Global e-Conference “Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?”

e-GCSPF # 44 - October 2020

Global e-Conference
5, 6 and 8 October 2020

Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection is organising the Global e-Conference “Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?”, which will take place on October 5, 6 and 8. To register, just click on the “Sign up” button.

The GCSPF will promote the Global Fund for Social Protection and will have a virtual booth, that will allow us to interact with participants.

Members of the GCSFP will participate in different activities (see the list below and check the website of the conference for further information including local times).

Tuesday, October 6

RT 2 - Older people's livelihoods and social protection during COVID-19 and beyond
Moderator: Florian Juergens - Speakers: • Rosita Lacson • Nuno Cunha • Aura Sevilla

Virtual Booth Talks 4 - Extending social protection to workers in the informal economy in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond
Speakers: Christina Behrendt • Laura Alfers • Quynh Anh Nguyen

RT 3 - Financing universal social protection during COVID-19 and beyond: A case for national and global solidarity to build social protection systems which are adequate, sustainable and adapted to developments in the world of work
Moderator: Bart Verstraeten - Speakers: • A.K.M Mizanur Rahman • Anousheh Karvar • Ugo Gentilini • Matthias Thorns • Valérie Schmitt • Nenad Rava • Alison Tate

RT 4 - Unemployment protection and its extension to workers in the informal economy
Moderator: Celine Peyron Bista - Speakers: • Laura Alfers • Renata Nowak-Garmer

RT 6 -Different perspectives of the role of the ‘political economy’ in building back better social protection systems for the furthest behind in Covid-19 Times
Moderator. Michelle Winthrop - Speakers: • Patricia Conboy • Sintayehu Demissie Admasu • Stephen Devereux • Michael Samson

Clinic 7B - Linking - and transitioning between - non-contributory (social assistance) and contributory (social insurance) social protection for informal workers and beyond
This clinic will be hosted by the ILO and WIEGO.

Wednesday, October 7

Side event 1: A Global Fund for Social Protection

The global community of nations has long decided to ensure the Human Right of all people to social protection. Studies have shown that ensuring a basic level of social protection for all is affordable for most countries and definitely for the global community of nations. A solidarity-based Global Fund for Social Protection could support countries to design, implement and, in specific cases, co-finance national floors of social protection. This side event offers civil society and academic perspectives on the proposal of a Global Fund for Social Protection and gives room to discuss ways and means of turning this idea into reality.

Moderator: Alison Tate - Speakers: • Valérie Schmitt (ILO) • Gabriel Fernandez (APSP) • Markus Kaltenborn (Ruhr University Bochum) • Sulistri Afrileston (ITUC) • Michael Cichon (GCSPF) • Marcus Manuel (ODI)

Side event 2: Expanding Social Protection to Decrease Inequality
Moderator: Britta Olofsson - Speakers: • Carin Jämtin • Michael Samson • Joakim Palme • Winnie Fiona Mwasiaji • Ulrika Lång • Gunnel Axelsson Nycander

Thursday, October 8

Expert panel discussion 2: Implications of the COVID-19 crisis for universal social protection
Moderator: Fabio Veras Soares - Speakers: • Juan M. Villa • Rachel Moussié • Michal Rutkowski • Shahra Razavi • Natalia Winder Rossi




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(General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC)

(UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights)

(Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania – ELCT)

(Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

(Project Officer, Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action)

(Director, the Africa Platform for Social Protection – APSP) guide you through different aspects of this new Global Fund explaining why we need the Fund and how it would work.

PRESS RELEASE. 21 September 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has driven economies and health systems around the world to the brink of collapse, pushed millions into extreme poverty and deepened deprivations experienced by many more. These devastating consequences could have been avoided if people had been supported by robust and comprehensive social protection systems that ensure income security for all during such crises. But this is precisely what has been lacking in many low-income countries where only a small proportion of the population is covered by social protection.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) just published figures that give an idea of the size of the global social protection gap: To guarantee basic income security and access to essential health care for all in 2020 alone, low and middle income countries need to invest about US$1.2 trillion – on average 3.8 per cent of their GDP.

The responsibility to ensure social protection lies with governments, but the pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for international solidarity in finally realizing the human right to social protection for everyone, everywhere.

Therefore, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF), a group of over a 100 civil society organizations and trade unions, is calling on the world's governments support low-income countries to expand and improve their social protection systems through the establishment of a Global Fund for Social Protection.

This Fund will enable low-income countries to implement national social protection systems that ensure income protection for all by providing temporary co-financing and facilitating access to technical support.

In expressing her support for the Call, Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) stressed the importance of social protection in protecting people from the impacts of this crisis and the next: “Covid-19 has exposed the global scandal of a world without social protection for all. 70% of the world's people have no or inadequate social protection, no income protection, no guaranteed access to health, no child protection and many other vital areas that ensure people are resilient against global shocks. Unions and civil society groups are calling for a Global Social Protection Fund for the poorest and most vulnerable of people. Join us, make the call for a Global Social Protection Fund!”

Olivier De Schutter, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, emphasized how a Global Fund for Social Protection would not just help low income countries finance social protection their citizens but also give them the security that they will be supported to maintain these systems when a crisis hits: ”Many poor countries are small and have a poorly diversified economy and they may be experiencing shocks, economic shocks, a loss of export revenues, a sudden increase of import bills, climatic shocks, droughts and floods, or indeed epidemics, as we have seen most recently. And these countries may be wary about committing to provide their populations with the support they need in the form of standing rights-based Social Protection Floors that people may claim as entitlements. So we need to support these countries by providing them the ability to be insured in times of crisis, to make sure that the Social Protection Floors they establish shall be affordable, even in times of crisis. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and I strongly believe that that is the case for the Global Fund for Social Protection.”

If the international community takes the promise of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development to ‘not leave anyone behind’ serious then now is the time to establish a Global Fund for Social Protection. It is only realistic way to ensure that this crisis and the next does not spell poverty and deprivation for the world’s most vulnerable.

The list of organizations endorsing the Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection, testimonials of high-profile signatories and Call itself can be found here:

Download (pdf version).

Organization: Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF)
Contact: Ana Zeballos

Strengthening public health and social protection systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

By Mira Bierbaum, Thomas Gebauer and Nicola Wiebe
Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

Download this chapter in pdf format here.

The health and socioeconomic crisis caused by COVID-19 has shown in a dramatic fashion that we are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us. Despite previous legal and policy commitments and laudable progress in many countries, only between one-third and one-half of the world’s population were covered by essential health services.1 More than 55 percent had no access to social protection at all, with devastating consequences for societies worldwide.2 Millions of people have already fallen into poverty, are suffering from hunger and destitution or have died. The crisis has put into sharp relief the large underinvestment in public health systems that struggle to detect, isolate and treat cases.

It has also demonstrated the need for robust and comprehensive social protection systems that protect individuals against income losses in case of sickness or job loss and that reduce the depth and duration of economic downturns by means of counter-cyclical spending.

Financing universal social protection for all is possible

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world into turmoil, low- and middle-income countries were confronted with large financing gaps in social protection, amounting to more than US$ 500 billion annually.3 While these gaps are without doubt significant – in low-income countries, they amount to 5.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – they represent only about 0.05 percent of the GDP of all high-income countries or 1.4  percent of all illicit financial flows.

The world is literally swimming in money. Due to the misguided financial and fiscal policies of the past decades, it is simply not where it is needed. Today, public coffers are in dire straits and the managers of investment funds are eagerly looking for new opportunities. They have recently found them in the healthcare sector – with the precarious consequences that became apparent in the coronavirus crisis.

International justice, including, among other measures, international tax justice, is urgent. Tax havens and tax evasion by multinational companies undermine successful tax collection, especially in countries where funds to cover public social expenditure are already scarce. In order to effectively protect and increase the national resource base, regulation and enforcement of tax justice at the international level is essential.

Beyond this, however, international solidarity is needed in the form of a global financing mechanism for social protection. In line with the solidarity principl of social policy, a “Global Fund for Social Protection” should be endowed with resources according to the financial capacity of states and disbursed according to social needs. This would support efforts to fulfil commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to jointly realize the human right to social security. Without the fair use of existing wealth, without redistribution, the global crisis will not be resolved. Rescue, however, is possible; the resources are there; it should not fail due to a lack of solidarity.

From commitments to implementation

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis 2008 – 2009, governments and social partners adopted the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) that provides guidance to Member States to establish and maintain national social protection floors and progressively increase levels of protection. The global commitment to universal social protection was reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda with SDG 1.3 calling on governments to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors” by 2030. Such floors guarantee access to essential healthcare and income security throughout the life cycle, for example in the form of child or family benefits, benefits in the case of illness, unemployment, disability and old age. In principle, States bear the overall responsibility to establish and maintain these floors, based on principles of universality, social solidarity and non-discrimination, social dialogue and solidarity in financing. Yet, if economic and fiscal capacities are insufficient, the Recommendation also states that States could seek international support.

A fundamental international consensus and repeated voluntary commitments by governments and social partners are hence already on the table. What is required now with great urgency is the implementation of these commitments. Civil society has an important role to play in advocating for and participating in the development of a social policy based on global solidarity.

The health and economic crisis has been an eye-opener for many people. What has long been considered utopian seems possible today, demonstrated by appeals for solidarity, greater appreciation for care-givers, citizens’ initiatives to cater for the needs of others in their neighbourhoods and a flurry of government actions that aim at equity in many countries. These demonstrations of solidarity are important and a fundamental aspect of functioning sociality. But they remain insufficient as long as sociality is only thought of in a national context.

Notwithstanding the challenges, we seek a reorientation of human living environments towards the principle of preserving care, both for one another and for the environment. We urgently need global social conditions in which the guaranteed rights of freedom are given a socio-political framework determined by solidarity. This requires from all of us an attitude of cosmopolitan solidarity, which is also directed towards those who are strangers to us and who may have very different lifestyles from our own.

The article “We are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us” - Strengthening public health and social protection systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Mira Bierbaum, Thomas Gebauer and Nicola Wiebe, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors is published in the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2020, Shifting policies for systemic change Lessons from the global COVID-19 crisis.


1 WHO et al. (2019): Primary Health Care on the Road to Universal Health Coverage. Global Monitoring Report 2019. Geneva.

2 ILO (2017): World Social Protection Report 2017-19: Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Geneva

3 Durán Valverde, Fabio/José Pacheco Jimenez/Taneem Muzaffar/ Hazel Elizondo Barboza (2019): Measuring Financing Gaps in Social Protection for Achieving SDG Target 1.3: Global Estimates and Strategies for Developing Countries. Working paper 073. Extension of Social Security (ESS) Paper Series. Geneva: ILO. publications-and-tools/Workingpapers/WCMS_729111/lang--en/index.htm.

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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