Social protection & the inclusion of persons of concern: Regional analysis of the inclusion of UNHCR Persons of Concern in government social protection systems and implications for future action
Africa’s East, Horn and Great Lakes (EHAGL) Region is experiencing increased frequency, severity and duration of crises, with new conflicts swelling displaced and
refugee caseloads. Increasingly protracted displacement is compounded by growing climatic shocks and inadequate humanitarian resources to meet the needs that these scenarios are generating. However, despite this challenging context progress is being made in the establishment, strengthening and reach of social protection’ policies, systems and programmes across the region alongside increased investment in these systems. This is often heavily resourced by development partners, as a more sustainable approach to humanitarian crises, but in some countries, there is an increase in tax-based domestic financing. COVID-19 has further accelerated efforts to scale up social protection systems, building on strong evidence of the efficacy of social protection systems in reaching the most vulnerable.
Within both humanitarian and development sectors there is growing recognition of the role that social protection can play in reducing poverty and addressing lifecycle risks and vulnerabilities. In many countries pilot interventions are proving effective and are influencing the approaches of governments and development partners and are being scaled up into government social safety net programmes. Delivery systems are improving and there is an increased focus on developing systems that are shock-responsive with the ability to scale up and respond to drought, floods or conflict. Despite resource, capacity, fragmentation and coordination challenges the number of vulnerable people supported by social protection systems is steadily growing. This is in line with the wider shift towards the use of cash transfers for humanitarian response. There is a growing body of robust evidence of the efficacy of social protection and social transfers in both development and crisis contexts.
The growth of inclusive social protection systems aiming to deliver more effective, efficient and sustainable solutions for vulnerable populations presents an opportunity for UNHCR. This entails re-examining ways of responding to the basic and protection needs of forcibly displaced communities and exploring the role that government social protection systems can play in meeting the needs of persons of concern (PoC), accelerating the agenda of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and promoting inclusion, efficiency, sustainability and area-based solutions.
It is in this context that UNHCR has developed a global roadmap for inclusion of PoC in government social protection systems. This study aims to inform the implementation of this roadmap in the EHAGL region. It provides an overview of the social protection landscape in the region and categorises countries according to the level of development of their social protection systems. Nascent systems primarily invest in the expansion of social safety nets and access to social health protection and school feeding programmes, with parallel humanitarian programming. Some countries are also developing contributory schemes such as social insurance and contributory pensions, but to date these only reach a small proportion of the formal sector. Most of the population across the region, including refugees who are working, have livelihoods in the informal sector. There is growing recognition of the need to expand the reach of social insurance mechanisms and provide more flexible products tailored to informal sector workers and accompany the development of these schemes with outreach programmes to ensure uptake.
The study then maps existing levels of inclusion of PoC in social protection systems for each country. In most countries we see partial inclusion through, for example, refugee (largely urban) participation in national health insurance schemes, social registries or social safety nets (incorporating IDP populations or refugee and vulnerable host communities). In some countries, inclusion may be established at the policy level but not yet operationalized. In other countries, policy discussions are just beginning or have not yet begun. Opportunities for inclusion vary greatly across the region, determined by the context in each country, categories of
PoC, as well as the level of development of social protection systems.
The study identifies nine enablers of inclusion. These include the protection policy environment, financing, capacity, the level of development of the social protection system, inclusion of PoC in national data sets, ability of PoC to meet eligibility criteria, access to identity documents and financial systems and levels of UNHCR engagement in the sector (coordination, accompanying and monitoring inclusion). The study elaborates several recommendations for UNHCR to advance social protection inclusion at a country level. While these are aimed primarily at UNHCR country operations, they are equally relevant to other stakeholders including host governments, donors, and other development partners, who are interested to further PoC inclusion.
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees