By Alix Machiels
On 29 March 2022, members of the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (USP2030) and interested partners gathered for the third annual USP2030 Membership Assembly. As a worldwide alliance that brings together governments, international and regional organizations, social partners and civil society organizations, these assemblies provide an important opportunity to jointly reflect on key developments related to social protection and USP2030 in the past year, and what they mean for the partnership’s future work.
This year’s Membership Assembly was themed “From crisis to recovery: Lessons learnt for achieving USP”. Two years into the COVID-19 crisis, against the backdrop of a two-speed recovery, the original idea had been to discuss what the pandemic has taught us for accelerating progress towards achieving universal social protection and what this means for future work at the country, regional and global level. Unfortunately, and as noted by many participants, we now find ourselves already in the middle of a new crisis, with severe, far-reaching and possibly long- term repercussions on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Ukraine and beyond. Social protection responses are key for people in Ukraine, for those having fled the country till now, and for all those affected by rising food and energy prices globally. This shows, once more, the interconnectedness and complexity of our world, as well as the need to act in partnership between development and humanitarian partners. The launch of the USP2030 working groups could not have been timelier, to respond to pressing societal challenges such as the links between social protection systems and food systems transformation and climate change responses; the digital delivery of social protection; and the financing of social protection systems.
It was hence not surprising that during this year’s Membership Assembly, members frequently highlighted the need for increasing household and individual resilience through integrated, adapted and well-coordinated policy responses that both ensure peoples’ access to social protection in times of life and work transitions, but also when faced with natural disasters or man-made shocks, and allow them to take advantage of employment opportunities, including in sectors such as the green, rural or care economy.
Noting the importance of catering to varying needs of different population groups and to ensure protection throughout the lifecycle to achieve universal coverage for all-, also led to reflections on how to extend coverage to workers in the informal economy – frequently referred to as the “missing middle”, with their lack of access to social protection schemes and programs becoming more evident than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. With many possible policy options to extend coverage through a combination of non-contributory and contributory mechanism, as well as many valuable national practices to draw on as shared by representatives from Mexico and St Vincent and the Grenadines, there was strong demand for more discussions and exchanges on this topic, as we work towards accelerating progress towards USP. In a related vein, members emphasized that there was no time for complacency, and called for using the current momentum to build universal social protection systems now, to be able to respond timely to crises that are here or on the horizon.
Sustainable and equitable financing of social protection was another point ranking high on many speakers’ agendas. Many members have been very actively engaged in different aspects of financing social protection during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The launch of the USP2030 Financing Social Protection working group as a key ask from the last Membership Assembly speaks to the importance of having a forum for evidence-based conversations that allows for exploring commonalities and differences in approaches, and for developing joint positions – for example on domestic resource mobilization, international assistance and coordination, and a rights-based approach to financing social protection. With the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions touching on many of these points, as well as related initiatives such as on a Global Fund for Social Protection, members also welcomed more exchanges on these initiatives.
Indeed, drawing on a global network with cutting-edge expertise, as well as learning from countries’ experiences towards achieving USP by 2030 were most frequently noted as the main value-added aspects of being a member USP2030, as a survey among members showed, and as was equally noted in the welcome by the representative from Indonesia. Respondents also indicated their interest in more advocacy activities– in the form of targeted events and materials and tool-kits – as well as knowledge development – for example on financing social protection, the inclusion of informal workers into social protection systems, the rights-based approach to extending social protection in the form of country case studies or thematic briefs, and the like.
The Membership assembly solidified the need for continuation and enhancement of USP2030 activities. Over the past year, some of the major achievements included: the expansion of the USP2030 partnership that welcomed seven new members, the presence at strategic events such as the Commission for Social Development and the United Nations Food Systems pre-summit, a USP2030 campaign in collaboration with socialprotection.org featuring, among others, a blog post series and a podcast, as well as the launch of four USP2030 working groups. In particular, exchanges and discussions in the working groups and planned knowledge products and activities in this context will respond to the interests expressed; and national experiences can be further exchanged in the context of the OECD’s Policy Dialogue on Social Protection and Development. Last but not least, USP2030 plans to strengthen its subregional engagement with a project in the East Africa region that aims to increase both the visibility and the added value of USP2030 through a series of sub-regional conferences, workshops, and e-coaching.
Countries and organisations are invited to join USP2030 to promote social protection and exchange information and ideas on how to accelerate progress towards achieving SDG target 1.3. To join the nearly 50 countries and organizations already members of USP2030, interested governments or organizations should formally state their interest in joining and affirm their commitment to USP2030’s Call to Action. More information on joining the partnership can be found here.
This is the seventh blog post in the USP2030 blog series. It was first published on 4 April 2022 on socialprotection.org