1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Social protection

  • "Disaster Citizenship" and Opportunities for Transformation: An Urgent Plea for Eco-Social Policies (18 May 2017) | Ayesha Siddiqi
    Avalanches and earthquakes are not simply ‘natural' events but are fundamentally the result of local dynamics of power and privilege that leave people vulnerable in the face of dangerous climatic and geological hazards. Contemporary disaster risk reduction policies therefore need to reimagine the very political system within which such disasters occur, instead of focusing on leaner, meaner technical interventions. This blog posts considers how an eco-social approach to disaster resilience can help deliver transformative outcomes in the long term.
  • Transformation for Better or for Worse? The Evidence from South East Europe (24 Nov 2016) | Marija Stambolieva
    The UNRISD Flagship report 2016 sees transformational change as a set of policies and structures that “expand rights, increase equality and reduce power asymmetries, and support sustainable and equitable structural change of the economy”. For scholars of post-socialist transformation, however, the notion of “transformation” is typically associated with structural changes that generated social inequalities and boosted power asymmetries in societies which were previously relatively equal but perceived as inefficient. This blog post discusses the social policy pitfalls of transitions after political and economic crises.
  • The Ethic of Care. Why Care Policies Need to Recognize the Interdependence of Us All (17 Nov 2016) | Ruth Evans
    Care is finally receiving more of the attention it deserves in international development policy. But rather than using the language of 'burden' and 'dependency', care needs to be re-framed to recognize the vulnerability and interdependence of us all. This blog explores a a more holistic understanding of the complexity of caring relations in line with an ethic of care and human rights perspective that recognizes and re-values care.
  • Up and Down the Political Agenda: Pathways to Transformative Care Policies (2 Aug 2016) | Andrea Kaufmann, Valeria Esquivel
    What do preschool childcare, safe water and paternity leave have in common? All of them can contribute to achieving Target 5.4 in the SDGs on unpaid care. Find out where UNRISD research has discovered transformative care policies and effective strategies for getting these policies put into place.
  • Decisions for Davos (19 Jan 2016) | Paul Ladd
    From today, over 2,500 people will descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum. Most will be leaders from business, joined also by representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society. In this blog, read three simple suggestions for how business leaders can commit to the SDGs and not only help to make the world better for people now, but also more resilient to respond to future shocks—whether these are driven by technology or not.
  • Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Taking Stock of Progress on Gender Equality since the Beijing Platform for Action (26 Nov 2015) | Andrea Kaufmann, Valeria Esquivel
    The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action marked an important moment for gender equality. However, in the decades since then the achievements are under threat or may even be rolled back. The concluding piece in the UNRISD Think Piece Series “Let’s Talk about Women’s Rights: 20 Years after the Beijing Platform for Action” brings together some of the main strands of argument covered by 16 feminist thinkers reflecting on the advancements and challenges in gender equality since 1995. Although there have been some successes—the creation and improvement of legal frameworks for the defence of women’s rights, and progress in efforts to combat violence against women—there are still impediments: rigid gender stereotypes in society and institutions, a lack of funding for activism, and conservative forces coupled with a lack of political will to work for further progress. The need to realize women’s rights is now more urgent than ever.
  • Delivering Social Protection Systems for All: Why Taxes Matter (5 Oct 2015) | Francesca Bastagli
    Social protection and taxation feature prominently as key policy instruments available to governments in the pursuit of development goals in both the Financing for Development (FFD) Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This renewed interest in social protection and tax presents a precious opportunity to promote the closer consideration of the links between the two and the ways in which they operate jointly to shape development outcomes.
  • Fair Pensions in an Ageing World (3 Jul 2015) | Manfred Nitsch
    Longevity without misery has always been mankind`s dream. Modern technology and political will can make that dream come true. Fair pensions for everybody are possible and affordable, when compulsory contributions from wages and salaries are topped-up or complemented with tax financing. No formal earmarking is recommended, but an explicit political consensus on linking pension and tax reforms can help for acceptance on both fronts. Pension systems follow a special financial and administrative logic. They are inherently different from the financial sector, because they rely on compulsory contributions and they cover most, if not the whole of a country`s population; they are different from non-financial business, because it is national legislation which governs their structure and their benefits rather than the fate of the businesses or their pension funds, as is the case with most company pensions; finally, they are markedly different from finance ministries which take tax money without any specific counter-claim. Pension insurance also differs from social assistance schemes, which are means-tested and care for the needy. Distinct from finance ministries and the financial sector, their governance structure often includes national employers, pensioners’ associations and trade unions. Increased labour migration flows make the international mutual recognition and portability of pension rights an urgent issue for global UN conventions, ILO standard setting, and bi- or multilateral treaties.
  • A Global Fund for Social Protection Floors: Eight Good Reasons Why It can Easily be Done (2 Jul 2015) | Michael Cichon
    We know that social protection is the most direct tool we have to combat poverty and inequality and that implementation can begin when countries are at a relatively early stage of development. However, there are today a few countries which need the solidarity of others to close the social protection gap. This think piece puts forward 8 good reasons why a global fund for social protection is needed and can easily be initiated.
  • The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (25 Nov 2014) | Yvonne Theeman
    In the wake of the International Labour Organization’s adoption of Recommendation 202 in June 2012, the “Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors” was created. But that was not the start of the unique network of today more than 80 NGOs and trade unions of which 16 form the Coalition’s Core Team from all parts of the world committed to join forces for one single goal: to achieve social protection for everyone. This think piece reviews the forming of the Coalitions, its membership and mission.
  • What Does Privacy Have To Do With Social Protection? (8 Oct 2014) | Robert Maganga Mwanyumba
    The right to privacy and the right to social protection intertwine in more ways than one. This commentary considers how these to rights relate to issues such as the use of technology, the consequences of targeting in terms of data collection, and the impact of poverty on attitudes to privacy.
  • Judicial Protection of the Right to Social Security (25 Sep 2014) | Alison Graham
    The right to social security is enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as other international treaties, and has been upheld by numerous judicial bodies at the national, regional and international levels, both explicitly or implicitly through other rights including civil and political ones, and/or other constitutional and legal guarantees. This brief commentary outlines some of the key decisions that have strengthened the understanding of the right to social security and protection at national levels that may be of particular interest to development practitioners.
  • Using Human Rights in the Courts to Broaden Social Protection—The South African Example (19 Sep 2014) | Beth Goldblatt
    This article discusses the case of South Africa where the courts have been a significant site of contestation over the nature and extent of the social assistance system. The combination of the right to social security and the right to equality has been of central importance in a number of key cases concerning social security brought to the South African courts.
  • A Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection: The Case of Tunisia (18 Sep 2014) | Mehdi Ben Braham, Seynabou Dia
    Tunisia today is at an important stage in its thinking about a new development model that combines optimal allocation of resources and social equity, welfare being an essential factor in the success of the democratic transition and at the core of the 2011 popular uprising. However, structural reform cannot be achieved in the absence of a clear framework and of precise objectives which need to result from national consensus. The human rights-based approach to social protection can offer this framework—which has long been lacking in Tunisia—and is also of growing importance at the international level because it promotes fairness and consensus whilst placing this paradigm in the continuity of the post-2015 Development Goals.
  • Sustainable Development Goals and the Case for a Developmental Welfare State (17 Sep 2014) | Gabriele Köhler
    This think piece argues that while the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda have their good points, they do not go far enough.They are not conceptualized as rights-based and, like the MDGs, they are state-blind. These issues mut be addressed in order for the next development agenda to stand a chance of becoming progressive.
  • Unpacking the ILO’s Social Protection Floor Recommendation (2012) from a Women’s Rights Perspective (15 Sep 2014) | Lucie Lamarche
    The twentieth century witnessed the development of national social security and social protection mechanisms aimed at providing economic, social and public answers to address social risks. In the logic of the majority of these mechanisms, however, unless women were formally employed or were widows, they were not rights holders in any meaningful sense independent of male relatives and/or their families. This think piece argues that ILO standards on social protection capture this discriminatory dynamic and that the Organization's heritage constitutes a significant obstacle to the en-gendering of the right to social security.
  • Achieving development at the cost of the right to privacy? The promise and peril of new technologies in social protection programmes. (12 Sep 2014) | Carly Nyst
    In recent years, donors, development agencies and poverty-reduction initiatives have increasingly turned towards social protection as an effective tool for addressing extreme poverty and accelerating development in the world’s poorest countries. Nevertheless, a number of significant practical, structural and institutional challenges exist when delivering social protection initiatives in developing countries which often impede the effectiveness of such programmes. This think piece explores these challenges and suggests one possible route toward greater protection of the right to privacy in social protection programmes.
  • The Case Against the Commodification of Social Protection (10 Sep 2014) | Manuel Couret Branco
    In May 2006, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern about the fact that a significant number of countries that had been ensuring a certain level of social protection through public intervention were transferring part of the responsibility to the private sector (CESCR 2006). More than bringing private actors into the process of supplying goods and services that are needed to secure the human right to social security, it is their commodification that seems particularly menacing. This Commentary explores the tensions between private and public, economic and political needs in relation to human rights.
  • Do social protection programmes that impose conditionalities on women fail to confront patriarchy as a root cause of inequality? (8 Sep 2014) | Sophie Plagerson
    The journey towards gender equality is both personal and political, and cuts across relationships and institutions. Interactions with institutions responsible for social protection cannot but be intricate and multi-layered. Yet, addressing whether social protection programmes that impose conditionalities on women fail to confront patriarchy and hamper women’s right to equality is urgent and imperative. It is argued in this paper that social protection programmes with conditionalities have confronted gender inequalities in some dimensions but not in others.
  • The role of civil society in keeping vigil over the human rights implications of states’ social protection policies, programmes and activities (25 Aug 2014) | Letlhokwa George Mpedi
    One of the fundamental roles that civil society organizations play is to ensure that states respect and promote the fundamental right to social protection and provide for vulnerable and marginalized members of society. To do this, civil society organizations must firstly actively monitor the social protection provisioning of the relevant state actors. Secondly, they have the important function of holding state actors accountable through activities such as exerting pressure on political decision makers and court action if their efforts do not comply with expected standards. This is, however, easier said than done. This think piece reveiews some of the difficulties that can be encountered, and suggests four key strategies for civil society organizations to pursue.
  • Are conditional cash transfers having an impact on achieving access to education? Some answers from Argentina (27 May 2014) | Gastón Pierri
    Several Latin America countries, including Argentina, have established conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes for families in need to further development but also to meet their human rights obligations. The expansion of these programmes invites scrutiny with regard to their effectiveness. Using the Argentine case, this think piece briefly assesses whether CCTs are having a positive impact on the human right to education.
  • Conditionality and Human Rights (19 May 2014) | Guy Standing
    Across the world, states have made binding commitments under international human rights law to do what they can to ensure all their population attains its basic material needs. And yet, many governments have been introducing so-called conditional cash transfer schemes (CCTs), imposing forms of behavioural conditionality. This means they offer to overcome people’s poverty if, and only if, they meet certain conditions, acting in ways that policy makers regard as desirable. Implicit in that judgment are several presumptions. This think piece explores those presumptions and argues that imposing conditionality on social protection contravenes basic human rights.
  • Incorporating the Informal Sector in Social Protection Programmes for Universal Realization of the Rights to Social Security (5 May 2014) | Barbara Caracciolo
    In the majority of cases, informality is not a choice but rather a necessity for those unable to access formal jobs or any kind of social protection. Yet, current social protection systems have mainly been designed for workers in the formal economy who are less vulnerable than those in the informal economy. This think piece presents international instruments which can help to improve the situation, especially if the participation of informal workers themselves can be meaningfully implemented.
  • The Compatibility between ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors and the ICESCR (5 May 2014) | Francine Mestrum
    Are ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) compatible? At the discursive level, one can conclude that ICESCR is more complete than R.202, but the language used does not permit any conclusion in terms of incompatibility. Both texts leave room for flexible interpretation. Hence problems may occur at the implementation level. This piece explores issues which may arise as a result.
  • Biometrics Use for Social Protection Programmes in India Risk Violating Human Rights of the Poor (2 May 2014) | Usha Ramanathan
    Gathering biometric data is beeing marketed as a means to more efficiently and surely deliver services to the poor. However this, and the threat of exclusion from a range of services if a person is not biometrically enrolled, has placed the weight of such projects on the shoulders of the poor. This think piece explores the technical limitations of biometric data gathering for social protection purposes and the impact on human rights and the privacy of the poor.
  • Conditionalities, Cash and Gender Relations (1 May 2014) | Maxine Molyneux
    Is the empowerment of women through conditional cash transfers illusory? It is important to distinguish between the positive effects of conditional cash transfers and ‘empowerment’ as well as between different degrees of empowerment. But to effectively and sustainably tackle women's poverty and vulnerability we must support women’s capabilities and income-generating capacities, and understand the gender dynamics within households. Only then can we speak of cash transfers leading to meaningful empowerment for women.
  • ILO Recommendation 202 is Not a Legal Island: Explicit Links between R. 202, the ICESCR and the UDHR (30 Apr 2014) | Michael Cichon
    More than 18 months after the global community unanimously accepted ILO Recommendation No. 202 in June 2012 it remains a most misunderstood document. It is often seen as a minimalist document clashing with demands for adequate levels of protection and hence implicitly not providing adequate standards of living for all. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Improving Representation in the Design and Implementation of Social Protection Programmes through Women’s Organizations (25 Apr 2014) | Markus Kaltenborn
    Due to the high relevance of women's participation for the success of social protection programmes, the author of this piece argues that it is necessary to give at least the most important women’s organizations of a country a statutory right to take part in the respective processes of legislation and implementation. The commentary then considers the best way to go about this.
  • Securing a Dignified Old Age for All (24 Apr 2014) | Charles Knox-Vydmanov
    Access to adequate social protection in old age remains a luxury limited to a minority of older people globally. This huge gap is symptomatic of the wider failure of social protection systems as a whole to guarantee the right to social security, which constitutes a fundamental barrier to tackling pervasive poverty and growing inequality across the globe. Encouragingly, recent years have seen some positive developments, such as the introduction and extension of non-contributory (or “social”) pensions. As the landscape begins to change, a human rights analysis can help to unpack the remaining barriers and consider how these can be overcome.
  • A Rejoinder to ‘Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency’ (15 Apr 2014) | Charles Lwanga-Ntale
    Pro-poor transparency laws and policies must have ending poverty as an underlying objective. This can become possible if social protection and access to information are fully recognized as rights that poor people can invoke to exit poverty. Yet uptake of social protection policy in developing countries has been slow, largely because it has not been understood as a human right. The post-2015 development agenda needs to correct this failing to achieve future goals.
  • Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency Laws and Policies (15 Apr 2014) | Issa Luna Pla
    Access to information laws are not being effectively utilized by the poor—the most technologically marginalized population—to exercise their rights to social protection. Pro-poor access to information legislation is needed and must achieve two goals: (1) macroaccountability and transparency in public spending; and (2) provide information to the poor in a physically, intellectually and socially adequate way. If well implemented, policies for proactive transparency of information can contribute to reducing both poverty and information poverty.
  • Protecting the Right of Access to Social Security Benefits (15 Apr 2014) | Stephen Kidd
    The easiest means of ensuring the right to social security is through universal coverage (and adequate transfer values). If countries are unable to provide universal coverage because of limited resources, there is implicitly a trade-off: Reducing coverage means increasing administrative costs. In addition, when priority is given to cost-saving in both coverage and administration, a commitment to human rights is jeopardized. This commentary explores ways for social security schemes to nevertheless respect international human rights obligations.
  • The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes (14 Apr 2014) | Felipe J. Hevia
    The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Others concern the the opacity and discretionality of actors implementing social protection programmes and indifference from citizens to holding service providers accountable. The author suggests that civil society and collective action can contribute to breaking the deadlock.
  • Transformative Approaches to Care Responsibilities: Overcoming Obstacles to the Meaningful Participation of Women (10 Apr 2014) | Valeria Esquivel
    One way to approach care in a transformative way is moving beyond seeing care responsibilities as an impediment to women’s participation, and start seeing them as a missing component of social protection, and as an opportunity for political participation. At the same time, families’ and women’s demands for care need be articulated in political terms, a challenge in highly unequal contexts.
  • Realizing Rights in Practice: A ‘Minimum’ Level of Social Security in Relation to an ‘Adequate’ Standard of Living (8 Apr 2014) | Bob Deacon
    ILO Recommendation 202 asks countries to lay down Social Protection Floors providing some basic social security guarantees and promulgating principles like universalism, non-discrimination, dignity, accessible complaints procedure . Its human rights underpinnings are clear, but the Recommendation nevertheless has certain limitations which are further discussed in this contribution.
  • Do Targeting Techniques Tend to be Incompatible with the Human Rights Standards of Transparency and Access to Information? (3 Apr 2014) | Nicholas Freeland
    Common methods for identifying the poor also problematic in terms of human rights standards of transparency and access to information. This think piece looks from this perspective at the two main methods usually used to target the poor: community targeting and proxy means testing. These veer to opposing extremes on the transparency/access to information scale, yet both are incompatible with human rights standards.
  • Finding Synergies between Political Support, Legal Frameworks and Funding for Sustainable Social Protection Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean (3 Apr 2014) | Simone Cecchini
    Implementing social protection policies and programmes (SPPPs) in the absence of clear and specific legal and institutional frameworks entails a number of risks, not only in terms of their continuity, but also of scope, legitimacy and the protection of human rights standards. However, a proper legal and institutional framework is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure the success of SPPPs. This think piece reviews other factors and discusses progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • A Human Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection and the Gender Perspective (31 Mar 2014) | Daniel Seymour
    Social protection systems which hope to be successful need to take gender equality into account. This think piece considers three related aspects. First, a human rights perspective on social protection needs to contextualize social protection mechanisms as part of a broader effort to change the way societies function. Second, a gender perspective on social protection is about the gendered dynamics of a society, not only about the role of women. Lastly, a gender perspective on social protection needs to be informed by the real circumstances of human beings, who are defined by more than merely their gender and sex.
  • Incorporating a Rights-based Perspective into the Administrative Activities of Government Programmes (28 Mar 2014) | James Midgley
    As the role of social protection in social development is increasingly emphasized, there is a need to ensure that social protection programmes are not only efficiently managed but express core values such as rights. There are multiple challenges to incorporating a rights-based perspective into the administrative activities of government bureaucracies responsible for social protection programmes. This think piece groups these challenges into three major categories and identifies possible solutions.
  • Adopting Comprehensive, Coherent and Coordinated Policies in Social Protection: A View from the Americas (27 Mar 2014) | Alexandra Barrantes
    In the context of the principles of social protection, through the Social Charter of the Americas, the countries of the region acknowledge they have “a responsibility to develop and implement comprehensive social protection policies and programs, based on the principles of universality, solidarity, equality, nondiscrimination, and equity that give priority to persons living in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, taking into account their national circumstances.” Countries in the Americas have also recognized the central role of the state in the fight against poverty, inequity, inequality and social exclusion. Even though coordination of social protection policies has improved throughout the region, it continues to be a challenge, mainly due to the complexity of the issues at stake and the multiplicity of approaches and sectors involved.
  • Conditional Cash Transfers and the Human Right to Social Security (27 Mar 2014) | Ian Orton
    The increasing use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) has perhaps been one of the most significant additions to the social development agenda of late. CCTs have delivered some impressive results in terms of reducing poverty and inequality, and are credited with numerous other positive human development outcomes. However, opinions on the status of CCT conditionalities in terms of human rights remain mixed. Some argue that CCTs are contradictory in nature (imposing obligations on rights) and therefore obstructive to the human rights agenda, while others stress the importance of obligations complementing those rights. The paradox is that CCTs may be positive along one dimension (reducing poverty) but not others (compromising human rights).
  • Good Practices for Effective Participation in Social Protection Design and Implementation (27 Mar 2014) | Robert Chambers
    The tendency for programmes intended for those who are poor and marginalized to be distorted and captured by local elites is widely recognised. For programmes of social protection, participation is an obvious prescription to overcome this elite capture but is far from a magic wand. Who participates? Participation can itself be captured to become an instrument for exclusion of those who are meant to benefit, How effective participatory processes can be in overcoming these tendencies, and what processes can be recommended, will always depend on local context. There is, though, experience of a repertoire or menu of approaches that can be drawn upon, adapted and evolved to fit.
  • Message from the Director, Sarah Cook: New Year’s Greetings from Geneva, and Welcome to the First UNRISD E-Bulletin of 2014 (28 Jan 2014) | Sarah Cook
    UNRISD enters 2014 with a renewed sense of purpose and energy that comes from having celebrated its ...
  • Public Support for Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) in Spain. Some Lessons for More Productive Support. (31 Dec 2013) | Blanca Miedes Ugarte Manuela A. Fernández Borrero
    Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) aim to integrate people at risk of permanent exclusion from the labour market into work and society through a productive activity. In Spain, despite the fact that national law establishes a common regulatory framework, recognition and support of WISEs is the responsibility of each Autonomous Regional Government. As a consequence, today there are twelve systems of public support for WISEs in the country. This striking diversity allows us to compare the outcomes of the different models and to study their efficiency. The analysis of the most recent data (2011) shows that there is a clear correlation between the amount of aid received by WISEs and the quantity of integration jobs they generate. However, the return on public investment varies greatly from one region to another, even when the regions are socio-economically similar. This points to the importance of specific institutional factors in each territory as well as the type of public aid.
  • Microinsurance as a Liberal Market Approach to Social Protection? A Second Look (26 Apr 2013) | Tabea Goldboom
    This viewpoint looks at the characteristics of microinsurance from a social protection perspective. Insurance products, which are specifically designed for the low-income population of developing countries, have lately seen a large boom. This viewpoint questions the common perception that microinsurance is a liberal market mechanism that substitutes for state action. The conclusions are relevant for policy makers concerned with social protection in developing countries.
  • Lessons of Good Social Policy (7 Mar 2013) | Ilcheong Yi
    Social policy is now widely acknowledged as a central instrument of structural transformation to remove the root causes of poverty and inequality. There are good examples of social policy being effective in reducing inequality and poverty, successfully playing more than a residual role, addressing areas beyond a safety net, and engaging with broad public policy issues of distribution, protection, production and reproduction. Two recent UN global social protection initiatives, the Social Protection Floor and Universal Health Coverage should take account of these lessons about good social policy for reducing inequality and poverty.
  • Emerging Governance in the Transition to a Green Economy: A Case Study of Public Sector Food Procurement in Brazil (8 Nov 2011) | Kei Otsuki
    Changes in public sector food procurement in Brazil have improved not just the quality of school meals; they have led to a reduced ecological footprint and a more engaged civil society. In this article, Kei Otsuki explores the processes of decentralization and localization that have taken place in Brazil since 1997 through the lens of food procurement. The case demonstrates how an active civil society can lead the charge for better, more sustainable and locally supportive practices.
  • World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development - An Opportunity Both Welcome and Missed (7 Oct 2011) | Shahra Razavi
    That the World Bank has devoted its 2012 flagship publication to the topic of gender equality is a welcome opportunity for widening the intellectual space. However, it is also a missed opportunity. By failing to engage seriously with the gender biases of macroeconomic policy agendas that define contemporary globalization, and by reducing social policy to a narrow focus on conditional cash transfers, the report is unable to provide a credible and even-handed analysis of the challenges that confront gender equality in the 21st century and appropriate policy responses for creating more equal societies.