30.04.2013 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

India: A UN Study Pleads for a Universal Social Protection Floor

Made public on April 18th, a joint UN study to which UNESCO contributed, pleads for a universal social protection floor in India, thus going in the direction of the work started by UNESCO since the 3rd Forum of the Ministers for Social development of South Asia which had been held, in February 2011, in Sri Lanka, within the framework of the UNESCO Management for Social Transformations Programme (MOST).

On the same day, the United Nations System in India took a decisive step today towards establishing a National Social Protection Floor Initiative with the dissemination of findings of a Joint UN Study on a Social Protection Floor for India. 

Member of the Governing Body of the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research, and teacher at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, the author of the study, Prof.  Ravi Srivastava presented the key findings of the study during an event held at the India Habitat Center, New Delhi.

Ms Sudha Pillai, Former Member-Secretary, Planning Commission and Former Member of the High Level UN Advisory Panel on Social Protection Floor, attended this presentation, as Chief Guest, belong to the representatives of all UN agencies in India, and several High Level Personalities such as Shri  A. C. Pandey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, among others.

Prepared with the financial support of the Government of Japan, this study which was commissioned by the UN Task Team in India examines the innovations, opportunities, challenges and trends in the area of social protection in this country, by exploring six specific areas: Children's education, nutritional status and health; Employment and Livelihood Security; Social Pensions; Social Health Protection; Food Security; and Housing.  Finally, the study recommends several measures for achieving a social protection floor by progressively extending social protection to all workers in the informal economy, particularly those who are most disadvantaged. 

In this perspective, the study, conducted in 2012, is an important follow-up and key milestone of the UNESCO’s work in the area of social protection, which has been ongoing since the 3rd Forum of Ministers in charge of Social Development from South Asia.  Organized in the framework of the UNESCO Management for Social Transformations Programme (MOST), this ministerial forum was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 20 to 22 February 2011. 

At the end of this forum, Ministers and Heads of Delegations of the 8 countries members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) signed and adopted the “Colombo Declaration 2011”, solidifying their commitment to expanding the scope and outreach of social protection policies and programmes for the whole South Asia region.

This is this commitment that UNESCO reiterated, at the end of the presentation of the study conducted by Prof. Ravi Srivastava, reminding also the process leading to the Declaration, the involvement of Indian research institutes and civil society, the steady support of partners such as UNICEF, IDRC, ICSW, IHD and ICSSR, as well as the endorsement of the Indian Government. 

Social Protection is an important theme of the United Nations Development Action Framework (UNDAF) in India for 2013-2017, after having already included in the previous one (UNDAF India 2008-2012).  

Recently, the national consultations conducted in India on the Post-2015 Development Agenda also brought out a consensus in promoting decent work and social protection as an important element to address inclusive growth and poverty alleviation. Indeed, in India, it is estimated that some 90 % of the entire population do not have proper access to social protection services. The most disadvantaged groups remain caught in continuing cycle of poverty and vulnerability.

In this perspective, the study disseminate last April 18th is a major result of the active involvement of several UN agencies, in particular UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNDP, UN-WOMEN and UNESCAP.

The study shall serve as an important reference in the years to come, to inform policy makers and generate debate within political circles and civil society, on advancing the agenda for a universal social protection floor initiative in India and for advocating the general portability of all benefits and entitlements for the migrant population, women, men and children.  

Related Links:

Executive Summary: A Social Protection Floor for India

Presentation  by Prof. Ravi Srivastava

Colombo Declaration: UNESCO Forum of Ministers on Social Protection Policies in South Asia 

Social inclusion policies: a plea for scientific and participatory evaluation

Forum of Ministers of Social Development from South Asian States

Third Regional Forum of Ministers of Social Development from South Asia

Towards a network for the evaluation of social protection policies in South Asia



Marina Faetanini
Programme Specialist
UNESCO Office in New Delhi 
Email: m.faetanini(at)unesco.org
Phone: + (91) 11 267 13000

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