Published on March 20, 2020

Social protection: accelerating progress on poverty and vulnerability

The first Call for Concept Notes of the Joint SDG Fund resulted in launching a portfolio of joint programmes in 36 countries, with the focus on Leaving No One Behind (LNOB) and social protection. The investment of $US 72 million is designed to accelerate the SDG by addressing poverty in all its forms and vulnerabilities throughout the life cycle.

Why social protection? It is a tested mechanism to reduce and prevent poverty and inequality, designed to reach those who have been left behind. Well-designed social protection systems are implemented through a mix of contributory schemes and tax-financed social assistance. Some examples include cash transfers, social insurance, health insurance and universal child benefits, all of which not only address poverty and inequity but also contribute to human capital development.

Even though social protection is a human right, 55% of the world’s population is not protected at all, and many more are only inadequately protected. Nearly two thirds of children worldwide are not shielded from the lifelong effects of poverty and discrimination. There is a growing consensus on the urgency of addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion and on social protection as a key vehicle for addressing those challenges in a sustainable manner.

social protection chart
Number of countries focusing on vulnerable groups from the portfolio of joint programmes in 36 countries.

Social protection plays a key role in accelerating progress towards the SDG by increasing people’s income and reducing inequality for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth. It is reflected specifically in the SDG target 1.3 on universal social protection coverage, but it creates a catalytic effect across almost all the SDGs.

It is interrelated with health, food security, education, formalization and employment policies; and it is also firmly linked to economic development policies through its positive impact on local economies, household productivity, market participation. By acknowledging the role of private households and particularly women in providing care, social protection policies mainstream gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it helps minimize people’s vulnerability to shocks linked with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.

social protection goals
Number of countries focusing on the SDGs from the portfolio of joint programmes in 36 countries.

Social protection benefits should be delivered close to where people live and work – the principle of subsidiarity – so that small changes at the local level can go on to have national and global impact. An integrated approach to social protection is a necessity not only to ensure the coherent and effective design of innovative solutions that have a multiplier effect across sectors and issues, but also to enable adequate fiscal commitments and budgetary allocations.