Social protection has emerged as a key development priority and an important target for ending poverty. It has gained particular momentum since the recent global financial and food crises, and the growing awareness of poor people’s vulnerability to climate- related disasters.
Interest in social protection continues to expand as policymakers strive to secure hard-earned human development gains and to tackle increasing levels of inequality, which often threaten social and political stability. However, the discussion has focused less on how social protection can be best conceptualized and implemented in a decentralized context specifically by local governments.
Electronic transfers to people in rural areas used to be unthinkable due to the non-presence of banks, challenges with electricity and the difficult accessibility. While these latest developments have created interesting opportunities for social transfer beneficiaries, financial inclusion is still not a reality in many countries.
In the framework of the European Development Days - Europe’s premier forum on international affairs and development cooperation - UNCDF joined the discussions on this year’s them “A decent Life for all by 2030 - Building a consensus for a new development agenda” through the organization of a high-level event on "Innovative approaches in social protection for inclusive and equitable growth."
The event, co-organized by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences, shown how innovative social protection initatives are effective in reaching the poor and thus fostering inclusive and equitable growth. It focused on the key role of local governments in social protection programming and on the significant benefits of electronic payments for all stakeholders involved to ensure financial inclusion.
Panelists, which included Dr. Jiko Luveni, Minister for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji; Mr. Jean-Pascal Labille, Minister for Development Cooperation, Belgium; Mr. Tilman Ehrbeck, Chief Executive Officer, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP); Mr. Charles Goerens, Member of the Development Committee of the European Parliament; Ms. Esther Schuerig, Professor for Social Protection Systems, Bonn- Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and Mr. Marc Bichler, Executive Secretary, UN Capital Development Fund, discussed the role of social protection as a development priority in the post-2015 agenda and how can development partners harmonize on the issue.
“The current debate on financing the post 2015 development framework must therefore look into this issue and consider proposals such as the establishment of a global fund for social protection, as put forward by Olivier de Schutter, UN Special rapporteur on the right to food, and his counterpart on the fight against poverty. Likewise, innovative sources of development finance such as a financial transaction tax (which I definitely promote at the EU level), could contribute as well.” said Minister Labille.
On the implementation of social protection and the role of the State and other actors, the panel discussed whether local governments in low-income countries should play a greater role, and what role for the private sector and civil society, if any, there is in implementing social protection? “Local governments are in a unique position to offer services holistically.” Professor Shuering said during the debate. “In addition to understanding their locality, one big role is to increase accountability of social protection systems.”
Governments have contributed numerous initiatives, such as the creation of unique IDs, enabling the development of new branchless banking models, and channeling government to person (G2P) payments via financially inclusive means. The event ended with a debate on how successful have these been in delivering safe and efficient products to the poor and how is this process evolving. Minister stressed that: “Governments need to understand people’s attitudes towards money, encourage them to save money,”.”Financial literacy training is important,” she added.
UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 49 least developed countries. It creates new opportunities for poor people and their businesses by increasing access to microfinance and investment capital. UNCDF focuses on Africa and the poorest countries of Asia, with a special commitment to countries emerging from conflict or crisis. It provides seed capital – grants and loans – and technical support to help microfinance institutions reach more poor households and small businesses, and local governments finance the capital investments – water systems, feeder roads, schools, irrigation schemes – that will improve poor peoples’ lives.
About Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University
The Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences was founded in 1995. It is a young university with almost 7,000 students, approximately 145 professors and 215 research associates. They are supported by more than 247 highly qualified lecturers from the fields of academia, business and industry. The Department of Social Security Studies offers interdisciplinary and in-depth study of social protection systems. Graduates of the program are trained to design “smart” systems, systems that can be sustainably financed while being effective and flexible, with the objective to contribute towards optimizing and, if necessary, reorganizing existing social protection systems, and adapting systems to future demographic, economic and social challenges.