Conference on Social Protection in Dhaka
9th - 10th October, 2011
Social protection has assumed some prominence in the development literature in recent years. Similarly, the associated reform agenda has been taken up in countries across the globe and has undergone what Hulme and Barrientos (2008) refer to as a quiet revolution. The adoption of effective social protection systems now forms part of a triad of policy reforms (the others being accelerated economic growth and sound public provisioning) in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. A major theme has been a movement away from viewing social protection in terms of an ad hoc set of special assistance measures to a strategic policy response which tackles the root causes of poverty. Operational issues have included: the poor functionality of legacy systems and institutions; the use of recipient conditions linked to the building of human capital in facilitating graduation out of poverty (social ladders evolved from safety nets); concern for coverage and access as well as targeting and leakages; and the importance of securing good fit with informal (often familial) support mechanisms.
Bangladesh is no exception to these developments and social protection is a major and topical issue within domestic policy circles. Government spending on social protection amounts to around 15% of public expenditure and a plethora of donor funded programmes has emerged in recent years. Development of an improved framework and delivery mechanisms are at the core of the Governmentís Sixth Five Year Plan (SFYP). Moreover, as a major study prepared for UNDP by PPRC makes clear, Bangladesh, more than other countries, serves as key case study for the application of social protection in an environment plagued by systemic risks. These are given by environmental threats heighted by climate change (periodic cyclones and severe seasonal flooding), a basic vulnerability to changes in global economic conditions (due to an economic model anchored in overseas trade and remittance inflows) and a series of socio-economic constraints (notably, poverty remains high with a headcount of 31.5 per cent).
UNDP has come together with key development partners, to organize a major conference on these issues, with the twin objectives of facilitating high level reforms and improving current practice. This will be achieved through the dissemination of knowledge and expertise, drawing on international experience and cutting-edge research. The specific objectives are to:
- Make a compelling case for policy reform, grounded in social protectionís contribution to addressing the drivers of poverty and vulnerability; and specifically to support the development and adoption of a National Social Protection Strategy
- Address key design questions within delivery programmes, notably: achieving effective targeting alongside wide coverage (and resolving the tensions); securing basic entitlements and capabilities; and promoting sustainable graduation from poverty.
- Address questions of how reform might be secured in difficult political, institutional and financial contexts.