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UNRISD Research Coordinator Speaks at Social Protection and Development Workshop in Beirut

19 Oct 2010



UNRISD Research Coordinator Katja Hujo spoke in a closed workshop on Social Protection and Development organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) in Beirut, Lebanon from 28 to 30 September.

The workshop presentations and discussions focused on social protection systems and their contribution to social development. They were based on research and experiences from Tunisia, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Lebanon, Latin America and Asia.

Speaking after the former Lebanese Minister of Finance, Jihad Azour in a session on “Opening up Fiscal Space for Social Policy – Options and Constraints”, Hujo’s presentation elaborated on the changing global context and its impact on financing social policy.

According to Hujo, ESCWA’s challenge “is to build social policies on financial arrangements that are sustainable in fiscal and political terms, equitable and conducive to economic development”. Hujo said that although the investment in and nature of social policies depends on a country’s political, economic and social context, those countries that have established universal systems based on a broad financial base have been more successful in protecting their population and reducing poverty.

Though there are many challenges to financing social policy – mobilization of stable revenues, equitable redistribution of the financial burden as well as issues related to coverage of migrant workers and the informal economy, and gender equality – it is increasingly discussed in policy debates.

Participants included Jorge Carillo of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; Mohamed Kafawin, National Aid Fund Director; Salim el Sayigh, Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs; Hania Sholkamy of the American University of Cairo and advisor to the Minister of Social Development in Egypt; Fabio Veras of the International Poverty Centre in Brazil; and officials from various ministries in Oman and Lebanon.

Participants provided recommendations on ways to rethink social protection, social assistance and security programmes in the ESCWA region, which the Lebanese and Omani governments intend to make practical use of.