World must prioritize social protection as primary development tool, urge UN and World Bank

ILO says while many countries are moving towards more fiscal consolidation and less social expenditures, several developing countries are boldly expanding social protection schemes. Photo: ILO/Ferry Latief

30 June 2015 – Now it is time for universal social protection to ensure no one is left behind, the heads of the International Labour Organization and the World Bank declared today, noting that universal primary education became a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in 2000, and 12 years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution endorsing universal health coverage.

“The new development agenda that is being defined by the world community – the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – provides an unparalleled opportunity for our two institutions to join forces to make universal social protection a reality, for everyone, everywhere,” said a joint statement issued today by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

According to the World Bank and the ILO, universal social protection refers to policies designed to ensure income security and support to all people across the life cycle – paying particular attention to the poor and the vulnerable.

“Universal social protection includes: adequate cash transfers for all who need them, especially children; benefits and support for people of working age in case of maternity, disability, work injury or for those without jobs; and pensions for all older persons,” the statement said.

“This protection can be provided through social insurance, tax-funded social benefits, social assistance services, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security,” it said.

Universal coverage and access to social protection are central to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the World Bank Group's twin goals by 2030, and universal social protection coverage is at the core of the ILO’s mandate.

“We are proud to endorse the consensus that has emerged in the early 21st century that social protection is a primary development tool and priority,” the joint statement said.

“Since the 2000s, universality has re-entered the development agenda,” it said. “First it was education: universal primary education became a Millennium Development Goal in 2000. In 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution endorsing universal health coverage. Now it is time for universal social protection.”

The African Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Commission, G20, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UN have all endorsed universal social protection.

“Our shared objective is to increase the number of countries that provide universal social protection, supporting countries to design and implement universal and sustainable social protection systems,” Mr. Kim and Mr. Ryder said.

Stressing that the vast majority of the world’s population is still far from enjoying adequate protection, they said: “It is time to take determined and innovative steps to trigger change on a larger scale.”


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