Position Paper of the GCSPF at the Commission for Social Development 61st Session

Winifred Doherty of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd prepared the position paper.  International KOLPING, International Presentation Association, Social Justice in Global Development, JusticeMakers Bangladesh, and Free Trade Union Development Center Sri Lanka, all members of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors endorsed the paper.

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The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) welcomes the theme of the 61st Session of the Commission on Social Development: ‘Creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a way of overcoming inequalities to accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ The realization of this optimistic theme presumes a conducive socio-political-economic-human rights informed environment. The reality is that the global community is living through very turbulent times with ‘code red’ alarm bells sounding for the very survival of the planet. The ongoing economic effects of COVID-19, increasing hunger, ongoing war, displacement of people, and climate change, coupled with runaway inflation, are entrenching more and more people in poverty and further increasing inequality. This current situation has knocked us off track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The recent report in the Third Committee by Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, highlighted povertyism” and “negative attitudes and behaviours towards people living in poverty that restrict people’s access to employment, housing, health care, education and social protection - the very tools put in place to support them out of poverty.”

Commitment 3 of the Copenhagen Declaration and Platform for Action (1995): ‘promoting the goal of full employment as a basic priority of our economic and social policies, and enabling all men and women to attain secure and sustainable livelihoods through freely chosen productive employment and work’, has failed miserably in the context of the global reality twenty-eight years later. One of the main reasons for this failure has been the lack of critical analysis of the impacts of dominant systems and structures and how these actually facilitate exploitation, perpetuate inequality, ignore human rights violations, and exclude people in poverty from having equal access and opportunity. Power imbalances, and unexamined systems and structures are the carriers and drivers of much of the inequality and injustice experienced in today's world. Decision making at the financial, corporate and business levels have not incorporated moral and ethical considerations.

A paradigm shift is required from long-established sets of concepts, mindsets and ‘business as usual’ approaches that have informed and shaped policies in the past but are now contributing to and exacerbating gross inequalities, while normalizing exploitation and violating workers’ rights and human rights. Alongside the technological and scientific developments, we need a corresponding shift in consciousness at the individual, corporate, societal and governmental levels- a shift informed by moral and ethical principles that are inclusive and life enhancing for all people and the planet.

The Copenhagen Declaration, with its principles, ten commitments and platform for action, is informed by moral and ethical principles. The same moral and ethical compass guided the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDGs 1, 5, 8 and 10 are at the centre and aim to promote inclusion and reduce inequalities. While the implementation of Social Protection including floors had been gaining traction prior to the pandemic, the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Flagship Report, Social Protection Report 2020-22, underlines the fact that COVID-19 provoked an unparalleled social protection policy response to protect people’s health, jobs and incomes, and to ensure social stability. It further states that establishing universal social protection and realizing the human right to social security for all is the cornerstone of a human-centred approach to obtaining social justice. Doing so contributes to preventing poverty, containing inequality, and enhancing human capabilities and productivity. Social Protection also fosters human dignity, solidarity and fairness, and reinvigorates the social contract.

Creating full and productive employment and decent work for all is integral to an ethical and moral vision. However, the informality of work appears to be growing worldwide and becoming the new normal, with over sixty percent of the global workforce supporting themselves in this way, hoping to meet their basic daily needs without health coverage, social insurance, or access to maternity or sick leave. In Africa this figure can be as high as eighty percent. Further, these informal workers do not have voice and representation for their interests, and are often prohibited from unionizing. While this has been the norm in emerging economies, today the trend is on the rise in more developed and globalized economies, in the form of deregulation, outsourcing, and flex and temp work. All of this erodes the dignity of the person and violates human rights and opportunities for decent work conditions. The globalized nature of finance, investment and business ventures is facilitating this erosion with exploitative practices against people and the planet itself.

The ILO has long sought to implement a decent work agenda, stressing that a transition to the formal economy is a pre-condition to realize decent work for all. A specific statistical indicator, SDG 8.3.1, on moving from an informal economy, seeks to measure efforts towards formalization of the economy. The expert group meeting papers, in preparation for the Commission for Social Development 61st Session, outlined the many variations and complexities within the informal economy and how it is now imperative that Member States tackle the issue and formalize decent work.

An ILO Publication ‘Women and Men in the Informal Economy: A Statistical Picture’ by Florence Bonnet, Vicky Leung and Juan Chacaltana note that poverty is a cause and consequence of informality - people in poverty face higher rates of informality, and there are higher poverty rates among workers in informal employment compared to workers in formal employment. Women are doubly exploited - firstly within the informal economy, and secondly with the burden of unpaid care work undertaken in the family and community.

‘Creating employment and decent work in new and growing sectors: Care Economy’, a presentation by Dipa Sinha, points to the unpaid nature of much care work, and to the informality that exists in the sector. The care economy is growing with increasing demand for childcare and care for older persons in all regions. While this sector is characterized by lack of benefits and protections, extremely low wages or non-compensation, and exposure to physical, mental and, in some cases, sexual harm, it has the potential to be reorganized and set within in a decent work agenda. It is clear that new solutions to the provision of care are needed on two fronts: in regards to the nature and provision of care policies and services, and in the terms and conditions of care work.

The multiple and complex challenges being surfaced during the review on informality can be addressed through the launch of global social dialogues that require a whole of government and whole of society approach in elucidating and defining a new social contract. This new contract requires a moral and ethical foundation upholding the dignity of the person, all human rights, and care for the Earth. Strong political will favouring inclusion, sustainability and accountability principles is called for, with zero tolerance of criminality, exploitative practices and human rights violations. The words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed”, provide an opening statement for promoting global social dialogues.

Recommendations:

Ensure Universal Social Protection as a right for every person. Governments and the international community will ensure that the budgetary resources to finance adequate social protection floors are guaranteed everywhere on the basis of national and, if necessary, international solidarity.

Accelerate the shift from informality to formality with full recognition and acceptance of the four pillars of decent work: promoting jobs and enterprise, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection, and promoting social dialogue. These pillars are basic to the inclusion of all, particularly people in informal work.

Hold Governments and all employers accountable for every infringement of worker rights, including the exploitative engagement of child laborers.

Engage a whole of Government and whole of society approach in the lead up to a second social summit – a summit that enhances the principles and commitments of the Copenhagen Declaration, and provide a relevant strategic framework for the transformation of systems, structures and gender relations towards a more equitable, inclusive, sustainable way of relating with one another and the planet.

End conflicts and war, which generate enormous profits for those who engage in the arms trade. Instead, invest in enhancing the well-being of people and planet through financing universal social protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and loss and damage.

The ILO Social Protection Department invited the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors to contribute to a blog on the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) and the 10th anniversary of the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) to accelerate progress towards Universal Social Protection. The blog is available here.

From a historical perspective, it’s difficult to overestimate the impact of ILO Recommendation 202.

After the second World War, during several “development decades”, the international community and the United Nations sought to address the challenge of development from a broad perspective, beyond peoples’ material needs or economic growth. This is well-illustrated by this phrase from the Secretary-General's report on Proposals for Action at the start of the first Development Decade in 1960:

“… We are learning that development concerns not only man and woman's material needs, but also the improvement of the social conditions of their life and their broad human aspirations. Development is not just economic growth, it is growth plus change."

During these decades, social policy, including the provision of public services like health care and education, was at the centre of development discourse and action. Development was also seen as a collective responsibility that required changes in policy, with strong public services and institutions. No surprise that in those years the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) tripartite constituents negotiated and adopted the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) which provides benchmarks to ensure adequate levels of coverage and benefits throughout people’s lives. This international labour standard remains to date, 70 years later, the reference for countries worldwide when they develop their social security system.

Unfortunately, after three “development decades” the paradigm shifted away from broadly defined social development towards a much narrower focus on “reducing extreme poverty”. Poverty was no longer considered the effect of factors underpinning the organization of our economies and societies that demanded comprehensive changes at all levels, but as an individual problem and responsibility that can be addressed through targeted interventions. Structural adjustment programs pushed countries towards austerity and the privatisation of public services, leading to increasing poverty. The ambitions were also reduced, as demonstrated by Millennium Development Goal 1: the international community only targeted a 50 per cent reduction of extreme poverty between 2000 and 2015.

“The year is 1990 A.D. Development is entirely occupied by the Bretton Woods Empire. Well not entirely! One small village of indomitable Genevans still holds out.”

During these challenging decades, if social protection was discussed, it was mainly regarded as an obstacle for growth that needed to be scaled-back. Only a few development actors and organizations, like the International Labour Organization (ILO), believed in and championed the importance of social protection for all. Even though it has been recognised as a human right since 1948 in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and in several other international standards. There was a general believe that social protection was a luxury that only high-income countries could afford, impossible to achieve in low- and middle-income countries.

Recommendation 202 brought social protection from Geneva to New York

Even though several important events and decisions at the ILO preceded the adoption of the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, No. 202 by the International Labour Conference in 2012, it is difficult to overestimate its importance. This new international labour standard, complementary to Convention 102 (as a foundation on which to build a house), brought the issue of social protection firmly back on the agenda and in the discourse of the broader development community.

First there is the chosen language. Talking about a “floor” helped to change the impression of some “unachievable” set of expensive policy measures for low- and middle-income countries. The formulation of basic guarantees, notably health protection for all and income guarantee over the life cycle, made it concrete what the international community should aim for a first step on the road towards universal social protection.

Second, there was the timing. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial and economic crisis, the understanding had grown that at least a basic form of social protection was necessary to prevent the devastating effects of that crisis on large segments of the world population, which remained unprotected for any kind of risk or shock, as for example the workers in the informal economy, the migrant workers, people with disabilities, women and young people, and other vulnerable groups. The ILO, building on their decades long expertise could capitalise on the moment. Using the momentum to unite people around a new standard.

Is it safe to say that Recommendation 202 brought social protection from Geneva to New York? That it brought social protection from the ILO to the heart of the United Nations headquarters? Would there be a Social Protection Interagency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) bringing together key agencies, governments, unions and civil society organizations (CSOs) without the process leading to the adoption of Recommendation 202? Could we imagine social protection to be central to at least five of the Sustainable Development Goals, without the adoption of Recommendation 202 and the wide support it received? Would there be a Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection (USP2030) without Recommendation 202? And well yes, if we may say so: would there be a Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF)? This truly global coalition, consisting of over 100 civil society organizations and trade unions from all corners of the world, has been – and continues to be – promoting the full implementation of Recommendation 202 ever since its adoption.

At the regional level social protection is also gaining track. Recommendation 202 has proven to be an important inspiration for countries and regions. At the beginning of 2022 the African Union adopted a ratifiable Protocol on the Right of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security. There is also an ASEAN declaration on strengthening social protection and a framework and action plan to implement it.

Even if definitions and strategies still differ amongst international organizations, there is definitely a growing consensus about the right of every person in the world to adequate social protection throughout the life cycle.

And from the floor up, we build a house of universal social protection

For the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, the basic guarantees are the starting point, the steppingstone for rights-based, adequate, comprehensive and sustainable universal social protection, as outlined in Recommendation 202.

There may have been initial fears that floors could be turned into ceilings and that agreement on “minimum social protection guarantees” could be considered as “maximum responsibilities” for governments and social actors concerned. However, the ILO confirms time and again its two-dimensional strategy to extend social protection enshrined in Recommendation 202, which aims at the (speedy) implementation of national social protection floors (horizontal dimension) and the progressive achievement of higher levels of protection (vertical dimension). Hence it is worth noting that since the adoption of Recommendation 202, there is a small but significant increase in ratifications of Convention 102.

Rather than trying to formulate a blueprint, the recommendation seeks to forge unity in action for all actors involved, both at the national and the international level, by listing 18 key principles to show the way forward. These principles, which include the universality of protection, non-discrimination, solidarity in financing, transparency and accountability, remain as relevant as ever. In fact, as international financing institutions (IFIs) renew their push to replace collective social insurance with individual savings accounts, it is worth reminding ourselves that these principles are fundamental for social protection systems that are inclusive, effective and fair.

Even if the State holds the overall and primary responsibility, it is important that the recommendation highlights the role of other actors in society. It won’t be a surprise that for the GCSPF the explicit reference to the role of social dialogue and broader participation of relevant and representative organizations of persons concerned is crucial. This is even more relevant in these times when civic space is dramatically shrinking in too many countries.

Civil society organizations and trade unions develop specific social protection services, demonstrating that it is possible to reach otherwise excluded groups. These experiences can serve as good practice and should be taken into account and become part of comprehensive public social protection systems. Civil society organizations and trade unions also raise awareness and empower people to demand the extension and transformation of social protection systems. Finally, involving civil society and trade unions structurally and effectively in the effort of realizing universal social protection is a matter of democratic and inclusive governance, generating broad-based support and strengthening the social contract.

All in all, the Recommendation provides important political levers to convince policy makers to invest more and better in social protection. As shown in the World Social Protection Report 2020-22, there is still a long way to go, as more than half the worlds’ population does not benefit from any social protection guarantee. Thanks to Recommendation 202 and the broad national and international support for it some progress has been made, at least at the level of discourse and in the establishment of several international initiatives.

However, now comes probably the biggest challenge: providing sufficient means to implement the measures needed to guarantee adequate, comprehensive and sustainable social protection for all. We, as the GCSPF, argue for the establishment of a new global financing mechanism for social protection. We are still convinced that such mechanism is necessary to increase international support for social protection, to strengthen policy coherence between national governments and international organizations and to guarantee predictable, longer-term support for the countries concerned. The UN-supported “Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions” could be part of the answer to our call. However, our concern is that within this broad, ambitious and very complex initiative, there might not be sufficient means and attention provided to effectively support the expansion of national social protection systems. One way of dealing with this concern is by safeguarding a substantial proportion of the resources of the accelerator for social protection or through the establishment of a global fund for social protection as a complement to it. It is equally important that social partners and civil society are effectively involved in its governance and that the guiding principles in Recommendation 202 guide the Global Accelerator.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, during which governments have spent large amounts of resources on (most often temporary and ad hoc) social protection measures, we have another historic chance to strengthen our social contract by putting universal social protection at the very centre of it. Globally, the world has never been richer so it seems the financial resources should not be the real challenge, but are we able to put them where they matter most?

A toast to the 70th and the 10th anniversary of Convention 102 and Recommendation 202 respectively!

1960-1970: First United Nations Development Decade: A/RES/1710 (XVI), 1960. We have rendered the original language more gender-sensitive.

Asterix - Wikipedia.

"Asterix the Gaul" is a bande dessinée comic book series about a village of indomitable Gaulish warriors who adventure around the world and fight the Roman Republic

In particular the definition of the Decent Work Agenda, in which social protection is one of four pillars and the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and the subsequent recurrent discussions on the strategic objective of social protection (social security).

In section 3 the Recommendation focuses on national strategies to extend social security.

Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, 9 December 2022.

Response from the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors to the World Bank’s new Strategy for Social Protection.

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With this statement, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF), representing more than 120 civil society organisations and trade unions from all over the world, intends to react to the World Bank’s new strategy for social protection, published under the title “Charting a Course Towards Universal Social Protection: Resilience, Equity, and Opportunity for all”.

Recognising the human right to social security, as well as the central role that social protection plays in ensuring adequate standards of living, promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, enhancing resilience, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs), the GCSPF promotes the right of all people to social security and universal Social Protection Floors (SPF).

The GCSPF therefore welcomes the explicit commitment by the World Bank to Universal Social Protection (USP). We further appreciate the strategy’s systems approach to social protection, emphasising that comprehensive and effective coverage requires expansions of interconnected social insurance, social assistance, economic inclusion programmes, and care services. The recognition that social protection is not just an effective tool to fight poverty, but also vital to help people face a wider range of challenges and vulnerabilities throughout their lives, is likewise important. The emphasis that social protection, as well as tax systems, can reduce inequality is also crucial. While ambitious plans to expand coverage are necessary to close the large coverage gaps, the World Bank’s strategy rightly highlights the importance of ensuring the adequacy of benefits and the inclusion of marginalised and vulnerable groups that may face barriers to access. Given the widespread exclusion of informal workers from social protection systems, it is encouraging that efforts to extend coverage to the ‘missing majority’ are central to the World Bank’s new strategy.

The GCSPF also agrees that social spending is a necessary and effective investment in human development, as well as inclusive and sustainable growth. We hope that the new World Bank strategy represents a step up of support from International Financial Institutions on social protection, enabling in particular low-income countries to put in place adequate and comprehensive social protection systems in line with people’s rights. Increased investment in social protection is particularly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has decimated the incomes of the world’s poorest people and left low-income countries exposed to the current social, economic and ecological ‘polycrises’.

While the GCSPF appreciates the overall direction of the World Bank’s new social protection strategy, we have a number of serious concerns. Primarily, we are surprised by the lack of references and alignment with human rights and international labour standards. It thus appears as though the World Bank’s vision of universal social protection deviates from internationally agreed commitments and definitions, in particular social security minimum standards set out in ILO Convention 102 and Recommendation 202.

The GCSPF also disagrees with the role that private finance is accorded, as well as the promotion of voluntary private schemes, which are promoted as key mechanisms to expand coverage, in particular for informal workers, and presented as ‘alternatives’ rather than complements to public social security. Given the often low and volatile earnings of informal workers, and following the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, it is questionable whether individual savings accounts alone will offer much protection. The continued promotion of individualised and privatised approaches to social protection is all the more disappointing as the strategy recognises that the previous wave of pension privatisations in Latin America and Eastern Europe “did not lead to the expansion in coverage that early reformers envisioned, and the systems are also increasingly failing to deliver adequate pensions” (page 36). It is therefore crucial that the World Bank re-considers these efforts to individualise and privatise social protection and recognizes that the responsibility to realise the human right to social security cannot fall entirely on individuals but is instead a responsibility of governments. The GCSPF disagrees with the World Bank’s dismissive stance towards public social insurance systems and their ability to include informal workers, which certainly requires adaptations of systems but is clearly possible, as a number of countries are showing.

Even though the strategy is framed around universal social protection, it underplays existing efforts of governments to provide universal protection. The strategy claims that governments “have played a role in increasing access to risk management tools, but only in limited ways. [...]. First, they provide social assistance to a limited portion of the population who are either income-poor or vulnerable” (page 18). This ignores the fact that numerous countries across the income spectrum have made significant progress towards USP and introduced universal child benefits and social pensions.

While rightly emphasising the importance of reaching excluded and hard-to-reach groups, the strategy fails to recognise that universal programs tend to be the most effective way to reach all and leave no one behind. More generally, the strategy lacks a clearly articulated and credible pathway for the progression from largely poverty-targeted to universal systems. Therefore, we call on the World Bank to develop, through meaningful consultation, concrete action plans at national levels to move towards universality. It is concerning that in the recent past, the World Bank has discouraged or opposed the introduction of universal programs in many contexts. Moreover, we are worried that the World Bank is blurring the conceptual distinction between means-tested and universal benefits in an effort to reconcile the discrepancy between its endorsement of USP and its continued operational focus on narrowly targeted ‘safety nets’. While the strategy is less explicitly advocating for poverty-targeting than previous documents and refers to ‘progressive realization’ rather than “progressive universalism” the World Bank’s approach still fails to live up to the principles of social protection standards. Indeed, the persistent focus on poverty-targeting is evident in the promotion of ‘social registries’. While recognising significant challenges in their design and implementation, the strategy does not present convincing arguments or evidence that “dynamic inclusion” can overcome these challenges.

Despite welcoming the necessity of addressing unpaid care and domestic work, it is concerning that the World Bank appears to assume that the default provider of care services should be the private sector, with the state merely regulating or providing financing. Indeed, public care services are presented as if they were needed only in case of particular difficulties in the household. The GCSPF reiterates that care and education services should be publicly organised and accessible to all. The strategy could offer a more critical framing of the burden of unpaid domestic work, recognising the role of patriarchy, and that the impact of austerity on households is often cushioned by women absorbing both paid employment and domestic responsibilities simultaneously.

Finally, while appreciating the opportunities to engage with the World Bank during the development of the strategy, we regret that it was shared only in its final form, with no possibility to react to it. In addition, the finalised version did not take on board the comments provided by civil society in the process.

The strategy closes by stressing the importance of partnerships and collaboration between governments, donors, civil society, labour unions, and the private sector to achieve universal protection. As civil society, we intend to do our part by holding duty bearers to account, amplifying the voices of the people, and supporting the realisation of universal and rights-based social protection for all. We call on the World Bank to ensure the meaningful participation of civil society, unions and workers’ organisations in the operationalisation of the strategy at all levels.

November 2022.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) endorses the “The Future is Public: Global Manifesto for Public Services”.

The manifesto positions public services as the foundation of a fair and just society and of the social pact that implements the core values of solidarity, equality and human dignity. It advances a series of ten principles for universal quality public services in the 21st century, and outlines how funding universal quality public services is possible. The Future is Public: Global Manifesto for Public Services was developed collectively by dozens of organisations and actors to serve as a rallying cry for public services for civil society, providing a concrete alternative to the dominant neoliberal narrative that has failed to ensure a dignified life for all.

Further information is available here.

Human Rights Council 47th session 21 June to 9 July 2021
Agenda item 3

The Global Fund for Social Protection: International Solidarity in the Service of Poverty Eradication
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Written statement submitted by the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (A/HRC/47/NGO/168) https://undocs.org/A/HRC/47/NGO/168

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At its 47th regular session, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) will consider the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on “The Global Fund for Social Protection: International Solidarity in the Service of Poverty Eradication”. The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, an international alliance of more than 110 civil society organisations, concurs with the findings of the Special Rapporteur and expressly welcomes his proposal to establish a Global Fund for Social Protection.

The proposal was developed almost a decade ago1, but now – at a time when the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the vulnerability of our societies in a particularly dramatic way – its urgency has become even more evident. A key lesson that can be drawn from the crisis is that states with adequate and functional social protection systems were much better prepared to respond appropriately to the severe social problems that suddenly arose as a result of the pandemic. The current crisis, as the Special Rapporteur points out in his report, has pushed many millions of people below the poverty line. The suffering caused by this and the manifold subsequent problems could have been avoided if better social protection had been provided worldwide.

Human rights deficits in relation to the financing of global social protection

It is important for the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors to emphasize that the initiative to establish a Global Fund appears particularly necessary from a human rights perspective. The right to social security is a human right that is far too rarely in the focus of global public interest – and this despite the fact that it is violated millions of times every day. According to estimates by the International Labor Organization (ILO), 71 percent of the world's population (about 5.2 billion people) have only limited access to basic social protection or even none at all.2

If at least the core elements of the right to social security – that is, what roughly corresponds to the "social protection floor" according to ILO recommendation 202 (2012) – were guaranteed worldwide, this would represent a major step forward in the fight against poverty and global inequality. Philip Alston, the former UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has quite rightly pointed out that the “(i)mplementation of the right to social protection through the adoption by all States of social protection floors is by far the most promising human rights‐inspired approach to the global elimination of extreme poverty. … No other operational concept has anything like the same potential to ensure that the poorest 15 to 20 % of the world’s people enjoy at least minimum levels of economic, social and cultural rights.”3

The discussion initiated by his successor, Olivier de Schutter, together with former Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda, on the establishment of a new international financing mechanism is now an opportunity for the international community to finally give this human right, which has been neglected for a long time, the status it deserves on the international agenda.

The need for a new global financing mechanism

Social protection is primarily a responsibility of national governments as set out both in the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, Arts. 2, 9) and in ILO recommendation 202 (Art. 12). Nevertheless, significant gaps in social protection remain in many low income countries (LICs), mainly due to the lack of corresponding financial resources. In addition to leveraging domestic resources (especially improving taxation and budget prioritization as well as fighting illicit financial flows), international cooperation is therefore an important tool to address these financing deficits. Multilateral and bilateral programs are already helping some LICs to build up their social protection systems. In doing so, those states that provide funds for this purpose indicate that they are willing to fulfill their extraterritorial obligations with regard to the right to social security.4 However, the support measures are often inadequately coordinated. Above all, they are far from sufficient to guarantee the basic funding of essential social security services in the poorest countries and in exceptional crisis situations.

A Global Fund – building on existing institutions such as the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection (USP 2030) and the Social Protection Inter Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) – would not only leverage coordination of national actors, as well as the consistency and synergies of international cooperation. Its main task would in particular be to support countries to design and implement crisis resilient national social protection floors and, in specific cases, provide temporary co-financing for low-income countries where such transfers would otherwise require a prohibitively high share of the country’s total tax revenue. Moreover, the Fund could help strengthening the mobilization of domestic resources to underpin the future sustainability of national social protection systems. Its mandate would also include to offer additional support for specific shock-responsive social protection interventions in countries where floors have not yet been established.5

The globally recognized, overarching legal standards of the human rights approach and the aid effectiveness principles should be the authoritative guidelines for the design of the Fund's operational processes. Two aspects therefore appear to be particularly worth emphasizing:

Recommendation

Social protection systems that work to combat poverty and inequality are an essential element of human rights protection. Developing these systems is a task that each country must first perform for itself. But from a global perspective, the economically stronger countries also have a responsibility toward the weaker members of the international community. This responsibility exists not only in political terms (based on the principle of global solidarity), but it is also a consequence of the extraterritorial obligations that states have entered into under international law. The ICESCR also requires them to engage, within their financial means, in protecting the social rights of people who do not live on their territory.7

This is why the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors respectfully requests that this Council should take the opportunity to lead in developing and implementing a rights-based approach to global social protection. It should encourage global leaders, as well as international organizations and financial institutions, to give careful consideration to the proposals put forward by the Special Rapporteur for the establishment of a Global Fund and to make it one of the main priorities of the meetings to be held in the near future both at UN level and in the context of the G7 and G20 consultations.

Notes:

1 O. de Schutter and M. Sepúlveda, M. (2012), Underwriting the poor. A Global Fund for Social Protection; for similar proposals see M. Cichon (2015), A Global Fund for Social Protection Floors: Eight Good Reasons Why It can Easily be Done. UNRISD, Geneva; R. Greenhill et al. (2015), Financing the future. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, p. 63.

2 ILO, World Social Protection Report 2017‐2019 (2017), p. xxvii.

3 Report of 11 August 2014, UN Doc. A/69/297, para. 2.

4 See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 19 of 4 February 2008, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/19, para. 55.

6 For the details see also General Comment No. 19 (supra note 4).

7 See supra note 4.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors submitted a written statement to the 47th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) held from 21 June to 9 July 2021. . This session considered the report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on “The Global Fund for Social Protection: International Solidarity in the Service of Poverty Eradication”. The statement is here.

Civil 20 (C20) and Oxfam organised the event “Ahead of the G20 Foreign and Development Joint Ministerial Session. “Policy Dialogue on G20 response to adequately tackle the impact of COVID-19 on hunger and food insecurity” held on 15th of June 2021. The agenda of the webinar is here.

Johanna Wagman participated on behalf of the Global Coalition. Her notes are here.

Concept Note

‘This virus will starve us before it makes us sick.’ these words are from Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver in Nairobi, father of three children, the youngest one born in December 2019. The closure of the airport and collapse in tourism have hit his business hard. Micah’s experience is that of millions of people around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has added fuel to the fire of an already growing hunger crisis.

Hunger was already on the rise prior to COVID-19: FAO estimates that the number of undernourished (including those with chronic and acute hunger) increased from 624 million people in 2014 to 688 million in 2019. The drivers underlying this trend include extreme climate events, conflict, and other shocks to economic opportunities. COVID-19 is estimated to have dramatically increased the number of people facing acute food insecurity in 2020-2021, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022. According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report, the pandemic may have added between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020.

The current pandemic creates a vicious cycle that affects the food security of the poorest people more heavily than that of people who are better off or live in wealthier countries: people living on low incomes often rely on work in the informal sector, day-labour, or remittances. They spend a greater proportion of their income on food, and are less likely to have access to formal safety nets.

The dramatic slowdown in the global economy, coupled with severe restrictions on movement, has resulted in mass job losses over the last year. Governments have responded to the unprecedented disruption in economic activity by instituting ad hoc social protection policies that vary considerably in terms of their reach and scale. Many wealthy nations have introduced multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus packages to support business and workers, but most lower-income nations lack the financial firepower to follow suit.

Worsening hunger levels and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic require a strong coordinated global response. In this challenging context what role should the G20 play under the leadership of the Italian Presidency? This question will be addressed at the first session which will also offer opportunity to get an overview of the Food Coalition, a global alliance established by FAO in November 2020 on the proposal of the Italian Government in response to the pandemic. The second session will stimulate the debate around two main topics that are pivotal in setting up an effective and sustainable policy response to such a dramatic food crisis. The first one is the need to support robust and inclusive social protection systems in low and middle income countries as a key requirement to ensure food security for chronically food-insecure. The second one is to recognize the key role of women and young small scale farmers, to address their specific needs, to counter discriminations they suffer and to promote, instead, the transformative role they can play in reducing poverty and hunger.

Statement to the International Labor Conference
Recurrent Item Discussion on Social Security

4 June, 2021

Download pdf version here.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion. My name is Johanna Wagman, I am speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, a global network of civil society organizations, trade unions and think tanks committed to the realization of ILO 202 Recommendation on social protection floors.

We recognize the foremost responsibility of governments in establishing and scaling-up national social protections floors, as they committed to do so in 2012 in this exact same conference.

However, we also recognize that this cannot be achieved without the international community’s support. Firstly, through the promotion of fairer and more redistributive macro-economic policies, enabling low and middle income States to make fiscal space for social protection.

Secondly, through international solidarity.

Yet, international funding for social protection is still extremely low (1,4% of total ODA in 2019), despite the universal right to social protection and the vast scientific evidence on the effectiveness of investing in social protection to prevent and reduce poverty and inequality.

This is why the creation of a solidarity based Global Fund for Social Protection is needed; to pool funds while supporting countries design and implement national social protection floors. A Global Fund for Social Protection is the adequate multilateral initiative needed to respond to the consequences of Covid-19 and to build a better future.

As an institution of global governance, the Fund would help pull together efforts and decrease the fragmentation of aid, leading to a consolidation of existing financing mechanisms and enabling domestic financing over the long term.

Based on its strong normative framework and technical knowledge, the ILO should take a lead role in the establishment and the governance of such a fund, providing effective participation of social partners and other relevant and representative civil society organizations. We call on this conference to give the International Labor Office a mandate to start participate talks with other international organizations.

Thank you very much.

Contribution by Johanna Wagman, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.

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

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

The final report is here.

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Social Protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

Notes:

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

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

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: https://www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org/civil-society-call/

Download (pdf version).

Organization: Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF)
Contact: Ana Zeballos
Email: anaclau@item.org.uy
Web: www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org

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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