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Development Account Projects

Strengthening social protection in Asia and the Pacific

Background:

Social protection has been increasingly recognized not only as an effective tool to provide security against various economic and social risks and vulnerabilities but also as a functional component of development strategies, including achieving gender equality, sustainable economic growth and reaching the Millennium Development Goals. In particular, social protection has been recognized as a fundamental instrument to face persistent problems with respect to poverty, income inequality and massive social exclusion. Social protection — besides the provision of health care and social security coverage — also refers to initiatives that provide income or consumption transfers to the poor, enhance their human capital, protect the vulnerable against livelihood risks and enhance the social status and rights of the marginalized. This expansion in the concept of social protection has been accompanied by the use of a large variety of approaches and tools — including conditional cash and in kind transfer programmes — to meet differences in local conditions, target group, area of intervention, and delivery mechanism. At the same time, the persistence of regional and intra-national disparities in spite of sustained economic growth and the emergence of new risks and vulnerabilities call for new approaches to social protection.

The increasing economic volatility that affects most developing countries implies new economic and social risks that bring further challenges to social protection schemes. These challenges add up to the ones arising from urban poverty and formation and development of informal settlements. The structural changes in the risk and socio-demographic structure of societies call for new approaches based on the expansion of the realm and instruments traditionally covered by social protection. In this context, a new social framework must be formed with social rights as the normative horizon and existing inequalities and budgetary restrictions as the limiting factors.

There is, therefore, a need to review social protection schemes in order to extract lessons and knowledge to tackle these new challenges. Key issues relate to the need for increasing population coverage and quality of social protection schemes on health and social security in an ageing population context. Also, new and emerging issues must be addressed in the new social protection schemes, including the adverse consequences of climate change, the increase in food and energy prices, segregation in relation to technological progress, the growing role of the private sector in the provision of social services and its linkages with the public sector, political and administrative decentralization, as well as the outsourcing of services.

The project will focus on policies, approaches, strategies, processes and impact assessment of social protection initiatives in different regions. It will also develop regional knowledge management systems to provide support to national level initiatives, exchange of experiences, formulate capacity-building activities and document innovative practices.

ESCAP will take the lead in the identification of common interregional issues related to the new social challenges and to the formulation and implementation of social protection initiatives. It will also take the lead in the development of an online database of policy options, strategies and good practices in social protection as well as training material. This work will be carried out in consultation with other regional commissions to ensure that key issues of all regions are reflected. National-level consultations will be conducted in selected countries in each region on innovative approaches to analysis, formulation and implementation of social protection initiatives. ESCAP will coordinate the work with ECA, ECLAC and ESCWA to conduct regional and national studies and to document innovative initiatives in their respective areas/regions. In addition, specialized agencies working on social protection, such as the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization, will be invited to collaborate. Partnerships with civil society groups at the regional, subregional and national levels are also expected.

Objective:

To strengthen social protection policies and programmes through the adoption of innovative tools and approaches to tackle emerging social challenges.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Policymakers, practitioners and experts have improved knowledge and skills to design and manage effective and responsive social protection initiatives
  • Enhanced awareness of policymakers of new social challenges, policy options, strategies and good practices in social protection

Implementation status:

Despite the late start date of this project, in early 2011, good progress has been made in agreeing mutually acceptable parameters and focus for the research on good practices in social protection in each region. Case studies have been identified and contracted. A core team of staff from each regional commission has been identified and good working relations established. A work plan is in place for the remainder of the project.