A Global Review of Social Protection

Published on 1 July 2009

Socio-economic security over the life course: A global review of social protection. This paper was prepared as the final report of a Social Protection Scoping Study funded by the Ford Foundation.

Social protection has gained prominence in the lexicon of development concepts and approaches over the past decade. Its emergence is in large measure a response to the failure of development policies in the previous two decades to reduce poverty and enhance human capabilities in a rapidly changing global context. Eliminating poverty remains a core objective of development policy makers and practitioners; but the new realities of rapid economic, social and environmental change, bringing with them intensified forms of risk and vulnerability and more entrenched inequalities and exclusions, have left millions of people worldwide exposed to livelihood insecurity.

This paper provides an overview of the current field of social protection, with the intention of highlighting innovative approaches to addressing many of these obstacles to development. We review the evolution of various approaches to social protection adopted by national governments and international development agencies, and interpret these in the light of the realities of poverty, vulnerability and insecurity across these varied regional and country contexts.

We draw on a set of background studies on Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, and selected OECD countries. These papers examine local sources of vulnerability, poverty and exclusion, the varying ways in which people meet their need for security, and the instruments developed by government, communities, NGOs and donors to reduce vulnerability and promote sustainable development outcomes

Social protection has evolved, and will continue to evolve, differently across these regions, reflecting the underlying sources of vulnerability, differences in historical experience and the contemporary political economy. At the same time, we suggest that there is the beginning of a consensus around the purpose and directions of social protection within development policy and practice, and evidence of some convergence in instruments and their implementation. 


Naila Kabeer

Emiritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
Cook, S. and Kabeer, N.


About this publication

Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection

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