The message describing the idea of an international mechanism to support progress towards nationally-owned social protection schemes triggered a few comments, that I would like to address by making two remarks, respectively on the political moment and on the risk of top-down approaches.
1. The proposal for a Global Fund for Social Protection is explicitly grounded on the International Labour Conference Recommendation 202 Concerning National Floors of Social Protection, adopted with 453 votes in favour of adopting the Recommendation and one abstention. The recommendation refers to the need for international cooperation in this regard, stating in paragraph that "National social protection floors should be financed by national resources. Members whose economic and fiscal capacities are insufficient to implement the guarantees may seek international cooperation and support that complement their efforts".
It may be added that when they met in Los Cabos on 18-19 June 2012, the leaders of the G-20 released a declaration in which they offered support for the promotion and adoption of social protection systems. Specifically, they stated, “We recognize the importance of establishing nationally determined social protection floors. We will continue to foster inter-agency and international policy coherence, coordination, cooperation and knowledge sharing to assist low-income countries in capacity building for implementing nationally determined social protection floors. We ask international organizations to identify policy options with low-income countries on how to develop effective sustainable protection floors.
Since it was made in early October 2012, the GFSP proposal has been very well received by a range of partners. Notably, the proposal was presented to States during the 39th session of the Committee on World Food Security held in Rome from 15 to 20 October 2012, leading to the Committee to endorse specific recommendations regarding social protection which, inter alia, highlights =93the role of international cooperation in reinforcing national actions to implement sustainable social protection programmes and systems and underlines that social protection programmes for food security and nutrition should be guided by human rights norms and standards, including through the adoption of integrated and mutually-supportive social protection and food security and nutrition strategies and policies, based on human rights standards and principles, including non-discrimination and equality (including gender), meaningful participation, transparency and accountability(CFS 2012/39, para. 7). I have also been working closely with the Social Protection Inter-Agency Collaboration Board (SPIAC-B), co-chaired by the World Bank and the ILO, and which seeks to identify means to support progress towards social protection floors in developing countries.
There is a momentum, and there are solutions. What is needed now is for pressure to build on governments to take seriously proposals that can make a difference, and to test potential solutions in bilateral or regional settings before implementing them on a broader (and perhaps multilateral) scale.
2. With respect to Rob Vos’ wise and important comments, they certainly are a good reason to ensure that whatever incentive is established to move towards improving social protection floors are context-sensitive. I agree entirely with this being an important consideration, although it must also be recalled at the same time that all countries have a duty to guarantee the right to social security as understood in international human rights law. Interpreting Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) defined the right to social security in its General Comment No. 19, as encompassing the right to access and maintain benefits, whether in cash or in kind, without discrimination in order to secure protection, inter alia, from (a) lack of work-related income caused by sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, old age, or death of a family member; (b) unaffordable access to health care; (c) insufficient family support, particularly for children and adult dependents. Further, the right to social security includes the right not to be subject to arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions of existing social security coverage, whether obtained publicly or privately, as well as the right to equal enjoyment of adequate protection from social risks and contingencies.
To be clear, the idea is certainly not to impose a one-size-fits-all or to force some blueprint for social protection on countries with different backgrounds and challenges; it is rather to provide an incentive to accelerate investments in social protection, by supporting these efforts at international level.
With my best wishes,
Olivier De Schutter
Prof. Olivier De Schutter
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
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