Bridging the (social justice) gap: Civil Society Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection

It is in view of the COVID-19 emergency and of the renewed and heightened need to protect citizens from insecurity and guarantee them respect for their fundamental rights that SOLIDAR expresses its firm support for the Civil Society Call for a Global Fund for Social Protection, launched by the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.

Social protection is an essential tool to reduce and prevent poverty, social inequality, exclusion and insecurity, to promote equality of opportunity, as well as to support the transition from informal to formal employment.

As such, the member states of the United Nations have long recognised the right to social protection as a human right, which is in fact enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). ILO Recommendation No. 202 on social protection floors (2012) also commits signatory states to guaranteeing their citizens the security of an income throughout life, in the form of various social transfers, as well as the availability, affordability and quality of a set of essential services, including health care and education.

Yet, despite these commitments made by governments around the world, only 45% of the global population is currently effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit. The remaining population – more than 4 billion people – is completely unprotected.

The main reason for that is lack of funding: the majority of these vulnerable individuals live in low-income developing countries, which, according to the latest ILO estimates, should invest $1.2 trillion – on average 3.8% of their GDP - to guarantee just a basic social protection to their citizens.

If the situation was already meager before the COVID-19 crisis, the latter only worsened the existing social protection emergency, as millions of people lost their income, health and security as a consequence of it, highlighting the need for social protection for all through national and international solidarity.

The World Bank estimates that in 2020 alone, and as a direct result of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, between 71 and 100 million additional people will fall into extreme poverty. This would represent the first increase in global extreme poverty since 1998. 176 million more people are also predicted to start living under the $3.20/day and $5.50/day international poverty lines, and the projected impacts of the crisis are likely to be long-lasting. In this scenario, the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty by 2030 is at risk of not being met.

The proposed Global Fund for Social Protection would allow governments worldwide to ensure – through national and global solidarity – that national social protection mechanisms are made available for all people, as it would “support countries to design, implement and, in specific cases, provide temporary co-financing for national social protection floors.” The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights already emphasised his support for the creation of this Fund, and the Civil Society Call for its creation has already been under-signed by 200 civil society organisations and trade unions from all around the world.

To present and discuss the Call and how the EU could support such a fund, SOLIDAR and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Brussels Office) will host a webinar on Decent Work and Social Protection in the Framework of the Africa Week, hosted by the S&D Group within the European Parliament on October 14th.