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Social protection

Social protection: an important instrument in the fight against poverty


An African family of five.

73 per cent of the world's popu­la­tion have to live without any social pro­tec­tion. They have no pro­tec­tion against risks such as sick­ness, un­em­ploy­ment and pov­er­ty in old age.

Social protection has been enshrined as a human right in numerous in­ter­na­tional conventions, including the United Nations Social Compact, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Women, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of People with Dis­abi­li­ties. Social protection is es­sen­tial to sus­tain­able economic de­vel­op­ment and suc­cess­ful pov­er­ty reduction – and thus a key to achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

In many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries traditional mutually sup­port­ive com­mun­i­ties – first and foremost the family – are the only form of social protection. But demo­graphic de­vel­op­ments, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and the growth of migration mean that more and more families are stretched to breaking point.

Changes in living conditions, growing social inequalities and new risks, for in­stance on account of cli­mate change, mean that social pro­tec­tion sys­tems are gain­ing in­creas­ing im­por­tance in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. They need to

  • save people from hardship,
  • cushion the blow caused by personal crises or financial problems,
  • strengthen on a permanent basis the capacity of poor people to help themselves and to make private provision so as to be able to cope with crises, and
  • support people living in extreme pov­er­ty and those unable to support themselves and enable them to lead a life of human dignity.

protection systems thus contribute very directly and effectively to preventing and reducing pov­er­ty, they promote social cohesion and help to maintain stability and peace in a coun­try.

Major challenges

The coun­tries with which Germany cooperates face major challenges when it comes to establishing and de­vel­op­ing social protection systems. Up to 85 per cent of the working popu­la­tion in these coun­tries are employed in the informal sector, which is why they generally have no access to conventional state social protection systems. In addition, existing systems are often under-funded and redistribute existing resources to benefit more affluent popu­la­tion groups.

There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution when it comes to de­vel­op­ing viable and socially equitable protection systems: The key is to develop systems that are adapted to the specific needs of each coun­try. Reform processes in this area can only be effective in the long run if the state, civil society and the private sector cooperate closely. Together they can create a social protection system for the entire popu­la­tion that takes account of the interests of all those affected.

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