Video of the event at the CSocD59: Building Roofs and Raising Floors Through Inclusive Digital Technologies and A Global Fund for Social Protection

The video of the virtual side event “Building Roofs and Raising Floors Through Inclusive Digital Technologies and A Global Fund for Social Protection”, co-organized by the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) and Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), is now online.

The virtual event was organised by the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP).  High level speakers from Governments, United Nations, civil society and academia tackled the diverse and interconnecting perspectives on social protection and homelessness, how digital technology can extend social protection floors to those who are living without roofs and the value and urgency of the Global Fund for Social Protection to deliver to all the right to social protection.

The side event took place at the UN Commission for Social Development 2021 (CSocD59) and was held on Friday 12 February, 2021.

Moderator: Magdalena Sepulveda - Executive Director, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR)

Keynote speaker: Olivier De Schutter - Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, United Nations


Meryame Kitir - Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy, Government of Belgium

Saila Ruuth - State Secretary to the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Government of Finland

Rob Robinson - Partner for Dignity and Rights, Institute for Global Homelessness

Samuel Obara – Programme Manager, Africa Platform for Social Protection

Roshni K. Nuggehalli – Global Call to Action Against Poverty Co-Convenor, WadaNaTodo Abhiyan(WNTA), GCAP India and Executive Director, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA)

Sulistri Afrileston – Deputy President in charge of Social Protection, All Indonesian Trade Union Confederation

Nicola Wiebe - Social Protection Policy Specialist, Bread for the World; Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

Shahra Razavi - Director of Social Protection Department, The International Labour Organisation

Paul Ladd – Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development

The speaker bios are here.

Download the main talking points of the speakers here.


In the words of Minister Kitir ‘A global fund for social protection, properly funded and managed, might be the tool we need. Because we are all in this together.’

Covid 19

Covid 19 has put the spotlight on social protection. All speakers reflected on the impact that Covid-19 is having on wellbeing and human rights, and the numbers affected. Minister Kitir reflected ‘Due to COVID, worldwide, we do not progress on social development. It’s the complete opposite, we are facing social regression.’ Covid 19 has negatively affected women to a greater extent, with crosscutting impacts according to age, disability, race, ethnicity and social class. Behind each statistic is a person with untold lives affected. People experiencing homelessness were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they had no homes in which to safely shelter.

Social protection

Covid-19 has placed social protection right back at the centre of the debate of wellbeing and social progress; it will not however be the last crisis that the world faces, and requires international collaboration on a grand scale. Olivier de Schutter pointed out that we have a ‘ unique moment, an opportunity not to be missed’ and that ‘ SDGs call for international solidarity and enhanced development cooperation in the field of social protection’. Social protection measures have been ramped up in many countries, especially in High Income Countries and Middle Income Countries, including in countries with right-wing / conservative governments; but it is easier to roll out enhanced social protection effectively in countries with already comprehensive and universal systems than in countries where new measures need to be put in place.  Shara Razavi pointed out that while domestic resource mobilisation must be the basis of national social protection systems, international support for developing countries is critical, especially in the current context of falling commodity prices, disruptions in export revenues and dwindling remittances. While Covid-19 is undoubtedly a tragedy, it presents a political opportunity and economic rationale to make progress with a system that we know works. It also underlines the need to make a shift from ad hoc temporary schemes and porous safety nets to building nationally defined solid social protection systems with predictable means of financing along the lines of ILO-Recommendation 202 of 2012 and, the key principles of the 2011 Bachelet report on social protection floors and of SDG goal 1 target 1.3.

Global Fund for Social Protection

All panellists welcomed the idea of a Global Fund for Social Protection. Olivier de Schutter addressed some of its misconceptions and misunderstandings, not least because previous ‘vertical funds’ have a mixed reputation, especially when they have been top-down and instilled ‘donorship’ rather than ownership and have had non-inclusive governance and imposed conditionality. It is not intended that rich countries provide support in poorer countries as a permanent device, or that taxpayers from rich countries contribute indefinitely to social protection in low-income countries, but that it be a temporary bridge support to incentivize and mobilize mechanisms to invest in social protection systems that are rights based and require predictability in financing. Furthermore the Fund will be a stimulus to invest effectively in social development, legal entitlements (202) and in human capital. It offers the opportunity to be built from the bottom-up, with the participation of local groups and civil society actors, workers’ and employers’ organisations who give voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. They can push for greater accountability by decision-makers and greater transparency of policy processes – the essential basis of inclusive national dialogue to inform the formulation, implementation, financing and monitoring of universal social protection policies.

Beyond financing

Current expenditure levels on social protection are insufficient to close the persistent coverage gaps that leave more than half of the global population without any access to social protection, despite large – yet unequal – resource mobilization during COVID-19 crisis. The financing gap for social protection in low income settings is estimated to be half of development assistance provided by OECD countries in 2019. Financing is a constraint, but political will is also a barrier. ODA is likely to go down because of domestic priorities in donor countries. A broader view of financing – including tax evasion and avoidance, and debt relief is needed. Research and evidence from civil society that makes the case for social protection and how it can be effectively delivered in low income situations is still necessary, together with continued advocacy in all fora.


Finland considers housing to be a basic human right, where it is the government’s duty to act, and has had a focus on homelessness since the mid 1980s. It is on track to eradicate it by 2027. Housing First is a model that can be adopted universally and involves community in tracking who and where the homeless are. It is rooted in the commitment to the wider context of social protection and universal social and health services. Temporary shelter, introduced by some countries during the crisis, is not the answer. Without a working model over the longer term these measures may be rolled back as soon the crisis recedes. Universal cash benefits can play an important role in safeguarding individual autonomy by providing means to proper housing for those who would lack sufficient resources otherwise. Experience points to the need for housing to be integrated into social protection systems that are universal, comprehensive, integrated and addressed across sectors and issues holistically. They need to be predictable, adaptive and accompany people throughout their lives, and be there and operative when people don’t need it, as well as when they do. People dip in and out of needing support.

State Secretary Saila Ruuth said ‘In the light of Covid-19, it is very timely to reintroduce proposals, such as the Global Social Protection Fund, in order to meet the global challenges in the field of social protection.’

Digital technologies

Digital solutions should be built on trust, be inclusive and have data security, data privacy and high ethics. At the same time the benefits of new technologies have to be balanced with the risks around privacy and misuse of data by public and private bodies. By putting people at the centre, accessibility and quality of services are improved and well-being can be promoted, including through economic efficacy and tools to act against climate change. Experience from Africa is showing huge opportunities for new digital technologies to improve social protection systems; supporting people across the life course to access entitlements more quickly and efficiently, and with the potential to reduce costs, mismanagement and corruption. The digital divide in infrastructure, skills and access still excludes many in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by age, gender, disability, ethnicity, location and social class. A call was made for digital public goods through digital cooperation and innovation at the global level; indispensable for sustainable development and to promote human agency, human rights and the rules-based international system.

Further information at UNDESA: “Inclusive Digital Technologies and a Global Fund for Social Protection

Background Information

List of relevant ILO materials related to the topics of the side event and in particular Shahra Razavi’s intervention.

Civil Society Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection

Civil society organizations and trade unions unite to call for a Global Fund for Social Protection to protect the most vulnerable.

Social Security for All

Civil society organizations and trade unions call governments and international financial institutions to make a commitment to create social security systems that enable everyone to realize their rights. Governments and financial institutions should end policies that have been failing millions of people.

SP&PFM Programme

The programme Improving Synergies Between Social Protection and Public Finance Management provided medium-term support to multiple countries aiming to strengthen their social protection systems at a national level and ensure sustainable financing. The programme aimed to support countries in their efforts towards achieving universal social protection coverage.
This initiative was implemented jointly by the ILO, Unicef, and the GCSPF.

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