Last week, Development Pathways staff presented their findings from a global research project on the governance of social protection systems. The closed webinar was hosted by the International Labour Organization and UN DESA and was attended by technical teams from the two organisations as well as representatives from the social protection sectors in Cambodia and Pakistan. The research is part of a broader International Labour Organization and UN DESA project, which has the objective of strengthening the capacity of the governments of Pakistan and Cambodia to formulate, implement, monitor and evaluate their social protection systems.
Stephen Kidd and Shea McClanahan, Senior Social Policy Specialists, first presented findings of the global overview of good governance. As depicted in Figure 1, key mechanisms, tools and structures for improving governance can be categorised into three levels, with cross-cutting good governance principles applying equally throughout. The presenters emphasised that core lifecycle schemes that are based on individual entitlements and that are available to the general population are not only conducive to more streamlined, integrated institutional frameworks, but are easier to coordinate and integrate through information management systems.
Alexandra Barrantes, Sarina Kidd and Shea McClanahan then presented findings from the project’s individual case studies on Argentina, Kenya and the small island states of Mauritius and Fiji. Presenters suggested that Argentina is an interesting example of how to gradually expand coverage of schemes and to integrate contributory and tax-financed systems within a context of a strong rights-based tradition and longstanding institutional stability in social protection provision. In contrast, Kenya’s social protection system has undergone a rapid transformation from a high degree of fragmentation and low national ownership, toward a more inclusive, lifecycle-based system, a transformation that was partly achieved through greater institutional coordination and a robust Single Registry. Finally, Mauritius, long hailed as a leader in the provision of lifecycle social security, has introduced significant risk into its social protection governance processes with the shift toward the Marshall Plan/ “empowerment” frame, while Fiji has taken important steps toward developing simpler, core lifecycle programmes, aided by a national consultative process and administrative/regulatory changes that led to a large and rapid increase in coverage of the old-age social pension. The audience also heard from Professor Hong Mi and Ms. Qiyini Ma from Zhejiang University, who presented their case study on China’s governance mechanisms.
Ultimately, the authors found that achieving universal social protection requires thinking about governance from a whole system perspective and that individual components — even if well-governed — only contribute to universal social protection if they operate within a broader, well-governed system.