|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference to Launch International Labour Organization Report
‘Successful Social Protection Floor Experiences’
A quiet revolution in the use of social protections had occurred in countries across the global South over the last 10 to 15 years, Michael Cichon, Director of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Social Security Department, said today at the launch of the report “Successful social protection floor experiences” on the occasion of the World Day of Social Justice.
“Social protection is one of the most powerful tools that any society has to combat poverty and invest in its economic development,” Mr. Cichon said, stressing that the report — the eighteenth volume in the series Sharing Innovative Experiences, published by the ILO and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — contradicted the conventional wisdom that developing countries could not afford social protection systems.
More than a billion people around the world now enjoyed the benefits of social protections, said Mr. Cichon, who was joined by Francisco Simplício, representing Yiping Zhou, Director of the UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, and Josephine Ojiambo, Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya and former President of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.
According to the report, which he described as the first ever to document the growth of social protection systems across every continent, the “big numbers” came from China and India, with strong supplementary data from countries like Brazil and South Africa. Indeed, China's rural health-care scheme had provided coverage for more than 880 million people in the last 10 years, while Brazil had adopted a deliberately comprehensive national policy intended to change both poverty rates and inequality levels.
Mr. Simplício outlined the way in which the report had capitalized on a unique nomination and workshop process that drew together practitioners from the 18 countries chosen as case studies for inclusion in the report, stressing that the document had gone further than traditional reports written by outsiders by culling the first-hand accounts of actors on the ground.
While acknowledging the existence of real challenges in implementing social protections — determining how much of the national budget to allocate, how to mobilize political support, and how to reduce misallocation and maximize coverage, among others — he said that together, the case studies demonstrated that social protections could have a dramatic impact on poverty reduction.
Ms. Ojiambo emphasized that, despite the many challenges facing national economies around the world, particularly since the onset of the global economic and financial crisis, it was important to guarantee certain minimum living standards for citizens, so they could in turn pull themselves up to higher levels of economic stability.
She further stressed that the sharing of best practices created inclusive partnerships across public and private actors. Among the experiences that had drawn significant attention at recent meetings on South-South cooperation, she highlighted the use of reparations in Colombia’s post-conflict reconstruction and the use of information and communications technology use in primary education across the global South.
Asked about the impact of the financial and economic crisis on social protection systems, Mr. Cichon recalled that social security systems had been under political siege since the 1980s. However, it had become clear during the worst of the crisis that the redistribution mechanisms of those systems not only kept people from falling into poverty, they also stabilized aggregate demand. Suddenly, such systems had been welcomed as economic stabilizers.
He cautioned, however, that after two years of reprieve, social systems were again being targeted. As countries reconciled their books, they were looking at the highest expenditures, which were often social-protection mechanisms, he said, warning that cutting them would mean that the poor, sick and vulnerable would ended up paying for the crisis.
Asked how the report could be used to inform policymakers in the future, Mr. Simplício said that its main conclusion from the perspective of developing countries was that social protection was possible and the voice of practitioners was particularly essential. Incorporating the latter would allow countries to benefit from the strategies employed by other countries to overcome certain real-world obstacles, he said. “We believe the world needs it right now,” he added, emphasizing that the report was “not for tomorrow”.
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