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Plenary session 4: Institutional arrangements and partnerships

Building global partnerships and strengthening institutional arrangements for social protection

How can governments increase the coverage of adaptive social protection systems by aligning the contributions of different actors behind strong national institutions and a shared vision for social protection? And what role can tailored support from global initiatives play in this regard? This was the subject of a plenary session on institutional arrangements and partnerships – the fourth ‘building block’ of adaptive social protection – on the final day of the Global Forum on Adaptive Social Protection, organised by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the World Bank.

The next crisis is waiting around the corner: Time to bring strategies for adaptive social protection together

Dirk Meyer
Dirk Meyer, BMZ

Dirk Meyer, Director General, Global Health Employment, Transformation of the Economy, Digital Technologies, Food & Nutrition Security at BMZ, kicked off the session with an energising, ‘glass half-full’ take on the challenges facing the global social protection community in the post-COVID period.

‘We now understand that the next crisis is waiting around the corner,’ he said. ‘Adaptive social protection is crucial.’ The challenge is how to develop these systems in coordinated way that combines the strengths of UN organisations, international financial institutions and bilateral development partners – many of whom now assign a central role to adaptive social protection in their respective strategies. 

BMZ has seen the great potential of effective coordination, according to Dirk Meyer. In the Sahel region it has not only successfully partnered with different bilateral and multilateral agencies, but also worked across sectors to foster the convergence of development and humanitarian support. Recently, BMZ launched a new joint financing mechanism, under the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, to facilitate and incentivize closer partnership between the World Bank and other international financing institutions and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other UN agencies. 

‘Easy things are sometimes complicated,’ said Dirk Meyer, and there are reasons why broad consensus over the need for partnerships often fails to translate into new ways of working.

At the beginning of these processes it is sometimes very hard because we see mainly transaction costs. But we overcame that, built trust, put the strategies together and constructed a joint governance and a joint financial structure. Soon we will start with pathfinder countries to show that these coherent and combined structures can work.

Dirk Meyer

Dirk Meyer concluded his comments by welcoming the momentum that is building among so many different organisations and actors to invest in ‘resilient systems in complicated and insecure times.’ In the panel discussion which followed, representatives from the governments of Cambodia and Senegal, the ILO, and the World Food Programme (WFP) talked about what this momentum looks like from their vantage points. The discussion was moderated by Mattias Lundberg, Partnerships Manager at the World Bank.

Adaptive social protection relies on system – and human – interoperabilities

Foto: Steffen Kugler
Chan Narith, National Social Protection Council, Cambodia

 Social protection programmes only work as well as the institutional arrangements which underpin them. Dr Chan Narith, Secretary General of Cambodia’s National Social Protection Council, illustrated this by describing what is required behind the scenes to deliver a nationwide cash transfer programme which was launched by the Government of Cambodia more than two years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five different government ministries, 1,700 commune offices, 55,000 money transfer agents, numerous civil society organisations and eight different external development partners have been directly involved in designing and implementing the programme, which covers 2.7 million Cambodians at a cost of US$30 million per month. 

The key ingredients for success? According to Chan Narith, these include a strong policy framework, good programme design based on inclusive consultations, effective systems for identification and cash delivery and, most importantly, strong government leadership and effective steering via an inter-ministerial council. 

‘We have worked together for more than five years to set up and have in place the arrangements so that programmes like this could be implemented in a smooth way,’ said Chan Narith. He ended by emphasising the importance of trusting relationships within government and with external partners.

Programme design, coordination across ministries and development partners, delivery systems – all of this is very important. System interoperabilities – social registries, data – are needed, too. But in the end, human interoperabilities need to be there to bring this effort together in a trustful environment.

Chan Narith

Governments should set clear frameworks to align partners’ contributions

El Hadji Ndiogou Diouf, General Secretary, Ministry of Community Development, National Solidarity and Social and Territorial Equity, Senegal
Ndiogou Diouf, Ministry of Community Development, National Solidarity and Social and Territorial Equity, Senegal

El Hadji Ndiogou Diouf, the General Secretary of Senegal’s Ministry of Community Development, National Solidarity and Social and Territorial Equity spoke about the critical role of the state in setting a clear framework around which various partners can align their contributions.

Senegal has a three-pillared social protection strategy focused on economic growth, the development of human capital, and governance and peace. Priority action plans at ministry level help to identify projects and allocate funding. ‘If partners’ projects are consistent with our priority plans, they can join easily,’ Ndiogou Diouf explained.

The Government of Senegal leads efforts to mobilise financing for social protection from external partners and steers how it is allocated and used, in line with national priorities. To re-launch the economy after COVID-19, for example, the government kicked off a recovery program with US$1.5 million in domestic funding. International financial institutions, including the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, contributed additional funds and the International Monetary Fund allowed certain social programmes to be financed. In this way, multiple partners were feeding into a single national recovery fund. 

This was important because it allowed us to create a strategic steering committee under the president; a technical committee, directed by the Ministry of Finance, which was responsible for operationalisation; and a follow-up committee for operational oversight involving various actors, including the private sector.

Ndiogou Diouf

In times of crisis and shocks, ‘the state is there to take care of vulnerable people,’ Ndiogou Diouf continued, and it must be the one in charge of leading resource mobilisation with external partners. This is incredibly challenging in times of budget deficit, he conceded, but ‘we need to be there and create the right taxation system and the right budgetary mechanisms to accelerate support to the people who need it most.’  

Social protection in fragile contexts: What role for partnerships in ‘unpacking the nexus’?

The World Food Programme is present in contexts where ‘social protection systems are not operating, they are failing, they are broken or they do not exist,’ said Ute Klamert, Deputy Executive Director of Partnerships at WFP. She described the enormous practical challenges the WFP and other humanitarian agencies face in verification, in targeting assistance, and in assuring that payments reach those identified as most vulnerable in a specific situation.

Ute Klamert, Deputy Executive Director Partnerships, World Food Programme
Ute Klamert, World Food Programme

 ‘We have never seen such a huge demand in terms of humanitarian needs,’ said Ute Klamert. At the same time the humanitarian system is facing huge funding gaps. The only way to break through the vicious cycle is by investing in integrated resilience packages – and building adaptive social protection systems is the right approach.  

In its efforts to ‘unpack the nexus,’ WFP is widening its focus beyond national disaster management agencies – its traditional entry point – and increasingly engaging with different ministries, such as finance and planning, economic affairs, agriculture, social protection, education and climate. It also works with special agencies which, for instance, coordinate social protection and disaster risk management, such as the one which has been created in Niger. In her view, international organisations need to work together to create evidence that ‘investment in social protection is smart’ in order to facilitate political decision-making.

What we’ve learned is that the most important ones to talk to are the Minister of Planning and the Minister of Finance. That’s where the decisions are made in terms of the costing exercise, the long-term solution.

Ute Klamert

She welcomed the move away from voluntary cooperation between international organisations in the direction of structured initiatives. ‘Governments deserve coordinated, coherent support,’ she said. Initiatives like the World Bank Compact, the Global Accelerator and the Global Shield are great and a ‘big push for the social protection approach.’

‘We are doing something very promising together’

A major advantage of global initiatives is their ability to bring institutions with complementary approaches and expertise into common cause. This is the case with the BMZ-led financing mechanism under the Global Accelerator, which aims to foster closer partnership between UN agencies and international financing institutions. 

Dr Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department at the ILO, said that one of the most promising features of the Global Accelerator is the way it seeks to bring investments in social protection systems to work in tandem with investments in the real economy and job creation. 

Investments in social protection makes people more productive, increases employability, gives a fair chance to access labour markets and get decent jobs. This needs to be complemented with investments in promising sectors through other kinds of policies: industrial policies, job centers and so forth. Labour market investments are absolutely key.

Shahra Razavi

This cannot be done without a whole-of-government approach, she said. Ministries of labour and ministries in charge of social protection should not be working in silos: `This means bringing together the Ministry of Finance, planning commissions and so forth to really look at interconnections and at the integrated policies that we need for social protection and decent employment.’

Dr Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department, International Labour Organization
Shahra Razavi, International Labour Organization

Shahra Razavi went on to note that many of the norms and guiding principles which governments and social partners, including trade unions, have agreed upon have become embedded in global partnerships: ‘Issues of universality of coverage, country ownership, equity in financing – all of these principles are now reflected in these global partnerships’ of which ILO is also a part, she said. 

While welcoming the many areas in which international organisations are united, she also noted that there are certain agendas and policy areas where they are not fully aligned. Although the aim of building universal social protection systems is shared, there are differing views, for example, on the role of a rights-based approach in social protection and on which financing instruments are preferable and whether they have to include a solidarity component. In advising national governments, ‘we need to be much clearer about what we’re saying and find common ground to the extent possible, without ignoring the differences that still remain,’ noted Shahra Razavi. ‘The fact that we are all in the same room, and are working together under the Global Accelerator, is a positive development.’

A renewed commitment to working together

 Wrapping up the session, Mattias Lundberg ended on a note of optimism: ‘I am convinced that we cannot do this alone. We cannot do this as independent agencies going off in different and conflicting directions. We need to work together.’

Mattias Lundberg, Partnerships Manager, World Bank
Mattias Lundberg, World Bank

He noted that the World Bank’s new president, Ajay Banga, has been ‘modelling this behaviour as well as delivering this message’ during his early engagements with the G20 and with regional development banks. ‘We have a corporate incentive and instruction to increase our collaboration with other agencies,’ said Mattias Lundberg. 

‘I hope after these three days we can all be committed to increasing the work we do together to achieve these objectives, to overcome the gaps we’ve referred to, and to drive our collective efforts to achieve SDG 1.3,’ he concluded.

June 2023

© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
© GIZ/Steffen Kugler
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