The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) of the International Labour Organization, as well as targets 1.3 and 3.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals, require that all individuals are protected from extreme destitution, by being provided with income security when they cannot obtain an income sufficient to lead a decent life as waged or selfemployed workers. They also require that such income security be ensured in the form of entitlements guaranteed in domestic legislation that individuals may claim before independent bodies when they are denied support. The current economic and social crisis further highlights the urgency of realizing the right to social security.
Low-income countries, however, may not have enough fiscal space to guarantee such entitlements, since the social needs are typically high and public revenues relatively low. Moreover, these countries may have a lowly diversified economy, particularly vulnerable to various types of shocks – economic, climatic and sanitary – which may threaten the viability of social protection schemes when they lead to a sudden increase in expenditures combined with a fall in public revenue.
A global fund for social protection should be set up to increase the level of support to low-income countries, thus helping them both to establish and maintain social protection floors in the form of legal entitlements, and to improve the resilience of social protection systems against shocks. Such a fund is affordable, whether funding comes from official development assistance or from other sources, including unused or new special drawing rights. Moreover, social protection should be seen as an investment with potentially high returns, since it leads to building human capital, has significant multiplier effects in the local economy, and contributes to inclusive growth and to resilience in times of crisis. International support, therefore, should be seen as launching a process that will allow recipient countries to gradually increase the levels of domestic resource mobilization: rather than creating a new form of dependency, it would ensure a predictable level of support to countries that are committed to establishing social protection floors and whose ability to finance social protection would improve in time.
The global fund can be established building on the already existing structures that have developed on an ad hoc basis to provide support for the universalization of social protection floors. The challenge now is to strengthen those structures – not to weaken or duplicate them – in order to ensure they work more effectively with one another, and to scale up the level of support while ensuring that such support is also adaptive to future shocks.
Ten years after the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group recommended the universalization of social protection floors, the Special Rapporteur invites all States, as well as international agencies whose mandate includes social protection, unions, and civil society organizations, to contribute to making the global fund for social protection a reality.