Remarks at An Inflection Point on Social Protection High-level Political Forum Side Event

Your Excellency, Ambassador Munir Akram,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you as co-organizer of today’s event, “An inflection point on social protection.” 
Social protection is a powerful tool against poverty and inequality. But it is not only those living in poverty who stand to benefit. Social protection systems and measures, have shown their potential to build broad-based prosperity, and promote economic dynamism.

Before the pandemic, social protection kept close to 140 million people out of extreme poverty.  It also kept inequality in check in many countries, both developed and developing.  
During economic downturns, spending on social protection can revive economies and stimulate employment. 

Indeed, as the Covid-19 crisis unfolded, social protection automatically protected health, incomes and jobs, in countries with comprehensive social protection systems in place. Other countries managed to create new programmes from scratch, or expanded existing schemes in a matter of weeks.

In total, virtually all countries and territories implemented, or announced, more than 1,600 social protection measures as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The unprecedented expansion of social protection measures over the last year, demonstrates the critical role of social protection in protecting lives and livelihoods, and promoting a swift recovery.

However, important gaps in social protection coverage remain. Many schemes do not reach workers in the informal economy. And only a fraction of social protection measures have addressed women’s economic security or unpaid care work.  The burden of the COVID-19 crisis has been disproportionately borne by those who often experience vulnerability and disadvantage. Yet, these same people tend to lack social protection coverage. 

In total, less than half of the global population is covered by at least one social protection benefit. As many as 4 billion people are left unprotected.  Whatever form the next crisis takes, it is crucial for countries to ensure that no one is left behind. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Previous crises have taught us the danger of austerity, and of scaling back social protection measures too soon.  We are now in danger of repeating the same mistake.  If emergency measures are not turned into elements of universal social protection systems, many people, and entire societies, will still be at risk when the next crisis hits.

We are indeed at an inflection point.  We can leverage this momentum to usher in a new era for social protection, with adaptive and responsive systems that guarantee basic income security for all.

Every country can provide some form of social protection to its people.

Some countries still need substantial help from the international community to set up, or expand social protection systems. But, for many other countries, expanding access to social protection is affordable. With the right political will, Governments can reach SDG target 1.3 to implement nationally-appropriate social protection systems and measures for all – including floors – and by 2030, achieve substantial coverage of the most vulnerable.

Investments in social protection and high-quality public services strengthens the social contract. Robust social protection systems can serve as the basis for a new social contract in the post-COVID world.

UN DESA is proud to partner with the Permanent Mission of Pakistan and the World Bank to accelerate action on achieving universal coverage of social protection for all.

I thank you. 

File date: 
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Mr. Liu