This week, the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) and the EU jointly launched a new global programme that wants to improve synergies between social protection and public finance management. The launch of the programme was attended by more than 240 people.
The focus of this global programme is clearly on supporting governments to strengthen and expand national social protection system by means of effective, evidence-based and inclusive financial and budgeting processes. The programme will be implemented in 18 countries in total, with a total budget of approximately 30 million EUR. ILO, UNICEF and the GCSPF are the co-implementing agencies; the European Commission (EC) and the EU Member States provide the bulk of the funding as well as expertise and advice.
The virtual launch of the programme saw high-level participation. On behalf of DG DevCo, Ms Henriette Geiger opened the session, whereas her colleagues Ms Doerte Bosse and Mr Juergen Hohmann provided more background to the programme as well as other EC interventions in the field of social protection at present and in the near future.
Mr Andrés Isch Pérez, the Minister of Labour of Ecuador, Dr Ram Kumar Phuyal, member of the Nepal Planning Commission and Ms Teodora Recalde Spinzi, from the Ministery of Finance of Paraguay, gave concrete examples of the actions undertaken in their respective countries at the moment. Ecuador seeks to put in place an unemployment insurance scheme, whereas Nepal continues to strengthen the implementation of the Social Security Law which was adopted in 2017.
Ms Shahra Razavi, Director of ILO Social Protection Department and Natalia Elena Winder Rossi, Chief of Social Policy of UNICEF, underlined the timely nature of this programme. Ms Shahra Razavi explained the innovative nature of the programme: “First of all, it brings together all relevant Ministries, including the Ministries of Finance, in the countries concerned. This facilitates cross-sector coordination and should allow for more and better investments. Secondly it brings together the institutional, normative and technical expertise of the ILO, UNICEF and the GCSPF. Thirdly, this programme directly focuses on some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, like facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal economy. Finally, and thanks to the involvement of the GCSPF, we can ensure the participation of the social partners and civil society, which allows us to democratise the debate on social protection”.
Specifically on that point, Bart Verstraeten, elaborated a little more, as he represented the GCSPF in the panel. The coalition unites more than 100 different civil society organisations and trade unions, each with its expertise in the field of social protection: organising people and communities, service delivery, capacity building, awareness raising and advocacy. “We are very satisfied that we can put that experience and expertise at the disposal of the ILO, UNICEF, the EU and of course the national authorities in the first place”. The coalition will foster closer cooperation between national civil society organisations and trade unions at national level, so that they can structurally and meaningfully engage with the national authorities, the ILO and UNICEF on public finance management and social protection. This interaction is crucial to generate broad support for national policies, to determine national priorities and to ensure that policies respond to the needs of people. 3 organisations are coordinating this effort on behalf of the GCSPF in 4 countries that were selected: in Cambodia (Oxfam), in Uganda (HelpAge International) as well as Nepal and Senegal (WSM). “In our work”, Bart added, “we depart from the relevant ILO standards, such as R202 and C102, because everyone has the right to social protection, this is a human right. We need to ensure that we leave no one behind, as prescribed by the Agenda 2030”.
Henriette Geiger pointed out the consequences of the pandemic. The increase in poverty and in malnutrition of children due to the pandemic wiped out the progress of the last 10 years. But the pandemic also highlighted some structural weaknesses. We can observe that countries with a better social protection in general had a better response to the crisis. That’s why we must invest in Building Back Better. Social protection is crucial in this process. As a result, the programme has also reoriented funding to allow the implementing agencies (ILO/UNICEF/GCSPF) to address the consequences of COVID-19. Geiger ended her speech by highlighting that social protection is not an ‘on and off’ thing, but that it has to be built overtime. Bart Verstraeten added to this: “We will not only build back better, but we will also build back stronger.”
Click here to visit the website of the new programme
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