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Sarah Cook participates in ADB Seminar on Promoting Inclusive Growth through Social Protection

14 Jun 2010



UNRISD Director Sarah Cook participated in a seminar organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 4 May in Tashkent. She said that appropriately designed social protection can provide a way out of poverty and promote more equitable growth. Many social protection interventions focus on protection against specific shocks rather than addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability. Social protection can, however, be designed to achieve developmental outcomes. For example, programmes designed to maintain and strengthen the productive assets of households, together with the universal provision of basic public goods and services, can better protect households. One key issue is how to ensure the critical linkages between protection and production or enhanced livelihood capabilities.

Cook outlined three key lessons of the Asian financial crisis of 1998: strong state-led policies are necessary for economic growth to be inclusive; the nature of these policies matters; and the critical link between social protection and inclusive growth lies in the extent to which social protection interventions can go beyond protection and address interconnected issues of production, distribution and reproduction.

Social protection is usually put in place as a response to vulnerability and to protect against contingencies. However, vulnerability has many aspects: material deficit in basic needs; exclusion; uncertainty and insecurity; and “traps” that arise when these intersect. Because the institutional and political arrangements and the nature and source of vulnerabilities tend to vary, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

In the light of this complexity, Cook talked of the need for developmental measures that provide a basis for greater economic security and contribute to wider economic development goals; and transformative measures that address the underlying power imbalances that create and sustain longer term vulnerabilities—for example, anti-discrimination legislation, secure rights and entitlements, and strengthening the ability of citizens to claim rights. She also stressed the importance of an expanded role for the state in reducing, mitigating and responding to risk.

Citing Cook, an article published in The Economist (The Elusive Fruits of Economic Growth, 13 May 2010) said that inequalities and social exclusion have been seen as a residual outcome of necessary market-led growth. This approach, which prioritized getting markets right and then dealing with any remaining pockets of the poor, was called into question by persistent poverty and growing social exclusion.