Despite high and lasting economic growth and significant progress in reducing poverty, inequality persists in countries in the Asia and the Pacific region. The growing income and wealth disparities, including unequal opportunities in countries such as Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, reinforce each other to create an inequality trap that disproportionately affects women and society’s most vulnerable.
Towards a Solution
Between 2012 and 2015, the ILO South-South and triangular cooperation project for the implementation of gender-sensitive social protection floors at the country level tackled that issue. The project aimed to improve countries efforts to extend social protection coverage, including social protection floors, and to facilitate South-South and triangular cooperation. The project did this by supporting the systematic, cross-country transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise in the area of social protection. Because the challenges transcended national borders and were highly relevant in the countries of the region, the 24 countries involved shared experiences and established working relationships, which then continued after the project ended. They capitalized on existing knowledge in other countries of the South, which were best suited to respond to their national challenges to extend social protection.
The project facilitated exchanges with technical experts during content production in order to fuel discussion at workshops. The methodology began with a substantial investment in preliminary work, focused on supporting requesting countries in identifying need and matching it with an experience and technical expertise of a country of the South. The preliminary phase included: (a) conducting desk research on existing experiences in a specific area from other countries of the South; (b) identifying a relevant scheme and resource person with whom exchanges could be facilitated; and (c) following the exchange between requesting country and resource person to determine the exact terms of reference (study visit/training/participation in a workshop).
The following are some examples of how the exchanges proved fruitful. The experience of Thailand in strengthening the health protection system and extending health protection was useful for both the health insurance fund and the strategy to extend into Cambodia and the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. The experiences of Brazil, India, Mongolia and others in setting up a coordination mechanism and/or single database of beneficiaries were useful for Cambodia’s social service delivery mechanism also currently being piloted. The experience of India in monitoring and evaluating protocols for social protection schemes proved useful for Cambodia’s new delivery mechanism currently being piloted. The assessment-based national dialogue tool that supports the identification of costed scenarios to extend social protection and facilitate the decision-making process was developed, tested, applied and fine-tuned through South-South exchanges.
In Cambodia, national stakeholders learned from countries’ experiences in setting up a coordination mechanism following the single-window service approach (Brazil, India and Mongolia) to facilitate outreach to rural populations. A monitoring and evaluation protocol was developed based on experiences from India, which helped to strengthen the national health insurance system and staff capacity- building. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, exchanges were productive in supporting the extension of social health protection through the development of the Social Security Law (2013), national health insurance scheme regulations, pilot scheme technical guidelines (2015), and capacity-building of national stakeholders including the new National Social Security Fund.
The project not only helped requesting countries to develop technical skills and capacities to implement social protection floor policies and components but also inspired them to realize that a universal social protection floor could be a reality. By making project information available online or through events, publications and web platforms (including in particular the Global South- South Development Academy web platform, http:// academy.ssc.undp.org, and the ILO Social Protection Platform, www.social-protection.org), more countries are now learning from these experiences and findings.
Whether the experience from another country was replicable or not depended on whether: (a) adequate experience was identified in another country during preliminary research; (b) the country requesting experience was willing to collaborate and exchange with technicians from the other country identified; (c) the persons identified to participate in the South-South exchange were putting into practice lessons learned from another experience; (d) the match-making proved to be adequate in practice; or (e) there was confirmed engagement on the part of decision makers in the requesting country to extend social protection.
The direct recipients of the South-South exchanges were representatives from relevant ministries, decentralized government, social partners, social security institutions and other stakeholders involved in social protection from the 29 participating countries. The ultimate beneficiaries were the populations not covered by social protection. Because women are disproportionally represented, the project focused on promoting a gender-sensitive approach that specifically contributed to achieving greater gender equality. The project was implemented in close collaboration with United Nations resident coordinators and country teams under the auspices of UNDP/UNDG and other United Nations organizations, and partner organizations/donors that are members of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination joint Social Protection Floor Initiative.
Sustainable Development Goal targets: 1.3, 3.8, 5.4, 8.5, 10.4
Countries / territories involved: Benin, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Togo.
In total, 29 countries shared experiences and technical expertise: Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mali, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Togo, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Zambia
Supported by: UNOSSC
Implementing entity: ILO
Project status: Completed
Project period: 2012 – 2015
URL of the practice:
ILO Social Protection Platform / UNOSSC-ILO Project page
Name: Ms. Valérie Schmitt, Chief of the Social Policy, Governance and Standards Branch, Social Protection Department, ILO Geneva
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com