COP28: Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors Calls for Building Social Protection Systems to deal with "Loss and Damage"
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[Montevideo, 30.11.2023] – The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) welcomes the decision to establish a Loss and Damage Fund. It is an important step towards climate justice. Estimates by scientists projecting climate damages ranging from $290 to $580 billion by 2030 and surpassing one trillion dollars by 2050 underscore the urgency of such measures.
Member organizations of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors collectively advocate for strategic utilization of financial resources from this Fund. A central concern is to specifically allocate fund resources for the establishment and fortification of rights-based Social Protection Systems. These systems play a pivotal role in mitigating the catastrophic consequences of climate change and adequately cushioning individual damages and losses, while contributing to increase resilience and improve adaptation.
The Social Protection Systems we call for encompass the right to preventive and curative health services and financial livelihood security, also in the face of crop failures or natural disasters, and support for dependent family members in the event of death. A Loss and Damage Fund, financed on the basis of the polluter-pays principle, can contribute to implementing these measures in particularly vulnerable countries.
We emphasize that well-thought-out Social Protection Systems can be more sustainable than project-specific approaches or purely humanitarian interventions. These systems have the potential not only to cushion individual damages but also to contribute to socio-ecological transformation and promote societal redistribution.
It is imperative that national Social Protection Systems are robust, coherent, and prepared for the collective risks posed by climate change. Therefore, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors calls for investment in the development and strengthening of these systems, ensuring they can reach all residents and are prepared for climate-change-induced crises.
Financial resources from the Loss and Damage Fund and other climate financing instruments should be strategically deployed to support the establishment of rights-based social protection systems. Planning should be forward-looking, and mechanisms for rapid expansion or situation-specific adjustment of programs must be in place.
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors appeals to the international community to seize this opportunity and actively participate in fair burden-sharing. Only in this way can we collectively advance transformative societal development that leaves no one behind and brings about the positive changes our world urgently needs.
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) demands the use of climate funding to invest into social protection system building, as this will facilitate more sustainable and transformative support than humanitarian aid and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure alone.
The annual climate talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC (COP28), the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the Paris Agreement (PA) are taking place from 30 November to 12 December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. During the opening plenary the long expected Loss and Damage Fund was adopted with new pledges by the UAE, Germany, UK, Japan and the USA.
Member organizations of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors collectively advocate for strategic utilization of financial resources from this Fund. A central concern is to specifically allocate fund resources for the establishment and fortification of right-based Social Protection Systems. These systems play a pivotal role in mitigating the catastrophic consequences of climate change and adequately cushioning individual damages and losses, while contributing to increase resilience and improve adaptation.
The key priorities of the GCSPF are:
Climate-proof social protection
Pay for Loss and Damage and enable countries to expand social protection
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors appeals to the international community to seize this opportunity and actively participate in fair burden-sharing. Only in this way can we collectively advance transformative societal development that leaves no one behind and brings about the positive changes our world urgently needs.
The Loss and Damage Fund and Funding Arrangements and Social Protection Systems by Markus Kaltenborn, Professor at the Faculty of Law and Director of the Institute of Development Research and Development Policy (IEE), Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany and member of the GCSPF.
This paper was submitted to the UNFCCC Transitional Committee, July 2023.
Social Protection and Climate Action. A policy brief by Act Church of Sweden, Olof Palme International Center, Social Policy Initiative and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) delivered a written statement at the 62nd session of the Commission for Social Development 2024 which priority theme is “Fostering Social Development and Social Justice through Social Policies to accelerate Progress on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to achieve the overarching goal of poverty eradication”.
Save the Children International, member of the Global Coalition for Social Protection, also submitted a written statement. Download pdf version here.
Statement delivered by the GCSPF
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) consists of more than 120 CSOs, NGOs and Trade Unions from all parts of the world, united in their motivation to realize social protection for all. We welcome the theme of the 62nd Commission of Social Development of “Fostering social development and social justice through social policies to accelerate progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to achieve the overarching goal of poverty eradication”.
Halfway to Agenda 2030, we are nowhere near achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Member States are failing to commit to the urgent action required to accelerate response towards poverty eradication and rising inequalities, to uphold human rights, to make tangible progress on gender equality, to tackle violence and discrimination of all types, to end ageism and xenophobia and to take clear and lasting decisions to halt and reverse climate change. We need clear pathways for social and climate justice, to achieve peace and the end of militarism, and for all to double down on efforts for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Governments must match the political determination and persistence of civil society and activists, many of whom face significant dangers in calling out our failure to achieve the SDGs, which if allowed to happen will be catastrophic for humanity and our planet.
We are extremely concerned that with seven years to go, barely 15% of the targets of the SDGS have been reached and the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is in jeopardy. The principle of leaving no one behind and of upholding human rights is fundamental to achieving the topic of this Commission. It is imperative therefore that we focus on the full implementation of target 3 of Goal 1.
Universal Social Protection (USP) and the full implementation of Social Protection Floors in all countries must be at the heart of social and economic policies required to achieve the SDGs. Universal Social Protection is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. USP is an essential lever to realise the sustainable development goals and their targets (specifically SDGs 1.3, 3.8, 5.4, 8.5 and 10.4) and underpins the global commitment to end poverty and reduce inequalities for all people within and between countries (SDGs 1 and 10). USP is a driver of social development and affords agency and self determination to recipients over the life course. It is a core lever to tackle poverty and marginalisation. The inclusion of target 3 of Goal 1 to end poverty ‘to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable’ is a clear acknowledgment that social protection and social protection floors are recognized as foundational to ending poverty.
National floors of social protection are vital to leave no one behind. They ensure universal access to essential health care and basic income security across the life course and are a human right. However currently only 47% of the global population are effectively covered by at least one of the guarantees; in Africa this is a mere 18%. This is at a time when as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, ongoing conflicts and wars and highly volatile situations affecting millions of children and adults of all ages, the number of people facing acute food and economic insecurity has more than doubled - from 135 million in 2019 to 276 million in 2022.
In this challenging environment multiple studies have shown that ensuring a basic level of social protection for all is not only urgently needed now, but doable and affordable for most countries. It is entirely achievable through the solidarity and political will of the international community. And while many national governments are developing, financing, implementing and monitoring social protection floors, with the participation and monitoring of civil society, trade unions and informal worker organizations, and while generally and principally the financing of social protection systems must be within national budget frameworks, some countries will require temporary international co-financing of social protection floors, while they strengthen domestic resource mobilisation and digital and technical support in their establishment.
This is why the UN Secretary General, the International Labour Conference and the Un Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights have expressed their support for mechanisms to increase financing for SPFs including the establishment of a new international financing mechanism, such as a Global Fund for Social Protection.
A Global financing mechanism for Social Protection must be based on the principle of global solidarity, to support countries and their citizens to design, implement and, in specific cases, provide temporary co-financing for national social protection floors as described in ILO recommendation 202.
The GCSPF presented a statement to support the Study “Inequality, social protection and the right to development" (A/HRC/54/83) published by the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development that was released at the 54th regular session of the Human Rights Council.
I am speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, which counts over 120 Civil Society and Trade Union organizations world-wide.
We are delighted that this report on inequality, social protection and the right to development recommends the establishment of a global fund for social protection.
We are indeed convinced that
We call upon all governments to address deepening inequalities within and among States by establishing universal social protection systems as a fundamental human right understood through the principle of equality of opportunity for development -. on a personal as well as a national level.
We urge the international community, in particular all members of the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection (USP2030), to support such efforts.
Item 3 Interactive dialogue with the expert mechanism on the right to development
Human Rights Council, 20 September 2023
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF), comprising more than 100 NGOs and labour organisations, acknowledges recent initiatives taken by the ILO, World Bank, and other development cooperation partners to direct greater international financing towards supporting social protection programs in the context of the ILO Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection.
Such efforts could be a first step towards the creation of an international financing mechanism on social protection, or Global Social Protection Fund, long-promoted by the GCSPF as necessary in order to mobilise and coordinate international financial assistance in order to truly support the development of universal social protection systems, particularly in the global south.
The GCSPF wishes to underline some key specific criteria that need to be met by any kind of international financing mechanism that would be developed: in particular the need for such a mechanism to provide direct support to states with limited financial capacity to extend social protection systems on their own in the short term, in addition to technical support. The GCSPF equally reiterates the need for an inclusive and democratic governance structure for such a fund, enabling the participation of recipient countries and not just donor countries in funding decisions, as well as the meaningful participation of civil society and social partners who represent those that would benefit from social protection extensions.
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) recognises social protection floors as key instruments to realise the UN Sustainable Development agenda, as they are crucial for preventing and reducing poverty, ensuring inclusive economic growth and reducing inequalities amongst all members of society. They are also the tools to ensure States’ compliance with their obligations regarding the right to social security included, among others, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 22) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Art. 9). Nevertheless, major financing gaps persist today that impede countries to improve the adequacy and coverage of their social protection systems. Annually, 1.2 trillion USD is needed to fill the financing gap for low- and middle-income countries, and of that amount, around 78 billion USD is needed to finance social protection in the world’s poorest countries. While this latter amount represents only 0.25% of global GDP, this represents 15.9% of the collective GDP of low-income countries and 45% of their collective tax revenue – an insurmountable burden for them to finance alone without international financial assistance.
At the same time, international financial support to social protection is extremely limited; before the pandemic, only a dismally low average of 1.2% of existing Official Development Assistance (ODA) had been dedicated to social protection globally. While ODA has increased somewhat in this area due COVID response measures, the majority of this support went only to temporary emergency measures rather than strengthening social protection systems. Moreover, worryingly, a number of countries have also cut public spending in social protection in recent years as part of austerity measures. Governments and donors must see social spending as a crucial investment which can yield almost twice its value in economic returns.
The GCSPF welcomes efforts to put together a financing mechanism for social protection in the context of implementing the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection; strengthened international financial assistance is critically needed in order to deliver on the Accelerator’s stated objectives of closing financing gaps and extending coverage to the 4 billion people currently without any social protection.
However, the GCSPF recalls that international support for the expansion of social protection systems should be mainly directed towards supporting national governments, as the key actors for the development of long-term sustainable, inclusive, and universal social protection systems. Any financial mechanism should be developed to ensure the complete ownership of recipient countries over their social protection systems, involving national governments in decisions around how funding is allocated and how social protection systems should be extended, as well as ensuring broad-based and meaningful societal dialogue on reform priorities, bringing together social partners and civil society. Support should moreover be coherent with internationally-agreed social security standards, including General Comment 19 on the right to social security of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ILO Convention 102 and Recommendation 202.
The GCSPF therefore considers that any financing instrument to be developed must put in place inclusive governance mechanisms that ensure a fair and balanced decision-making process, particularly regarding the allocation of funds. This process should involve representatives from both donors and recipient countries, which are utilising the resources to enhance their social protection systems. Equal voting rights shall also be a requirement for fair and accountable governance. 
At a point where various possibilities for setting up such a financing instrument are being discussed at international level, the main choices currently identified are:
The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors would strongly advise against the use of a World Bank Trust Fund for social protection as it would fail to meet certain essential criteria for a partnership-based financing instrument that is acceptable to the Global South – as indeed equal decision-making power, with more than only limited ‘consultative’ space for civil society’s participation. The GCSPF would also be concerned with situating such a financing instrument directly within the World Bank, given that technical advice from the World Bank on social protection has often run in contradiction to international labour and social security standards.
The development of a special window of the UN Joint SDG Fund or making use of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund, while being a more inclusive option in terms of governance, also has some limitations. This is mainly because such UN funds assign the main responsibility for implementing the fund to the respective participating UN organisations. This would therefore likely restrict the scope of funding to only UN technical support to states, which would not be sufficient on its own to allow states meet the scale of the challenge in terms of financing social protection.
The creation of a new Financial Intermediary Fund would have substantial added value in directing financial support towards states themselves, so that they can extend social protection systems and develop long-term sustainable strategies. If well designed, it could also give the possibility of providing equal representation to Global South countries in their governing bodies, and incorporate civil society into the decision-making process. The creation of such a fund would entail in the short term greater administrative burdens in terms of setting it up as compared to the other three options, as well as a minimum commitment of 200 million USD from development partners. That being said, there are recent examples of successfully setting up such Financial Intermediary Funds, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as the Pandemic Fund - which have been able to benefit from financial support from the World Bank as well as from development partner organisations.
In short, while the Global Coalition could be supportive of strengthened finance for UN technical support for social protection through the establishment of such a special window of the Joint SDG Fund or UN Multi-Partner Trust fund, we believe that additional funding through a Financial Intermediary Fund would have substantial added value. The Global Coalition would therefore support a new international financing instrument for social protection through the establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund.
 ILO (2021) Secretary General’s Policy Brief “Investing in Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication and a Sustainable Recovery”.
 Marcus Manuel (2022) Assessment of potential increase in domestic and external financing for social
 The overall and primary responsibility of the State in expanding social protection is among the agreed USP2030 “Principles for Financing Universal Social Protection”.
 For an extended discussion of the criteria to be met by the international financing instrument to support social protection in the global south, see: Markus Kaltenborn (2023) Expanding Global Social Protection – Options for the Design of an International Financing Mechanism. FES.
 See for instance, Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (2022) Response to the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs Compass.
 Markus Kaltenborn (2023) Expanding global social protection – options for the design of an international
Barry Herman made an intervention on behalf of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, a member of the GCSPF and also on behalf of the GCSPF at the UN's Development Cooperation Forum. His intervention (see here) was part of the interactive discussion that followed the panel presentation.
The UN's Development Cooperation Forum that met at ministerial level on 14-15 March 2023 in New York, included a session on "Building momentum for effective social protection measures." See the programme here.
Contributing to the debate on national social protection measures were Mr. Alexei Buzu, Minister of Labor and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova; Mrs. Fatou Gueye Diane, Minister of Women, Family and Child Protection of Senegal; Ms. Marta Eugenia Esquivel Rodriguez, Executive President of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund; and Ms. Sarah Lynne S. Daway-Ducanes, Assistant Secretary, National Economic Development Authority of the Philippines.
International cooperation on social protection, in particular "circular" cooperation among developing countries, was the focus of discussion by Mr. Mariano Berro González, Executive Director of the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation, Mrs. Arunee Hiam, Deputy Director-General of the Thailand International Cooperation Agency; and Ambassador Paula Narváez Ojeda, the Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations, joined by ambassador Agustín Santos Maraver, Permanent Representative of Spain and Ms. Beate Andrees, Special Representative and Director of the International Labor Organization Office at the UN.
A recording of the discussion is available here.
Statement in the Development Cooperation Forum on behalf of
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
United Nations, New York, 15 March 2023
My name is Barry Herman, and I make this statement on behalf of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, a member of the NGO Committee on Financing for Development in New York, a substantive committee of the Conference of NGOs, and on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, a network of over 100 NGOs and labour organizations that advocates for enhanced social protection around the world. We all share a keen interest in this morning’s discussion.
The NGO Committee and the Global Coalition regard social protection as a human right. An adequate package of social protection programs would help ameliorate the inherent risks of daily life from conception to old age. It would help empower people to contribute more to society and lead lives of dignity. However, social protection must have an adequate standing in every country’s fiscal accounts.
Governments should want adequate, effective, efficient, universal and sustainable social protection systems. In many countries—rich, poor, and in between—governments are overly influenced by the rich and the companies they control. They would rather starve social protection of needed funds than accept their fiscal responsibility to society.
NGOs, such as the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, are hard pressed to fill the gap. In fact, they cannot marshal the resources needed. It must be a government responsibility.
How does international cooperation fit into this picture?
First, donor governments and international institutions can use their voices to strengthen the global call for adequate and universal social protection systems.
Second, they can help governments develop these systems when requested.
The development community works in this direction, but it has to do more.
Further policy and cultural reforms are warranted.
One example is the policy on social spending that the International Monetary Fund adopted in 2019. The new policy encourages IMF to engage with UN agencies as well as with the World Bank on social spending. It furthermore recognizes the value of taking into consideration the expertise of civil society in the countries its missions visit.
In fact, we see greater IMF cooperation with UN agencies and civil society. However, austerity pressures seem to still come down too hard on developing economies. We still struggle to ring fence social spending during austerity drives and then adequately expand it and the taxation it requires.
It is nonetheless good to hear the progress that countries are reporting here today.
Civil society recognizes that advancing social protection is an inevitable struggle at domestic and international levels. It is a struggle that we fully embrace.
Thank you, Madam President
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.