1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

  • Project from: 2013 to 2015


A Resource Platform for Development Practitioners and Policy Makers


Linking Social Protection and Human Rights was a collaboration between the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, to enhance awareness of, and develop the capacity to implement, a human rights-based approach to social protection. This research-related activity commenced in 2013.

By 2015, this collaboration had evolved into Social Protection and Human Rights, a stand-alone web platform at www.socialprotection-humanrights.org, with 10 institutional partners.
  • United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)
  • Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
  • United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

In 2014-2015, UNRISD has received generous support from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland to carry out this activity. A 12-member advisory group, consisting of expert researchers, policy makers and practitioners, provides voluntary guidance to help the platform reach its objectives.

Rationale


While the fields of social protection and human rights are being driven closer together thanks to increasing awareness of inequality and vulnerability, there are still gaps in designing and implementing effective programmes that provide comprehensive coverage. Although social protection is an internationally recognized right, implementing a rights-based approach to social protection involves a range of overlapping and interdependent rights, which means that assumptions about approaches in both the human rights and social protection fields need to be challenged.

The Social Protection and Human Rights platform was designed to provide policy makers and practitioners with the tools to challenge these assumptions and bridge the gaps: a clear explanation of fundamental principles and relevant instruments, examples of jurisprudence, and an inclusive space for engagement around experiences, best practices and innovative solutions. This is a unique combination of resources that won’t be found elsewhere.

Platform Components


The Social Protection and Human Rights platform is composed of five substantive sections:
  1. A Framework for implementing a human rights-based approach to social protection.
    The framework provides a useful reference for development practitioners who want to know which obligations are created by existing human rights laws and standards and in what way they are relevant to the design, implementation and evaluation of social protection programmes. It explains fundamental principles and relevant instruments, setting out a baseline of what is required by law in terms of a human rights-based approach to social protection, laying the groundwork for a discussion of implementation issues.
  2. Expert Commentaries on human rights and social protection in practice.
    Written by practitioners and leaders in the field, these commentaries explore the complex challenges and controversial subjects associated with the human rights-based approach to social protection. They are living examples of the bridges being built in practice between the two fields, and as such they reveal both possibilities and tensions, problems and success stories.
  3. Key Issues that are crucial parts of a rights-based approach to social protection.
    The issues covered include social protection systems; universality of protection and effective access; relationship with other human rights; administration and delivery of benefits and services; financing; gender; disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; governance, accountability and democracy; and topical issues. They are complemented with links to relevant framework principles, legal instruments and cases, expert commentaries and resources.
  4. A Legal Depository, consisting of legal instruments and legal cases.
    The legal case depository contains decisions and judgements in which human rights law has been used to achieve better social protection. This collection of jurisprudence is useful for development practitioners to see how the terms of the law have been applied in specific cases. It shows how human rights can become justiciable (suitable for legal action or proceedings) and set precedents which can be useful advocacy tools. The legal instruments consist of international, regional and national legislation relating to the right to social protection.
  5. Additional Resources that explain the human rights-based approach to social protection from diverse perspectives.
    This section provides easy access to both legal and development-related information. It comprises a curated list of reading materials, including reports and articles, as well as descriptions of and web links to organizations, programmes, projects, databases, blogs, multimedia and news.