SOCIAL PROTECTION SCHEMES MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO COMBAT POVERTY – UN OFFICIAL
17 February - Improving social protection is the most effective way to combat poverty in developing countries, a United Nations official said today, adding that poorer nations are coming up with innovative ways to ensure that their citizens have basic social security.
“Social protection is one of the most powerful tools that any society has to combat poverty and to invest in its own social economic development,” said Michael Cichon, the Director of the UN International Labour Organization's (ILO) Social Security Department.
“All we need in developing country context is 4 per cent GDP [gross domestic product] to reduce the poverty rate in a country by about 14 per cent,” Mr. Cichon told a news conference at UN Headquarters
to launch a document entitled “Successful Social Protection Floor Experiences,” which is jointly compiled by ILO and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
He said that social protection schemes have succeeded in reducing poverty and providing income security in developed countries over the years. Developing countries are following suit with programmes such as cash transfer arrangements and universal health care, he said.
“The real innovation these days comes from the global South,” said Mr. Cichon, noting that in the next 10 to 15 years an estimated 1.2 billion people in developing countries will have a means of social protection, including food security, health services for all and old-age pensions.
The ILO is preparing a meeting in June with Governments, employers and workers from all 183 of the agency's member States to draw up a long-term social protection strategy.
At a meeting in Oslo last September, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn agreed to explore the concept of a “social protection floor” for people living in poverty and those in vulnerable situations within the context of a medium to long-term strategy.
Currently the world spends 17 per cent on social protection, but that is 19 per cent in developed world and only 4 to 4.5 per cent in developing countries.
In the current global economic crisis, developed countries are looking to cut deficits and public expenditure, consolidate budgets and finance fiscal stimulus packages by cutting back on social expenditure.
“What it means in the end, and I think we should all understand that, is that the old, the disabled, the sick and the poor are going to pay for the crisis for the next few years,” Mr. Cichon warned on Monday. “And it's a pretty straightforward message and a pretty perturbing message.”
The “Successful Social Protection Floor Experiences” is a compilation of successful case studies from developing countries intended to be part of a broader knowledge-sharing process, according to Francisco Simplicio of UNDP's Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.
“The experiences documented here advocate for a careful analysis of the capacities, needs and existing [social protection] schemes in place that will enable and inform policy-making processes and the gradual building up of social services,” said Mr. Simplicio.