Social Protection (Policy and Advocacy)
Within the framework of its Management of Social Transformation Programme (MOST), UNESCO`s primary purpose is to transfer social sciences research findings and data to decision-makers and policy makers. MOST focuses on building efficient bridges between research, policy and practice. The programme promotes a culture of evidence-based policy-making – nationally, regionally and internationally.
One of the ways MOST assists Member States in responding to global challenges is through the institutionalization of regional and sub-regional Fora of Ministers in charge of Social Development. These fora serve as platforms to enable the concerned Ministries to meet and exchange their experiences, engage in dialogue with researchers and other important stakeholders, particularly the civil society and the UN System. The result of this process is to enable the development of high quality policy responses to challenges and opportunities posed by social transformations worldwide. The South Asian Forum of Ministers in charge of Social Development was launched in Bhurban, Pakistan (2006), and has subsequently been held in New Delhi, India (2008) and in Colombo, Sri Lanka (2011).
In 2011, the Third Ministerial Forum was jointly organized by UNESCO and the Ministry of Social Services, Government of Sri Lanka in Colombo from 20 to 22 February 2011, on Social Protection Policies in South Asia.
The main goal of the regional forum was to engage in social policy dialogue over social protection measures designed for the benefit of the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded. It was hoped that this initiative will raise awareness and foster commitment towards the development of social protection policies based on high quality research. The meeting aimed to contribute towards advancement of knowledge and social research on neglected themes and excluded groups in the field of social protection, such as the migrants and the urban poor, and also address the pressing need for developing social science research and capacity as a critical part of the policy making process.
Ministers and Heads of Delegations of SAARC countries signed a Declaration at the end of the Forum, solidifying their commitment to expanding the scope and outreach of social protection policies and programmes and advancing the agenda for a universal social protection floor initiative for the South Asia region. In the Declaration adopted, Ministers and Heads of Delegations agreed to, among other commitments, "increase public funding to build the capacities of the social sciences in the region, through evidence based research, analysis and statistics; adopt a comprehensive approach to social protection, encompassing preventive, protective and promotional measure that address both individual and community risks and deprivations; strive to move towards a universalized, rights-based, gender sensitive approach in the extension of social protection and advance the agenda for a social protection floor in the region, ensuring universal access to essential social transfers and services".
Preparatory Research Meetings for the Ministerial Forum
A joint UNESCO – ICSSR Research Meeting on Social Protection Policies in South Asia was jointly organized by the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) and the UNESCO New Delhi Office, at ICSSR on 18 – 19 March 2010. The advisory committee for the conference included the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Institute for Human Development (IHD), and the Social Protection in Asia network (SPA).
Forty-Five Scholars attended, from universities, research organizations, and think-tanks. Experts from international agencies (multilateral and bilateral), UN organizations, and development practitioners from the grassroots were also invited to participate in the research meeting and share their experiences through discussions. The meeting closely examined the topic proposed, Social Protection and Safety Nets in South Asia, and helped address the following questions:
- What are the social policies that work under what conditions and what lessons can such experiences offer to other countries?
- How can such policies be further strengthened to enhance the transformative potential? and
- How can a regional perspective are built on issues of social protection?
The twelve country-papers and presentations focused on the implementation experiences, innovations and extension of social protection in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Asia as a whole. An exchange of knowledge and experiences (best practices) in the field of social protection then resulted in policy alternatives being discussed in more concrete terms. The themes of the papers had drawn a particular focus on capacity-building and employment generation programs, such as NREGA, protection of citizens and migrants’ rights, the degree of co-operation by governments, the guaranteed provision of essential services to help the fight against poverty, and proportional expenditures of GDP allocated to social protection and development programmes.
A National Symposium on Social Protection Policies in Sri Lanka, was held on November 30-December 1, 2010, organized by UNESCO in association with National Science Foundation, Sri Lanka. The UNESCO-NSF Summary Report on National Symposium on Social Protection Policies in Sri Lanka similarly provided inputs and background material for the Forum.
For more information contact:
Ms Marina Faetanini
Section Chief and Programme Specialist in Social and Human Sciences
UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office