Expert Brief Reflects on Varying Approaches to Social Protection
Mlondolozi Mbolo/Decent Work Regulation
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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for universal social protection and addresses social protection in SDG 1 and SDG 10.

GPW reflects that the proliferation of interest in social protection among multiple players and institutions is resulting in “mixed messages and conflicting priorities,” often in relation to resource mobilization and allocation.

26 February 2019: Global Policy Watch (GPW) released a briefing note on current approaches to social protection, observing that the issue has become prominent on international agendas. The authors suggest that the proliferation of interest in social protection among multiple players and institutions, each with different priorities, is resulting in “mixed messages and conflicting priorities,” often in relation to resource mobilization and allocation.

In the briefing note, titled ‘Social Protection: Hot Topic but Contested Agenda,’ authors Barbara Adams and Karen Judd, GPW, note the prominence of social protection on the agendas for gender equality, decent work and human rights. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for universal social protection and addresses social protection in SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). SDG 10 will be the focus of an in-depth review at the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). In addition, SDG 3 (good health and well-being) includes target 3.8 on achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

Also in 2019, both the 57th session of the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD57) and the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) identified social protection as their priority theme, and linked the issue to addressing inequalities, access to services and sustainable infrastructure. The July 2019 HLPF has the overall theme, ‘Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.’

The brief reflects that, although there are many champions of social protection, “fault lines” exist on the mode of implementation, including with regard to whether to focus on targeted or universal beneficiaries, and questions related to access to rights and services delivery. GPW suggests that the 2030 Agenda offers “a new framing for accountability” through the UN development system, the UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) and its functional commissions, and the HLPF. The briefing note underscores the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda, emphasizing that it will require accountability across policies and institutions.

The IMF’s approach has made it difficult for the ILO and other UN agencies to collaborate on social protection.

The brief also addresses the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) approach to social protection, citing a report of the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF that finds the IMF’s approach to be aligned with the World Bank’s approach but says that it “meshed less well” with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other UN agencies approaches that emphasize universal benefits and targeting by category rather than income. The evaluation concludes that the IMF’s approach made it difficult for the ILO and other UN agencies to collaborate with the IMF on social protection. GPW notes that two UN human rights experts have also expressed concerns on the IMF’s fiscal policy-focused approach. [Publication: Brief #28: Social Protection: Hot Topic but Contested Agenda] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on CSoCD57]


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