Social Protection for Sustainable Development: SP4SD

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Making sustainable development a reality by 2030 will require a substantial transformation to be made to current development practices. The significant increase in the number and quality of social protection systems throughout the Global South brings renewed hope and enthusiasm, representing one of the most positive changes the world has witnessed in recent decades. Seizing this positive change as a catalytic force
for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a must. As an effort to support policy implementation and to bring an upInfographics1_v2-to-date analysis of creative policies blossoming across the African continent, the UNDP World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre) and the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa present the first RIO+ global report, focusing on social protection as a key ally to pursuing sustainable development.  This report builds on the experiences of Africa and Brazil to capture lessons to inspire citizens and provide policymakers with much needed information on existing programmes and their design and implementation processes. Calling for the expansion of social protection agenda as a vital tool to transforming development towards sustainability, the global report highlights that, despite the significant expansion of programmes throughout Africa, only 20 percent of the continent’s poorest people have access to social protection mechanisms to help them cope when shocks hit or provide opportunities to climb out of poverty.

The Social Protection for Sustainable Development (SD4SD) report is based on the contributions and  recommendations of the International Seminar on Social Protection held in Dakar, Senegal in April 2015, which was organized by UNDP (RIO+Centre and the Regional Centre for Africa), the African Union and the Governments of Senegal and Brazil.  The recommendations from the Dakar Seminar were subsequently endorsed by African Ministers at the First Session of the Specialised Technical Committee on Social Development, Labour and Employment and at the Twenty-Fifth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union. The Dakar Seminar identified a mounting demand for an updated analysis of the current state-of-the-art of social protection and for more dialogue between Africa, Brazil and the Global South for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

UNDP Blog: Social protection renews optimism for sustainable development

Worker at the Warrap State Hospital, South Sudan. Photo: UN/JC Mcllwaine

Worker at the Warrap State Hospital, South Sudan. Photo: UN/JC Mcllwaine

The media often supplements talks of the Global South with illustrations of humanitarian tragedies and persistent development bottlenecks. However, this traditional news coverage overlooks a very positive and impactful transformation taking place in Africa and the bigger South: the impressive growth in social protection systems, the establishment of new foundations for advancing sustainable development and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.


In a global scenario so-often punctuated by stereotyped images of persistent poverty and despair, it is our role to point out to solutions and inspiring examples of action. Strengthening social protection for sustainable development (or SP4SD, as proposed in the report) is a positive new paradigm emerging in the Global South that will be decisive in the realization of the 2030 Agenda.

Read here the full blog co-authored by the director of the RIO+ Centre, Romulo Paes de Sousa, and the director of the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa, Lebogang Motlana.

Video interview: The director of the RIO+ Centre presents the SP4SD global report

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Full version

Executive Summary

Acknowledgements, by Romulo Paes de Sousa and Lebogang Motlana, UNDP

Foreword, by Magdy Martínez-Solimán and Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP

Preface, by Tereza Campello, Brazil’s former Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger; and Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union

Chapter 1Chapter 1: Introducing Social Protection and Sustainable Development

Since the turn of the century, low- and middle-income countries have introduced or expanded a variety of programmes and policies to address poverty and vulnerability. In middle-income countries, their growth has been astounding. In low-income countries, in general, progress has been slower, as a consequence of persistent capacity and resource constraints. Improved economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa generates optimism for the future, particularly in the context of the fiscal space it could open up for the expansion and the deepening of protective mechanisms for the most vulnerable. This chapter traces the main achievements, issues, and challenges associated with the rapid expansion of social protection, and especially social assistance, in low- and middle-income countries. It argues that, from a global perspective, the expansion of social protection in developing countries signals the emergence of new welfare institutions committed to achieving significant and sustained improvements in human development among disadvantaged groups, which is a key component of sustainable development.

Chapter 2Chapter 2: Social Protection in the Context of Sustainable Development: Challenges and opportunities

This chapter aims to define the importance of social protection policies as contributors to the three dimensions of sustainable development. It outlines some of the diverse approaches and innovations being employed to provide safety nets, create employment, build resilience and generate public environmental, economic and social goods. It also reviews the main challenges in promoting social protection in the context of a triple-win approach to development, and concludes by providing some general recommendations to better position social protection as a key tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chapter 3Chapter 3: Social Protection in Africa: Present and multiple futures

Countries and international development agencies agree that this is the time to advance the social protection agenda in Africa. This chapter reviews social protection programmes in Africa and identifies the gaps in institutional capacity and challenges for management, which includes issues related to design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and sustainable financing. The paper concludes with several policy recommendations to advance the social protection agenda in Africa. It promotes a more systemic and holistic approach to social protection and targeting to reach out to people who are systematically marginalized and excluded. Grounding social protection in human rights requires providing it to all people whose basic human rights are not being fulfilled. Social protection systems work better under the life cycle approach, which accompanies individuals throughout their lives.

Chapter 4Chapter 4: On the Path to Economic Emergence: Social protection in Senegal

Over the past decade, Senegal has made social protection one of its national development priorities by adopting its first National Strategy for Social Protection for the 2005-2015 period. The strategy was elaborated through a participatory process that involved all stakeholders. In the Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE, Emerging Senegal Plan), Senegal treats social protection as an investment on a par with financial investments in economic infrastructure, and no longer as a sector that is merely to benefit from economic growth. This chapter presents an overview of social protection policies and programmes adopted in Senegal in the last ten years. It identifies the results obtained to date, describes the challenges the country continues to face and presents the plans the Government of Senegal will implement in order to strengthen the national social protection system.

Chapter 5Chapter 5: Social Protection and Social Development: The recent experience in Brazil

This chapter gives an overview of the current configuration of Brazil’s social protection system, which is guided by the principles of universal access, the primacy of the state in the provision of benefits and services, decentralization and democratization. It presents the main policies and structures designed to ensure the delivery of cash transfer benefits and services, while focusing on innovations in the provision of protection to the most vulnerable sectors of society. Linked mainly to social assistance policy, these programmes and measures are interconnected with other social policies that aim to guarantee rights.

Chapter 6Chapter 6: The Brazil Without Extreme Poverty Plan: Using policy integration and adaptation to reach ambitious goals

In recent years, Brazil has demonstrated its ability to promote economic growth and social inclusion simultaneously by investing significantly in the development of a social protection model founded on a multidimensional rights-based approach. Building on the social protection programmes and activities adopted by previous administrations, the Brazilian government launched the Plano Brasil Sem Miséria (PBSM, or the Brazil Without Extreme Poverty Plan in English) in June 2011 with the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2014. The Plan subscribes to the international trend of associating social assistance with employment and income-generation policies. This paper systematically describes the PBSM implementation process and its initial results.

Chapter 7Chapter 7: Social Rights, Income Distribution and Economic Growth: The Brazilian social policy experience

This chapter examines the relation between social policy and the economy, mainly in regards to income distribution and economic growth in Brazil in recent years. It first seeks to define and outline the concrete dimensions of social policy in Brazil and show its current scope in terms of the benefits it provides, expenditure and the forms of funding used. It then demonstrates how these policies contribute significantly to economic growth and the redistribution of income in the country.

Chapter 8Chapter 8: Brazil-Africa Cooperation on Food and Nutrition Security: Planting seeds in unfamiliar soil

The current context of development cooperation is characterized by the transition from emergency food aid to efforts to develop national programmes on access to food, redefine the strategies of international organizations and strengthen ties between agriculture, nutrition and social protection. Some of these efforts are focused on building national programmes capable of linking access to food with production. Due to external factors (food crisis and climate change) and internal factors in Brazil, growing attention has been given to Brazilian food and nutrition security programmes (PAA and PNAE) in global policy spaces and similar programmes are being adopted in African countries. Due to the institutional specificities of Brazilian South-South cooperation, trilateral arrangements have been made with international organizations on the implementation of these programmes. To analyse the potentials and challenges of “policy transfer” in this sector and possible paths for strengthening South-South cooperation, this chapter explores the lessons learned thus far in the implementation of these programmes.

Chapter9Chapter 9: People, Nature and Sustainable Development: Towards the next generation of social protection systems

Social protection is evolving and its coverage is expanding to respond to the multiple vulnerabilities of disadvantaged groups. This broader scope is reflected in the recent social protection strategies and policy statements of major international and multilateral organizations and their efforts to explore potential synergies between social protection and other sectors, such as agriculture, food security and nutrition; environment; climate adaptation; and gender. This chapter develops a framework for understanding social protection as a platform for coordinating different types of interventions focused on reducing multiple vulnerabilities. It also provides recommendations for the design and implementation of a new generation of more coherent and integrated social protection initiatives that aim to achieve sustainable development goals, increase resilience, alleviate poverty and improve well-being.

ChChapter 10 - Moving Forward on Social Protection in the 2030 Agendaapter 10: Moving Forward on Social Protection in the 2030 Agenda

Social protection programmes are among the most successful development experiences the world has seen in recent years. They have proven to be key in developing countries’ efforts to fight poverty and hunger, as demonstrated by the substantial progress countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia and Senegal have made in poverty reduction through the adoption and expansion of social protection schemes. These and other examples clearly show that social protection has the potential to contribute significantly to long-term sustainable development, especially when built under a broader, more integrated framework.

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