for Development Forum to discuss aspects of the financing of “social protection systems and measures, including floors” during the next meeting of the Financing for Development Follow-up Forum, which will take place in New York on 23-26 April 2018. This would be the first opportunity for a broad, intergovernmental discussion of policy experiences and needs regarding the financing of social protection and it seemed important to the organizers of this civil society session at the Fund/Bank Annual Meetings to alert the development community to this upcoming event. To this end, the session brought together senior representatives of the International Labor Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the World Bank, together with a representative of the civil society Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.



Anita Thomas, Chair, NGO Committee on Financing for Development and UN representative of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund



Barry Herman, Member of the Board, Social Justice in Global Development and Visiting Scholar, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School


A shared theme of the discussion was that governments should work toward universal provision of at least a basic level of nationally determined social protection of its people, which the international community has deemed the “social protection floor.” As Ms. Moussié of WIEGO observed, the concept of social protection was broader than social “safety nets”, a policy option on which the Bretton Woods institutions have focused. As the name suggests, safety nets are to catch people in the process of falling, as owing to some hazard or difficulty. That is not the only reason for social protection.

Although countries currently differ in the extent and types of social protection they provide, the moderator in his introduction said countries could move toward universal protection by expanding coverage of specific classes of beneficiaries, such as for child and maternal benefits and old age security, including also support of the disabled and the unemployed. These floors of social protection could take the form of cash transfers to beneficiaries at different stages of their life cycle, combined with universal access to essential health services. Indeed, taking the components together, a country having a universal social protection system would realize counter-cyclical economic benefits, as well as respond to the social imperatives for instituting them.

As Mr. Pinheiro of ILO reminded the audience, the international initiative to promote social protection floors began as part of a joint international response to the financial crisis of 2008. As seen almost a decade later, the provision of social protection floors is possible everywhere, even in situations of fiscal constraint. In fact, the number of countries with some social protection programs has more than doubled, from 72 countries in 2000 to 149 in 2017, according to the World Bank’s ASPIRE data base, as cited by Ms. Grosh. The challenge was thus to broaden the coverage in many of those countries, especially the low-income countries where coverage is generally low, and to introduce it in others.

At the same time, the cost of social protection floors must be covered from public revenues in a sustainable way. As Mr. Pinheiro noted, countries use different policy instruments to finance at least part of their social protection floors. Brazil used financial transaction taxes, other countries use tourist taxes, El Salvador makes an effort to limit tax evasion and redirect it to social protection floors, and so on. In fact, in many countries where social protection levels are low, there is space for expanding the coverage of social protection and increasing its level. However, one obstacle to adequate funding of social protection, as emphasized by Ms. Moussié, was tax policies that undermined the ability of States to mobilize sufficient public resources. She said that international financial institutions had promoted lowering corporate tax rates and she criticized policy decisions taken by a number of countries to grant generous corporate tax incentives that narrow the tax base. In addition, she called for further work to adopt macro-economic frameworks that enhance social and economic resilience rather than cut back on social benefits.

Ms. Spiegel of the UN recalled that the issue of financing social protection got high attention at the 2015 International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Addis Ababa. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda emphasizes domestic resource mobilization, especially strengthening tax systems that can sustainably finance social protection. She noted that programs should be sustainably financed out of current revenues over the medium to long term, and it is important that governments use counter-cyclical forms of financing. As the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on FfD highlights in its 2017 report, the world economy is cyclical and potentially volatile and counter-cyclical measures for social protection, like stabilization funds and state contingent debt can be useful. Quick-disbursing official international facilities may also contribute to counter crises. She noted that the IATF will have a follow-up meeting on alternative financing strategies this fall, to serve as inputs to its 2018 report.

Ms. Bouza reported that the IMF is considering how to better assist countries in strengthening their social protection systems in a fiscally sustainable way. Mobilizing domestic revenue and enhancing spending efficiency will help ensure stable financing sources for social protection. She continued, the IMF will leverage the expertise of other institutions on social protection issues and step up its collaboration in this area with country authorities and development partners. The intention is to encourage countries to build capacity for effective social protection systems in normal times so that effective systems are available during times of crisis. For this, close collaboration will be necessary both during surveillance (i.e. Article IV consultations) and during discussions of IMF-supported programs. To this end, the IMF is drafting a staff guidance note for release in 2018 to support such discussions in low income countries. At the same time, the IMF is also working on an implementation plan that will lay out concrete steps to address the recommendations made by the Independent Evaluation Office in its report, (The IMF and Social Protection). This implementation plan will be presented to the Evaluation Committee of its Executive Board in January 2018.

Ms. Bouza further said that IMF will thus develop a strategic framework setting the scope, objectives, and boundaries of the IMF’s involvement in social protection. The IMF has always supported universal access to basic services such as education and health and recognizes the important economic benefits of having a strong social protection system that increases countries’ resilience to shocks. Nevertheless, the viability of universal cash transfer systems and the appropriate path to achieving these will depend on country circumstances, including implementation and resource constraints, and social preferences.

Expertise and support for the design and implementation of social protection systems are also provided by bilateral partners, peers and multilateral institutions, such as the ILO and the World Bank. In this regard, ILO and the Bank launched the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection in 2016 with a number of donor governments and other partners. Indeed, the World Bank has been deepening its lending to help develop social protection systems. As Ms. Grosh reported, the World Bank’s social protection loan portfolio grew from $6.7 billion in fiscal 2010 to $12.5 billion in fiscal 2017 (ending 30 June). Loans have grown especially to help develop social protection systems in low-income countries that borrow from the Bank’s highly concessional International Development Association. Nevertheless, many countries still lack capacity and resources and warrant additional international cooperation on terms provided by official development assistance. The time to build the right social protection architecture is now so as to have it in place during crises.

In sum, there is still much political as well as technical and financial work to be done. Ms. Grosh, in particular, called on civil society to help dispel myths about the poor making poor use of cash transfers, as that discourages public support for social protection. Numerous studies show that women especially use the cash transfers in a socially and economically wise way to cover the basic needs of their family members and, should it be possible, even start small businesses that may help ease a path out of extreme poverty. She also called for civil society advocacy for additional fiscal space to accommodate increased outlays for social protection.

Indeed, the forthcoming UN discussion of financing social protection next April provides an opportunity to advance such an agenda, as also for strengthening international financial support for social protection.  The moderator thus encouraged the panelists and those present at the current session to consider offering proposals that might be brought to that Financing for Development meeting. It will undertake a multi-stakeholder discussion, welcoming the participation and inputs of governments, international institutions, civil society and the private sector. He hoped that a broader and deeper discussion on these issues will help governments move toward consensus on global policy priorities and actions so as to advance toward realizing adequate, fair and effective financing of social protection for all.

A panel on “Financing Universal Social Protection in Developing Countries” was held at the Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank Group on October 11, 2017. Rachel Moussié spoke on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.

Download here the pdf version. Visit here the report of the session.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors is a network of almost 100 NGOs and trade unions, representing millions of people around the world. The coalition engages with the ILO, the UN Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B)and other relevant organizations as well as supporting national and regional initiatives to promote SPFs.

For most countries a national SPF that guarantees that all residents and children can take part in society and have access to essential health care is within short-term reach:

In the medium term

In the longer term

For 13 countries, a SPF does not seem achievable with domestic resources alone, as more than 10 percent of GDP would be required – most of these are low income countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here international support will play a critical role.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors is:

  1. Calling out the contradictions between the stated commitments made by international financial institutions towards the SDGs, and their technical advice to national governments. The policies promoted by the IMF and the World Bank are working against efforts to build universal social protection floors.a. The IMF and the World Bank officially support the SDGs, but continue to promote a social safety net approach that runs counter to SDGs targets on social protection floors.[5]
    b. On domestic revenue mobilisation, both IMF and World Bank policy advice has promoted declining corporate tax rates, and the World Bank has encouraged the use of tax incentives to attract FDI. IMF data shows a declining trend in statutory corporate tax rates in emerging and low-income countries since the mid-1990s to 2007, from about 31 percent to 26 percent.  In Africa, the Fund suggests that there has been a narrowing of the tax base – due to harmful tax exemptions – rather than broadening the tax base.[6]
    c. The ILO review of IMF country reports for the 2016-2020 period show that 68 countries in the global South will be revising and scaling down spending on safety nets and welfare benefits (Ortiz et al. 2015). Yet, raising resources through social security contributions can help to finance social protection floors and is redistributive.
  2. The coalition also strongly opposes the proxy-means-tested approaches in social protection not least because rights to social protection should not be discriminatory, but because proxy-means-tested approaches are inherently unfit for purpose, however well intentioned. Cutting corners cuts out millions of those in need.[7]

The IEO report warns that the World Bank approach to social protection may be evolving due to their support to the ILO Social Protection Floors and that this may “complicate” the strong collaboration we see today between the IMF and the Bank in promoting social safety nets.  As per the recommendations in the IEO report, we encourage the IMF to rethink their approach to social protection and consult with ILO, WHO, UNICEF, UNDP and civil society when it comes to the formulation of a new Social Protection Strategy.

Collaboration with CSOs must become a more open, deliberative, and conclusive process to not only inform financing strategies at the national and international level, but also to work with CSOs to promote awareness of technical processes which affect the lives of those the IMF and World Bank are ultimately meant to help. There is a need to demonstrate how consultative processes[8] have informed financing policy to ensure that CSOs and the interests they protect are taken seriously. More concrete actions are needed to ensure that civil society is able to be effectively integrated at the level of other stakeholders.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors is ready to discuss and contribute to the development of a new IMF strategy for Social Protection that will support the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Rachel Moussie (WIEGO) participated on behalf of the GCSPF in the panel “Financing Universal Social Protection in Developing Countries” A Session at the Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank. The session was held on October 11, 2017.


[1] - 21 September 2016

[2] Berg, Andrew G. and Jonathan D. Ostry, 2011, “Inequality and Unsustainable Growth: Two Sides of the Same Coin?” Staff Discussion Note No. 11/08 (Washington: International MonetaryFund).

[3] The Index measures the amount of resources that a country would have to allocate to social transfers and health services in order to achieve the minimum level of income security and health security that is demanded by the Recommendation R. 202 on national social protection floors.

[4] The SPF Index can be calculated for 129 countries when $1.9 and $3.1 a day in 2011 PPP are used as minimum income criteria

[5] In target 1.3, the SDGs require to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”


[7] Exclusion by design: An assessment of the effectiveness of the proxy means test poverty targeting mechanism / Kidd, Stephen; Gelders, Bjorn; Bailey-Athias, Diloá; International Labour Office, Social Protection Department (SOCPRO). Geneva: ILO, 2017

[8] Such as Assessment Based National Dialogue’s (ABNDs) and Development Finance Assessments (DFAs).

Members of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors participated in the Session "Financing universal social protection in developing countries".  A session at the Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank, that was held last 11 October 2017.

You can download here the concept note of the Session.

Concept Note

A Session at the Civil Society Forum at the Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank

Date and Time: October 11 at 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm
Location: World Bank I Building (1850 I Street, NW). Room number: I2-250


In May 2017 the UN’s Financing for Development Follow-up Forum agreed to discuss, at its next meeting in April 2018, the inter-agency reporting that it invited on domestic and international means and support for financing social protection. In April 2018, governments at the UN will thus debate strengthening social protection financing. As experience is accumulating with different domestic and international funding mechanisms, governments are increasingly focused on the need for adequate and sustainable financing of what the World Bank and ILO jointly argue should be universal social protection systems. It is important to discuss this matter as both the World Bank and IMF are intimately involved in the topic and dialogue with civil society can be valuable for all parties in their policy research and advocacy.

Objective of the Event:

The objectives of the panel, organized by the NGO Committee on Financing for Development in collaboration with Social Justice in Global Development, Brot für die Welt and Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, are to:

  1. Raise visibility of new international discourse at the UN (Financing for Development) on financing social protection in which IMF and World Bank participate at ED and staff levels,
  2. Encourage CSO advocacy at home for universal, sustainable and adequate social protection, and
  3. Encourage further research and policy development on sustained, assured and adequate means for financing universal social protection.

The expectation is that the panel, comprised of experts from civil society, international agencies and governments would inform the CSO Forum on what lies behind the decision of Member States at the UN and the 50-member Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development to dig deeper into challenges in sustainably and robustly financing universal social protection. The April stocktaking can lead to further domestic and international policy initiatives which requires preparedness for the debates at official and civil-society levels. We envisage an hour of presentation and half an hour of discussion.

List of speakers:


Welcome: Anita Thomas, Chair, NGO Committee on Financing for Development (NGOCFfD) and Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) expressed its deep concerns about the report’s findings and the IMF’s approach towards social protection in general. The statement was sent to Ms. Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the IMF) and the Executive Directors of the IMF in order to draw their attention on the issue and in the hope to influence a reconsideration of their position. October 2017.

Read here the complete oral statement.

Civil Society Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection

Over 200 civil society organizations and trade unions unite to call for a Global Fund for Social Protection to protect the most vulnerable during COVID-19 and beyond.

Read the Call

SP&PFM Programme

The programme Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management provides medium-term support to multiple countries aiming to strengthen their social protection systems at a national level and ensure sustainable financing. The programme aims to support countries in their efforts towards achieving universal social protection coverage.

This initiative is implemented jointly by the ILO, Unicef, and the GCSPF.

Read more

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