Building resilience through adaptive social protection

Speech by Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn at the World Bank Social Protection and Jobs South-South Learning Forum, 19 February 2018 in Frankfurt/Main

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and a warm welcome to Frankfurt on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is an honor to co-host the South-South Learning Forum in Germany and I am very happy to be speaking to you this morning.

The next few days are about learning. We are here to learn from around 70 different countries and from their experiences in adapting and strengthening social protection systems. How can we ensure that our people do not end up falling into poverty as a result of life risks, shocks or crises?

Germany has almost 150 years of experience with social protection. Nevertheless, we are continuously working on adjusting our social protection system for the future. In recent years there have been new challenges that we have had to cope with: in 2015 and 2016, more than one million refugees were registered in Germany.  

During your field trip on Wednesday, you will get an impression of how German local government – but also Germany as a whole – has been challenged logistically, administratively and of course socially and politically by recent events.

What we know for sure is that crises can occur in many ways and at any place. It could be a natural disaster, the consequences of climate change, a financial crisis or an armed conflict.

German development cooperation has a strong commitment to supporting our partner countries in overcoming acute crises. But we are also equally committed to fighting the root causes and preventing crises or at least preventing crises from turning into disasters.

A strong social protection system that is adaptive in a crisis is crucial. Therefore, we are committed to fostering a global exchange on lessons learned. This is what we are aiming for over the next days.

Experience helps us to improve how shocks are tackled through robust social protection systems. So, let me highlight German development cooperation activities in the area of social protection.

We are currently supporting the efforts of 20 partner countries and several regional initiatives in Asia, Africa, the MENA region and Latin America to develop social protection systems. Our bilateral and regional social protection portfolio is worth more than 250 million euros. Over the last four years, this core portfolio has been topped up by almost the same amount (220 million euros) for climate risk insurance and cash-based transfers in transitional aid.

The challenge for us now is to integrate these interventions and thus make them part of a social protection system. Our vision for the world is to achieve universal social protection. Anyone who needs social protection should be able to access it.

We want social protection to help those farthest behind first. In that sense it is not surprising that social protection has found its way into the SDGs. Social protection underlines the core idea of the 2030 Agenda that no one should be left behind.

Thus, Germany is supporting the progressive development of universal social protection systems by 2030. Systems that protect all people against life cycle risks such as illness, loss of income or disability; and provide income security and support across the entire life cycle.

Across the SDGs, social protection is explicitly and implicitly addressed and the aim of the 2030 Agenda is nothing less than to make the universal human right to social protection a reality for everyone. To achieve universal social protection and the 2030 Agenda it is crucial to think beyond sectoral borders and ensure a systemic approach to social protection.

Often there are many programs working in parallel towards the same goals. Political dialogue and coordination are somewhat limited across relevant stakeholders. All this results in a fragmented social protection system.

Thus, in Malawi, for example, we are supporting the Malawian Government’s endeavors to improve the coherence of the five sub-programs under its National Social Support Policy. Harmonization in targeting and in processes, as well as in monitoring and evaluation systems, is well underway.

Social protection is also a bridge between different sectors. Therefore, I would like to highlight that our social protection programs are related to sectors such as climate change adaptation, employment and vocational training, and food security.

Climate change adaptation

With our partner DFID, we have supported African countries in setting up the African Risk Capacity Insurance Company. It offers sovereign drought insurance on behalf of participating African countries, forming a common risk pool.

When a drought hits one of the participating countries, the African Risk Capacity provides fast liquidity linked to a pre-defined contingency plan. This process allows better planning of climate and disaster risk. It also increases the country’s overall resilience against the impacts of climate change. So far, claims have been paid out in four countries, facilitating drought emergency aid for about 2.1 million people.

We aim to link the African Risk Capacity more closely to the social protection systems already in place. For example, in the event of a pay-out, support could be channeled through existing cash-transfer schemes.

The African Risk Capacity is a crucial element of the InsuResilience Global Partnership that we launched with our partners from the World Bank, DFID and representatives from the Vulnerable 20 Group at COP23 in Bonn. The Partnership aims to insure up to 400 million additional people against climate-related hazards by 2020 and to enable a more timely and reliable post-disaster response.

Employment and vocational training

In the Middle East, our Partnership for Prospects provides 'cash for work' to refugees. These programs combine immediately available income with lasting benefits – such as new infrastructure or better communal services. This way, people who have been displaced due to crises and war get a chance to integrate into their host societies.

Wherever possible, we link short-term humanitarian and transitional aid measures with medium- and long-term social protection programs to enhance the resilience of the poor. Social protection enables the participation of poor and vulnerable populations and thus contributes to an inclusive and peaceful society. Social protection is not only a human right; it is a matter of good governance and can enhance the relationship between the state and its citizens.

Food security: Malawi

Malawi is faced with recurrent cyclical crises that hamper poverty reduction. The causes of these crises are complex and diverse. As one of the three countries in the world most affected by climate change, the country is prone to crop failures due to drought and flooding.

Supported by German development cooperation, the Government of Malawi commissioned a comprehensive analysis to strengthen the country’s resilience by adapting the Malawian social protection system to shocks and crisis. It shows that a shock-sensitive social protection system in Malawi can break the vicious cycle, reducing poverty and food insecurity and meeting the chronic and seasonal needs of poor families. A shock-sensitive social protection system ensures that the progress made is protected from predictable seasonal food insecurity and shocks.

This cannot fully replace emergency response, but over time it will reduce the need and costs for year-on-year emergency response and its scale. People will be more resilient to shocks and rely less on emergency relief.

These are just a few examples of our activities. We hope to extend our efforts and continue to work together with you. We need social protection to be universal, scalable and adaptive to crises and shocks.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We all have a responsibility to protect our people, particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I therefore kindly invite all participants to join us in the endeavor to create a strong global Forum on Universal Social Protection (USP2030) based on the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection, launched by the World Bank and ILO in 2016.

The South-South Learning Forum on Social Protection is a prime opportunity to exchange experiences and work towards the improvement and expansion of adaptive social protection systems, having in mind our shared vision of universal social protection.

I would like to thank all participants for coming to Frankfurt and wish you a wonderful stay. I would also like to thank the organisers for putting together this event.

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