12th December: Social protection authorities can ensure programmes respect key human rights principles by assessing the impact on disadvantaged citizens and empowering them to seek redress.
This is the message of a newly published paper that throws a spotlight on the need for assessments of whether citizens are discriminated against at every stage in a scheme’s process – from registration (pictured) to grievance. Such assessments must identify the need for affirmative actions to support disadvantaged citizens to enjoy their rights, the report author, Magdalena Sepúlveda, argues, in the week we mark Human Rights Day 2018.
For example, “requiring a birth certificate from everyone registering onto a social protection programme may discriminate against women, and ethnic minorities, who tend to not possess such documents, or might have been denied such certificates”. Requiring school attendance “may discriminate against girls where there are no separate sanitation facilities at schools,” according to Sepúlveda, Senior Research Associate at the UN Research Institute for Social Development, and former UN rapporteur on human rights and extreme poverty.
Sepúlveda’s paper, recently presented to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, highlights good practices by programme designers. The Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme, for example, had to confront the problem that many Pakistani women are less mobile because they are heavily engaged in household labour. “Programme delivery mechanisms needed to reach out to these women in innovative ways. To this end, the programme does not require female recipients to collect the transfer money from a central disbursement point, but… delivers [it to them] on their doorsteps through the Pakistan Post Office.”
She also flags the need for all potential beneficiaries to not only have the information on programmes, as is their right, but also to be able to use that information to seek redress. As such, the paper sets out recommended practices such as informing participants about complaint mechanisms or providing a charter of rights laying out service delivery norms, as the HSNP (Hunger Safety Net Programme) in Kenya does.
And she underlines that even when programmes have mechanisms in place, marginalisation and fear of reprisals may prevent them being used, and recommends collective control mechanisms such as used by the 5,500 social controls committees within the Bolsa de Familia in Brazil. “[They] have proven effective in ensuring that even the poorest communities can be able to participate in redress mechanisms.”
Commenting, Alexandra Barrantes, Senior Social Policy Specialist, said: “Development Pathways advocates a consideration of the entire process, not only the outcomes, in realising social rights and the implementation of social protection programmes. This timely paper deserves a wide audience in the social protection sector, and the international development field in general.”
Pictured: Registration is the first stage in the process of implementing a social protection scheme for citizens.