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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

Date: 5 Jul 2017

Special Session of The Future of Work, the 5th Conference of the Regulating for Decent Work Network

The Special Session, convened by UNRISD and the ILO, will present experiences and results of applying a human rights-based approach in the design and implementation of social protection policies and programmes in different country and regional contexts.

The aim of the Special Session is to raise awareness among researchers, policy makers and international organizations on the need and practical ways to ground social protection and labour policies in human rights, and to deepen knowledge on the linkages between social protection and human rights through empirical evidence drawn from concrete examples.

The panellists, from international organizations, academia and civil society, will discuss the human rights-based approach in the context of:

  • social protection for persons with disabilities
  • issues related to the future of work
  • care, gender equality and the rights of women and girls in social protection systems

This special session is an activity of the joint UN web-based platform Social Protection and Human Rights, which has been designed to provide expert legal and development resources on how to better align the two disciplines.

PanellistsTitle of the Presentation
Magdalena Sepúlveda, UNRISDThe Role of the Human Rights Principle of Equality and Non-Discrimination in Ensuring Inclusion in Social Assistance Programmes
Valeria Esquivel, ILOCare Policies as Part of Social Protection: Lessons from Uruguay and Costa Rica
Gabriele Köhler, UNRISD The Politics of Rights-Based, Transformative Social Policy in South and South East Asia
Catalina Devandas, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesLeaving No One Behind: Disability-Inclusive Social Protection

Chair: Christina Behrendt, Head, Social Policy Unit, ILO

Discussant: Katja Hujo, Senior Research Coordinator, UNRISD


Social Protection and Human Rights is a web-based resource and knowledge-sharing platform targeted at policy makers, development practitioners and human rights advocates with the intention of strengthening a human rights-based approach to social protection across all disciplines. UNRISD is the convenor of the platform, and collaborates closely with the Social Protection Department of the ILO and nine other UN partners.

The Decent Work Agenda, developed by the ILO and endorsed by the UN system, consists of four pillars: employment creation, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue, with gender equality as a cross-cutting fundamental objective.

The Decent Work Agenda’s central philosophy is that “productive employment and decent work are key elements to achieving a fair globalization and poverty reduction”, with social protection as a key element. Additionally, international human rights law requires states to establish social protection systems that include access to decent employment as an integral component. The Decent Work Agenda contributed significantly to the development of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, leading to the inclusion of SDG8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all).

Social protection is a key determinant of social development and well-being. In combination with their inclusion in SDGs, social protection systems will be most likely to deliver on their transformative potential if they have solid foundations in human rights. And indeed, under international human rights law, states are legally obligated to establish social protection systems and to apply a human-rights-based approach in all phases of policy making and programming.

Contact: sp-hr@unrisd.org

Photo credit: "taxi driver" by Jimmy (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).