Addis Ababa high-level African meeting endorses Dakar recommendations on social protection for sustainable development

As a result of the efforts made by UNDP through the World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre) and the Regional Service Centre for Africa (RSCA), the Brazilian Government, the Lula Institute and the African Union (AU), the recommendations agreed at the International Seminar on Social Protection in Africa held in Dakar on 8-9 April were endorsed recently by roughly 70 Ministers of African countries at a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 20-24 April.

The Dakar Recommendations (DR) were included in the ministers’ report and final declaration at the First Session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Social Development, Labor and Employment (STC-SDLE-1) of the African Union (AU). Both documents will now be taken to the 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union schedule for 14-15 June in Johannesburg, South Africa.

From there, a cross-continental collaborative e effort is expected to inform a continent-wide policy framework on social protection under the AU Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted at a UN summit in September.

The DR define social protection as a human right that should be part of the national budget with multiplier effect that promotes social and sustainable development, inclusive economic growth, job creation and local markets and is based on national legal frameworks with a full participation of beneficiaries.

Moreover, based on the DR, the final declaration of the Addis Meeting requested the AU Commission to promote South-South cooperation on social protection, in particular with Brazil, in collaboration with international partners like UNDP through the RIO+ Centre and the RSCA, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Building on this momentum, the RIO+ Centre and the UNDP RSCA have already initiated a partnership with the Lula Institute, a non-governmental organization founded by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to translate the DR into action on the ground through a regional programme to be implemented in about 15 African countries.

“Our specific role in this partnership will be to support African countries in framing and implementing social protection policies for sustainable development,” points out Rômulo Paes de Sousa, Director of the RIO+ Centre.

In the long term, the future regional initiative supported by the RIO+ Centre and its partners will help define the UNDP programmatic and policy niche on social protection in the context of the post-2015 development agenda and the SDGs. In particular, this will clearly define UNDP’ value-added to ongoing social protection efforts by other sister UN agencies and partners, such as UNICEF, FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Bank, ILO and AfDB.

In so doing, a strong regional community of practice on social protection in Africa will be established, inter alia, enhancing continent-wide African capacities to better deliver systemic social protection under the SDGs with technical support and experience coming from Brazil while strengthening synergies with other partners.

Progress made and challenges

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, social protection policies have been prominent in the national Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of many African countries as well as the African Union Social Policy Framework.

Thus important progress has been made by some African countries in designing and implementing social protection policies aiming at reducing poverty, inequalities and enhancing the resilience of the most vulnerable groups against various social, environmental and economic shocks throughout their lifecycle. However, countries are still facing many challenges to achieve sustainable development.

The Brazilian social protection model is recognized as one of the best in the developing world and has inspired many nations, including some in Africa already, to build stronger social protection systems based on conditional cash transfers.

To inform ongoing discussions on the Africa social protection vision and policy framework while fine-tuning the concept of social protection under the SDGs, the UNDP through the RIO+ Centre and the RSCA in partnership with AU, the Lula Institute and the Brazilian Government organized the International Seminar on Social Protection in Africa, now known as the Dakar Seminar, a high-level technical meeting held in Dakar, Senegal from 8-9 April. See a fact sheet with relevant figures on the event here.

Gathering 94 participants from 12 African countries*, Brazil and a number of bilateral and multilateral partners, including six UN agencies, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank, the Dakar Seminar concluded with six strong recommendations for the future of social protection in Africa. The Dakar Recommendations include aspects relating to concepts for a more integrated and sustainable development approach to social protection as well as financing and governance.

These recommendations, the interest and momentum galvanized at the technical and political level form the basis for a renewed and expanded social protection agenda in Africa. This agenda is framed in two tracks: on one hand, assuring that social protection is included as an institutional legal framework and public policy pillar at continental and national levels in Africa and on the other, implementing a contextualized social protection for sustainable development programme in African countries.

Both tracks will continue to be supported by the partnership of UNDP, through its RIO+ Centre and RSCA in Addis, with the African Union, the Brazilian Government and the Lula Institute in collaboration with other partners.

Social Protection for Sustainable Development, along with the SDGs, Financing for Sustainable Development, Urbanization/Sustainable Cities and Forest and Livelihoods are the core main work-streams of the RIO+ Centre’s programme for 2015-2017. The proposed regional initiative for Africa provides a critical space for combining all of these programming elements and delivering on an integrated, layered approach, much like that which will be required for the successful achievement of the SDGs across all 193 countries by 2030.

* African delegations at the Dakar Seminar totalled 29 representatives from 12 countries: Cabo Verde, Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe.