What's next for Social Protection: A Global Fund for Social Protection

Social protection gaps left individuals and societies vulnerable to health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19. A Global Fund for Social Protection could accelerate progress in building social protection floors worldwide and strengthen crisis resilience decisively.

Social Protection has been an essential tool to face the pandemic and to mitigate its health, social and economic impact on individuals and societies. So far, 209 countries adopted 1,568 social protection measures in response to COVID-19 - 54 % of these measures were new emergency programs and 46% adjustments of pre-existing contributory and non-contributory social protection programs (ILO, 16/11/2020). Mozambique, for example, adapted its national cash transfer program to provide higher levels of benefits to its 600,000 beneficiaries, and extended transfers to one million additional individuals as a temporary emergency assistance.

Despite the impressive number and scale of responses, many programs have failed to protect all people in need, especially those formerly not integrated into the social protection system, as for instance workers in the informal sector (ILO, 2020a; CGAP, 2020). Overall, performance of the programmes varies strongly and points to the secret of success: "We have seen, once again, that countries that already had well-designed social protection systems in place were able to rapidly guarantee access to much needed health care and ensure income security through sickness benefits, unemployment benefits and social assistance" (Valérie Schmitt, 2020).

Large gaps in social protection floors

Among those left without income opportunities and without adequate social protection, hunger and extreme poverty are rising dramatically. It is expected that the COVID-19 pandemic will cause between 83 and 132 million more people to suffer from hunger this year (FAO et al., 2020).

Social protection gaps are not exclusively, but still strongly related to financial gaps. The International Labour Organization estimates that around US$77.9 billion would be required in 2020 alone, if social protection floors in all low-income countries were to be completed at once (ILO, 9/2020b).

While financing social protection is primarily the responsibility of national governments, it is evident that in some low-income countries international support is required until domestic fiscal capacity increases, and international tax justice improves. While the financing gap for low-income countries represents 15.9% of their GDP, related to the Global GDP it is only 0.25%.

Reaching the furthest behind first

Astonishingly, international funding for social protection is still extremely low, despite the vast scientific evidence on the effectiveness of investing in social protection to tackle extreme poverty. International aid only covers about 3% of the social protection sector financing gap in low-income countries (Manuel et al., 2020).

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the willingness of many countries to make unprecedented financial efforts to provide protection. A Global Fund for Social Protection could now strengthen these national initiatives, as well as up-scale well-functioning forms of international cooperation. It could contribute to transform current emergency programmes into coherent elements of sustainable social protection systems able to respond also to future crises. There is the need to act as a global community and push decisively towards the goal of universal social protection, starting from those left furthest behind.

Lessons from other Global Funds

The proposal to pool funds globally for high priority issues is far from new. Many times, it has been the instrument of choice to engage for common goals and coordinated progress in various specific sectors, as for example in Health (Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), Education (Education cannot wait), and Climate (Green Climate Fund) as well as related to the cross-sectoral Agenda 2030 (Joint SDG Fund).

There are important lessons to learn from earlier experiences of Global Funds. Among them is the observation that Global Funds were able to mobilise political commitment on national and on international level. Global Funds came with a stronger focus on data, results and joint learning and have led to more effective collective donor effort (Manuel and Manuel, 2018). In the context of social protection, donor coordination is particularly important, as social protection systems need to be integrated and coherent: “Fragmented aid and associated advice embodies the risk that systems become or remain un-coordinated and fragmented” (Michael Cichon, 2020).

Earlier experiences of Global Funds also have caused strong criticism, mainly around their narrow, vertical focus of intervention, donor dominance and additional bureaucracy. Therefore, specific design features - mandate, governance structure and procedures - are extremely important.

Mandate of a Global Fund for Social Protection

In the proposal of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors the mandate of a Global Fund for Social Protection differs explicitly from a narrow focus of intervention. It is described as “supporting national governments in their efforts to build up and strengthen their universal and rights-based social protection systems, based on national dialogues with social partners and civil society” (GCSPF 2020). In essence the aim is to provide for:

  1. Technical support to introduce or complete social protection floors and to develop countries’ preparedness to sustain and expand social protection in times of crises.  
  1. Co-financing of social protection floor benefits, in cases where low-income countries would require a prohibitive high share of their current total tax revenue to do so.   
  1. Support during crises to strengthen responsiveness of social protection systems.  

A Global Fund for Social Protection is important, not only to mobilise additional international finance, but also to leverage domestic resources and to support policy and technical coherence for efficient and accountable building of national social protection systems: “Essential elements for sustainable system building are an inclusive national social dialogue, legislation to ensure social protection becomes a right, and reliable allocations in the national budget. The Mandate of a Global Fund for Social Protection is to play a catalytic role to strengthen these elements” (Gabriel Fernandez, 2020).

Governance features

Consequently, the governance structure of a Global Fund for Social Protection needs to put country ownership first, as agreed upon in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. “It is solely up to the recipient countries to decide on the concrete shape of their national social protection floors – even if they are temporarily co-financed by international donors. Therefore, the decision-making structures of the Fund must be designed in such a way that no decisions can be taken against the will of the recipient countries” (Markus Kaltenborn, 2020).

The second priority feature is to institutionalize participation of social partners and civil society. “Social Partners and civil society have an important role as part of the national social dialogue, in the design, implementation and monitoring of social protection, to sustain political will for long term allocation of public spending and to hold governments accountable. They consequently also have a role to play within the international governance structure of a Global Fund for Social Protection” (Sulistri Afrileston, 2020). 

Towards social protection floors worldwide

The international community of nations has long committed to ensure the human right of all people to social protection. In this Decade of Action to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, commitments must be translated into tangible results. “This is not only required by global solidarity, but there is also a legal obligation in this regard, derived from fundamental human rights (…).” (Kaltenborn, 2020).

To build solid protection floors, which we can rely on even in times of crisis, requires determined and courageous steps towards more national and international solidarity. “Present levels of inequality of standards of living and injustice are not sustainable in a globalizing world. In a world with global markets, global health crisis, global migration, global financial and economic crises and a looming climate disaster, the solidarity between people cannot stop at national borders. The Fund is only a tiny contribution, but perhaps a visible indication of that understanding” (Michael Cichon, 2020).

This blog post is published as part of the activities to promote and disseminate the results and key discussions of the global e-Conference ‘Turning the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity: What’s next for social protection?’, held in October 2020. The blog summarises the key messages from the e-Conference’s Side Event on A Global Fund for Social Protection. The session was moderated by Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy of International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and joined by speakers Valérie Schmitt, Deputy Director of International Labour Organization (ILO); Gabriel Fernandez, Social Protection Specialist of Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP); Markus Kaltenborn, Professor of Law of Ruhr University Bochum; Sulistri Afrileston, Deputy President of the Confederation of Indonesia Prosperous Trade Union KSBSI, member of ITUC;  Michael Cichon, Professor emeritus of Social Protection of Maastricht Graduate School of Governance at the United Nations University in Maastricht (UNU MERIT); Marcus Manuel, Senior Research Associate of Overseas Development Institute (ODI). You can watch the full session here.


CGAP (2020). Relief for Informal Workers: Falling through the Cracks in COVID-19, Covid-19 Briefing, Accessible: Relief for Informal Workers: Falling through the Cracks in COVID-19 (cgap.org)

FAO et al. (2020). The Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, Accessible:   SOFI2020_EN_web.pdf (reliefweb.int)

GCSPF (2020). Global Fund for Social protection. Concept note, Accessible: Global Financing Mechanism for Social Protection.doc

ILO (9/2020a). Extending social protection to informal workers in the COVID-19 crisis: country responses and policy considerations, Social Protection Spotlight, Accessible: https://www.social-protection.org/gimi/RessourcePDF.action?id=56833 

ILO (9/2020b). Financing gaps in social protection: Global estimates and strategies for developing countries in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, Social Protection Spotlight, Accessible: RessourcePDF.action (social-protection.org)

ILO (16/11/2020). Social Protection Monitor, International Labour Organization, Accessible: ILO | Social Protection Platform | (social-protection.org)

Kaltenborn, M. (2020). “Social Protection Floors as an investment in the future”, International Journal of Public Law and Policy (IJPLAP), vol. 7 (2020), forthcoming

Manuel, M. et al. (2020). Financing the reduction of extreme poverty post-Covid-19, ODI Briefing Note, Accessible: reducing_poverty_post_covid_final.pdf (odi.org)

Manuel, M. and Manuel, C. (2018). Achieving equal access to justice for all by 2030. Lessons from global funds, ODI working paper 537, Accessible: 12307.pdf (odi.org)

By Nicola Wiebe.

Source: socialprotection.org.

e-GCSPF # 47 - December 2020

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, the ILO and UNICEF join forces to expand social protection for all through sustainable financing


The programme “Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management” was launched by the European Union, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF on a virtual conference that took place on December 1st.
The multi-country programme presented an innovative partnership on social protection and public finance management – supported through funding from the European Union – that was developed in collaboration with eight partner countries including Angola, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Paraguay, Senegal, and Uganda. It supports the development of more inclusive, robust and sustainable social protection systems that can also respond to future shocks. This new partnership provides integrated support to national ministries and public agencies on the planning, design, financing and implementation of social protection systems, programmes and delivery mechanisms. Read more


Activities in the Latin America region


A series of video/zoom conferences and a workshop in the Latin America region with participation of experts, trade unions, feminist organizations, academics and activists with a common inspiration in social and economic justice to debate on the monitoring, advocacy at national, regional and international levels will be carried out in 2021 and 2022. These activities hope to strengthen networks at national and regional level and it is an opportunity to reinforce the work of the GCSPF on (sub)regional level, as has been proposed in our Core Team strategy meetings.
These activities will be in Spanish and open to our members and interested partners from all our networks. Please contact Ana Zeballos at anaclau@item.org.uy if you are interested in participating.


The social contract and the role of universal social security in building trust in government


Development Pathways and Act Church of Sweden co-published the report “The social contract and the role of universal social security in building trust in government”. Trust in government is the basic building block of any successful nationstate. It needs to be at the very top of the list of government priorities since, once trust is undermined, the state itself can be threatened. History tells us that a key factor in building trust is the provision of universal public services, since they can be enjoyed by everyone on an equal and impartial basis. And, if trust is to be built quickly, the best means of doing so is through universal social security.
COVID-19 has created a major crisis across all countries and has highlighted the failings of the prevailing social and economic policies in most countries in the Global South. A key question is whether COVID-19 can be the catalyst for the type of paradigm shift in social and economic policy that occurred across Western Europe following the Second World War. If this change in paradigm is to happen, it will need progressive politicians and development partners to come together and move away from the poor relief model that has dominated policy thinking across the Global South. Instead, they need to have an unremitting focus on building the type of universal social security system that transformed the social contract in Europe. Read more


“Building Back Better: A Call for Courage”


The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fragility of the global system, highlighted inequalities, and left the most vulnerable groups exposed. The crisis has affected the enjoyment of human rights, social and economic protection as well as global trade and brings hunger for change and the hope of renewal. After the initial shock, the appetite for reform is suppressed by the yearning for the comforting certainty of the familiar. This new publication and its related podcast series by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Geneva office delineate concrete and possible avenues in different policy areas towards a world of prosperity and equality for all. The authors of the 13 think pieces have developed concrete policy recommendations. These recommendations are possible ingredients for a future in which “Building Back Better” is a success and not another failed attempt. Read more


G20 Leaders’ Declaration Lacks Plans for Jobs and Social Protection


The G20 Leaders’ statement released on 22 November covers many highly important topics but does not provide the urgently needed coordinated boost for jobs and social protection.
The support for equitable access to treatments and eventual vaccines is welcome, however there is no new initiative on support for developing countries and no progress on international tax reform.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “The world is facing its greatest employment challenge in living memory, however the G20 leaders have not shown the leadership that is needed. The Declaration acknowledges the scale of the challenge without offering real solutions. Coordinated action, with support for the least wealthy countries, is needed for recovery and resilience. The lack of global ambition in this G20 Declaration is extremely disappointing and will leave countries on their own to fight the terrible economic consequences of the pandemic.” Read more


Breaking Silos, Building Movements: Connecting Gender Equality and Macroeconomics


How do global economic and development structures impact the daily lives of women? Experts Barbara Adams (Global Policy Forum), Emma Bürgisser (Bretton Woods Project), Eleanor Dictaan-Bang-oa (Tebtebba), Azra Talat Sayeed (Roots for Equity) and Chantal Umuhoza (SPECTRA: Young Feminists Activism) explain macroeconomic policies and their relevance to the struggle for gender equality, particularly in the Global South. Watch the video


Call for reactions: Proposal for a Global Fund for Social Protection


The idea of a Global Fund for Social Protection starts from the finding that social protection floors are affordable, provided low-income countries receive international support in order to complement their own efforts to mobilize domestic resources.
The desirability and feasibility of a new international mechanism in support of social protection floors remains debated.
On 22-23 September 2020, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, organized jointly with the French government a High-Level Expert Meeting on this topic, which brought together 12 governments, 18 international agencies, social partners, civil society, and academic experts. The questions listed here are informed by the views expressed during that meeting. The Special Rapporteur would be grateful for answers to be provided before 15 December 2020. On the basis of the reactions received, he intends to present the Human Rights Council with a mapping of the positions adopted, and to identify ways forward.
The GCSPF submitted its contribution which is based on “A Global Financing Mechanism for Social Protection”. Members of the Global Coalition have also participated, among them, ITUC, Markus Kaltenborn


Global wages in times of COVID-19


The “Global Wage Report 2020-21: Wages and minimum wages in the time of COVID-19” by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that monthly wages fell or grew more slowly in the first six months of 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic , in two-thirds of countries for which official data was available, and that the crisis is likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future.
The wages of women and low-paid workers have been disproportionately affected by the crisis.
Furthermore, while average wages in one-third of the countries that provided data appeared to increase, this was largely as a result of substantial numbers of lower-paid workers losing their jobs and therefore skewing the average, since they were no longer included in the data for wage-earners.
In countries where strong measures were taken to preserve employment, the effects of the crisis were felt primarily as falls in wages rather than massive job losses. Read more


Welcome to new member


Institute of Global Homelessness


The Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) drives a global movement to end street homelessness. Our vision is a world where everyone has a home that offers security, safety, autonomy, and opportunity. Founded in 2014, IGH is the first organization to focus on homelessness as a global phenomenon with an emphasis on those who are living on the street or in emergency shelters. It is a partnership between DePaul University (Chicago, USA), and Depaul International (London, UK), which provides direct services for people experiencing homelessness  in the UK, Ireland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Croatia, USA, and France. The IGH staff and Advisory Committee work with a broad network of world-class advisors, experts, and organizations — balancing geographies, cultures, and skills.

Contact information: Lydia Stazen, Executive Director, lstazen@ighomelessness.org
https://ighomelessness.org/ - Twitter: @ighomelessness - https://www.facebook.com/ighomelessness




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Joint programme on improving synergies between social protection and public finance management

Brussels/Geneva/New York – 1 December 2020 – The European Union, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF today presented an innovative partnership on social protection and public finance management.

The multi-country EUR 22.9 million programme – supported through funding from the European Union – was developed in collaboration with eight partner countries including Angola, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Paraguay, Senegal, and Uganda. It supports the development of more inclusive, robust and sustainable social protection systems that can also respond to future shocks. This new partnership provides integrated support to national ministries and public agencies on the planning, design, financing and implementation of social protection systems, programmes and delivery mechanisms.

Social protection is a human right, and an investment with high social and economic returns– yet more than half the world’s population do not have access to any social protection1, and  coverage remains particularly low for vulnerable groups such as children, persons with disabilities, women and men who work in the informal economy and migrants.

A key barrier to expanding social protection is the lack of adequate and sustainable financing. A recent ILO report estimates that developing countries would need to invest an additional USD 1.2 trillion2 – equivalent to 3.8 per cent of their average gross domestic product (GDP) annually – to close the massive social protection financing gap and ensure minimum income security and access to health care for all.

“Closing these gaps is both necessary and achievable. With concerted political will, we can make this happen and make social protection a reality for all” said Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department.

The current COVID-19 pandemic and socio-economic crisis demonstrate the relevance and timeliness of the programme on social protection and public finance management. With the pandemic set to push up to 150 million people3 into extreme poverty, and 150 million children into multidimensional poverty4, it is more important than ever to strengthen and scale up social protection systems, to cushion the impacts of the crisis on workers and their families, and to ensure an inclusive recovery for all.

According to the ILO’s latest global estimates, employment has declined significantly, as measured by a 17.3 per cent reduction in working hours for the third quarter of 2020 compared with the last quarter of 2019. This is equivalent to the loss of 495 million full-time jobs.5 Among the most vulnerable are the almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers who are significantly impacted by lockdown measures and/or working in the hardest-hit sectors.6

To respond to the socioeconomic fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries enacted social protection responses to support workers, children and families.7 However, these are, for the most part, ad hoc measures of short duration. It is time to build on these experiences to turn the short-term measures into long-term social protection systems for all.

“The sheer scale and depth of financial hardships brought on by the pandemic are set to reverse years of progress in reducing poverty, especially among the most marginalized children and communities. Investments to strengthen and expand the coverage and adequacy of social protection systems are critical to reverse these trends and ensure a sustainable recovery and avert a lost generation”, said UNICEF Associate Director and Global Chief of Social Policy Natalia Winder-Rossi.

In Angola for instance, the project supports a coordinated national dialogue for the formulation of the social protection policy with concrete costing and sustainable financing options; in Cambodia, the project contributes to the development of an Integrated Family Package of cash transfers, with the aim of expanding the coverage and adequacy of the social assistance delivery across life cycle. In Paraguay, the project supports the implementation of the Social protection system ¡Vamos! by providing technical assistance to the Government in public finance management and resource identification for social protection. In addition to the eight partner countries, other countries can request shorter-term advisory services to increase performance of their social protection system and related financing options.

The programme will contribute to increasing public investments in social protection by linking the efforts deployed by the EU and other international organizations to strengthen partner countries’ public finance systems and capacities to increase domestic resources for social protection.

The programme will also contribute to investing better in social protection systems by creating a common roadmap and improving coordination between ministries of finance, technical ministries, social partners and the civil society on policy issues of social protection and public finance.

“We will work closely with national civil society organizations and trade unions to ensure their meaningful participation in social protection dialogues and decision-making processes. As increased social protection financing is built on inclusive dialogues and country-ownership, we hope that the programme will set an example for a new collaborative way of working”, said GCPSF Bart Verstraeten.

In addition to supporting inclusive response and recovery amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the project will also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 on poverty and inequality reduction, and the broader Agenda 2030, including goals on gender equality, access to health, education and decent employment and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Further information here.

Source: UNICEF.


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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