Expert Insight
Crédits Madagascar Tests | Photo: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia
Publié sur juillet 9, 2020

Social protection for the most vulnerable - Adapting to COVID-19 impact

The portfolio on integrated social protection for ‘leaving no one behind’ was established in January 2020 with the launch Joint Programmes (JP) in 35 countries and the investment of $US 70 million. JPs established the foundations, organized stakeholder meetings, detailed the workplans, and began implementation of core activities – and, as the first activities were launched, the COVID-19 pandemic started.  The portfolio was strategically positioned as the JPs were already in the space of social protection for the most vulnerable, which became essential for addressing COVID-19 – and it will continue to be on top of the policy agenda for a foreseeable future.

The Joint SDG Fund rapidly provided an opportunity for re-purposing of up to 20% of JP budgets to address COVID-19 impact. Third of the portfolio used this opportunity, while other JPs decided to update the approach when the original approach already focused on addressing impact on the most vulnerable, not unlike the one produced by the pandemic. Re-purposing remained aligned with the broader Theory of Change of the JPs in order to integrate the immediate response with the overall transformational strategy. Main highlights from re-purposing for COVID-19 are presented below.

Alia T. Nasser Aldin is the HR manager at Birzeit Pharmaceutical Co. (Photo: Arne Hoel)
Alia T. Nasser Aldin is the HR manager at Birzeit Pharmaceutical Co. |Photo Credit Arne Hoel


Acceleration and Innovation: Acceleration and innovation are at the center of all JPs in this portfolio, as they implement transformative results at scale that accelerate progress toward the SDGs. Several JPs further accelerate implementation through innovations linked to their COVID-19 response.

  • Argentina and Indonesia apply child focus in identifying fiscal space for COVID-19 responses.
  • Uzbekistan is expediting new comprehensive social protection policy that was originally planned for 2021.
  • The Philippines and Indonesia are prioritizing adaptive, shock-responsive social protection prototypes, while MCO Samoa supports horizontal and vertical scalability and readiness for humanitarian response.
  • Barbados and Santa Lucia develop future scenarios and microsimulation modeling to assess the impact of COVID-19 on financing of social protection and propose response measures for multidimensional poverty. 


Impact Assessments and Analyses: All JPs focus on analytical work to identify systemic issues and address them in innovative ways, but some have further re-directed these efforts for COVID-19.

  • JPs in Argentina, Uzbekistan and Santa Lucia conduct gender and youth impact assessments.
  • Albania, Argentina, Barbados and Santa Lucia, Montenegro, Bangladesh and Vietnam implement comprehensive COVID-19 impact assessments, while also incorporating the focus on specific vulnerable groups.
  • Indonesian JP facilitates market analysis and price monitoring on food security.
  • Sao Tome and Principe focuses on cost assessment of policy adjustments on social protection and evaluating capacities of institutions and residential centres for elderly in the context of COVID-19.
  • The JP implemented in MCO Samoa conducts review of social protection coverage gaps in Cooks Islands, Niue, and Tokelau.
  • In Georgia, the JP monitors the mainstreaming of Persons with Disabilities in the government response to COVID-19.


Georgia helps protect the rights of persons with disabilities amid the pandemic. | UNDP/Sophie Tchitchinadze, Teiko Kandelaki


Multi-sectoral Coordination, Data and ICT Solutions: The overall portfolio is prioritizing an integrated approach that enables multi-sectoral policy innovation, data and ICT - to “break down the silos”. The JPs that re-purposed for COVID-19 further leveraged this approach.

  • Albanian and Indonesian JPs support coordination across key sectors on data and monitoring and evaluation for COVID-19 impact and response.
  • COVID-19 data and re-purposing of existing ICT systems that enables social protection services or cash transfers is being addressed in Indonesia, Santa Lucia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam
  • In addition, Vietnam is working on introducing new technological solutions for e-services.


Advocacy and Communications: Strategic communications is prioritized in all JPs and it provided an opportunity to support governments specifically for communications and advocacy on COVID-19.

  • JPs in Albania, Barbados, Georgia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan support government communication campaigns on COVID-19 and Argentina, Bangladesh and Madagascar are amongst the countries where the JPs support advocacy strategies for COVID-19.
  • With the particular emphasis on gender issue of the tea garden workers exposed to systemic intersectionality, Bangladesh provides training, awareness raising, and gender responsive guidelines in the context of COVID-19.


Early insights indicate that re-purposing enabled the JPs to react when it was needed the most because they already had established partnerships and operations and already launched a policy innovation strategy. Their upstream focus, multidimensional expertise, and the access to high-level officials were essential for multi-sectoral coordination and coherence of the broader support to the most vulnerable. The Joint SDG Fund provided maximum flexibility, which ensured that the response to COVID-19 was fully contextualized in each country. Such responsive and adaptable JP approach is expected to facilitate additional scaling up and continued strategic and catalytic impact of the portfolio investment.