Social protection floors – against poverty and inequality

In order to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and ensure human rights, it is important to adopt national social protection floors, services and income protection

Right to social security is a human right[1]. From the human rights based approach we need to ensure that all can participate in the society.

The key to sustainable economies is to maximise the use of human resources by enabling all women and men to participate in growth.

Guaranteeing access to basic services and income, bringing healthier and more secure people, is not only morally right, but a way to allow the use all the potential there is for development. For example in Finland we consider services, such as affordable daycare, and basic income, such as student allowance, as a tool for social mobility.

Social protection is probably the most effective strategy a government can adopt to reduce inequalities and poverty. A social safety net makes a country less vulnerable to economic shocks. It also allows for risk-taking that is needed for innovation and entrepreneurship.

The existing strategy for economic growth has not tackled the economic inequalities. We need more social justice.

I am really happy that social protection is gaining momentum in Africa. The sixth International policy conference on the African child (IPC) on 28 October called “upon African governments together with their partners, to commit to designing, implementing appropriate national social protection programmes, within overall social policy frameworks, that put children at the centre of the process.“

All this is why I as the minister for international development of Finland 2011-2013 reintroduced social issues in the core of our development platform. Speaking of good practices, we developed for example a successful pilot project of cash transfers in Zambia to support the basic security of the vulnerable persons. After the pilot, the Zambian government committed to the transfers as they increased substantially the financial input.

Finland is taking a lead role in lifting social protection higher to the agenda of the EU’s official development assistance. Our foreign ministry has promised financial support for a joint program of EU’s development cooperation, OECD and Finland called “Supporting inclusive and sustainable social protection system in developing countries”.

Social protection in Post 2015 goals

Now the most urgent is to include social protection into the post 2015 goals. European Parliament should demand it from the Council.

Millennium development goals did not address enough the growing inequalities between and in societies. Therefore, the sustainable development goals need to focus in reducing inequalities. This is fortunately highlighted in the UN open working group for sustainable development report, but it is not yet enough. Inequality and social protection is one of the goals, but they should be mentioned in all of the,.

The working group report associates social protection targets with ending poverty, gender equality and healthy life.

As the chair of European Parliament’s working group on sexual and reproductive health and rights I consider very important that the access to sexual and reproductive health care is mentioned. The goals and targets of the promising report should be supported.

I fully endorse the target to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable.”

The UN open working group could still do more to emphasise participation of all in a society. Social protection should also be included in the framework of decent work in the future sustainable development goals.

The European Commission has acknowledged it its communication on “A Decent Life for All”. The EU has to ensure that social protection is considered as a wider approach, in line with the working group report.

The European Parliament development committee will need to make sure these are included when working with the Post 2015 report, and keep the demand that “the new framework should respond effectively to these challenges and tackle important issues such as (…) social protection.”

Speech for the European Parliament for Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, Brot für die Welt ja Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Solidar 4 November 2014

[1]     For example, in article 22 and 25 UDHR and article 9 ICESCR.