‘Inclusive Social Protection’ for inclusive development

24 March 2015

Last year, Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen for International Trade and Development Cooperation committed to send a letter to Parliament this spring regarding the inclusiveness of Dutch international development, considering how inclusiveness can be more strongly integrated in projects and programmes within the framework of current policy for trade and international cooperation.

An online consultation process welcomes contributions from in- and outside of the Netherlands to inform the preparation of this letter. The consultation can be found on the website of the INCLUDE Knowledge Platform and remains open until the end of March.

CSP response to Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands discussion note

In its contribution to this online consultation, the Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at IDS argues for an inclusive approach to social protection – ‘Inclusive Social Protection’, in support of inclusive social and economic development. Key steps towards achieving this include the acknowledgement that social protection is a human right, a scaling up and institutionalisation of interventions and the inclusion of everyone - poor and vulnerable - in comprehensive social protection systems.

As indicated in the discussion note ‘Promoting inclusiveness in Dutch policy agenda for trade and international cooperation’, inclusive growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition to reduce extreme poverty. In contexts of rapid economic growth, both vertical and horizontal inequalities are growing, leaving marginal and excluded groups even more vulnerable.

The discussion note and a number of contributions to this online discussion have discussed ways in which to tap into people’s productive capacity and growth potential for ensuring that growth is inclusive and benefits everyone in society. We argue that this is not enough to address some of the structural drivers that lock people into poverty and vulnerability and that other protective and transformative measures are needed to ensure that the most marginalised and excluded are not left behind. In response to question 2 in the discussion note - ‘Are specific and additional economic, political and/or social measures required to reach the most excluded and disadvantaged groups?’ - we therefore argue that social protection and its range of interventions are key in reducing extreme poverty and reducing inequalities.

Social protection fulfils unique functions and serves a purpose that cannot be met by other development interventions. The safety net function of social protection on terms protecting people against poverty or preventing them from falling into poverty cannot be paralleled by other interventions. Social protection also offers transformative potential through rights frameworks, legislation and design of programme interventions. These functions are crucial in providing a long-term and sustainable solution to poverty reduction.

We argue for an inclusive approach to social protection – ‘Inclusive Social Protection’, which supports inclusive social and economic development and aligns itself with principles of the Netherlands policy for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation including inclusivity and equity as well as the post-2015 agenda focusing on human rights and sustainability.

A number of steps can be taken to achieve an inclusive approach to social protection:

Firstly, efforts should be directed towards all governments and development agencies explicitly acknowledging that all people have a human right to social protection, and should take more active steps towards the progressive realisation of this right. Civil society has a crucial role to play in realising such rights, and supporting people in claiming their rights.

Secondly, interventions should be scaled up and institutionalised within national social protection systems, and social protection systems should be more firmly integrated into national social and economic policies. To ensure equitable access for all, comprehensive, permanent national programmes should be implemented that are located within government structures. Cases where social protection is delivered as small-scale, stand-alone, time-bound projects should become the exception rather than the rule. Experience has also shown that social protection generates powerful synergies with social and economic development when it is directly linked to social sectors (such as education and health) and complemented with economic support (such as livelihood packages and financial inclusion). At the same time, the accessibility and quality of social services and economic programmes need to be adequate to match the demand-side push that social protection generates.

Finally, the message that social protection should include everyone in its systems needs to be reinforced. This includes those requiring non-contributory social assistance (i.e. ‘the poor’) and those requiring contributory social insurance (i.e. ‘the vulnerable). Reinforcing such a message is one way of overcoming complaints about ‘fiscal unaffordability’ and ‘dependency creation’, which are largely unfounded but widely held prejudices. Growing inequalities and disparities between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ exemplify the need for greater inclusivity.

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