Second Day Reflections

(originally posted in Eldis Communities)

I turned up just in time on the second day of the Social Protection for Social Justice Conference to contribute to the opening session of reflections from Tuesday’s presentations and discussion. In addition to the thoughts I blogged on yesterday I added two reflections from overnight. The first was that the access to social protection assets panel had highlighted the significant part that identity plays in access. Discussion of migrant access had highlighted the importance of the portability of identity across geo-legislative borders. The disasters discussion had revealed the importance of the persistence of identity in the face of shocks for people to access relief services when formal documentation systems collapsed. The second overnight thought responds to discussions of how ‘social policy’ had shown a longer history of socially progressive movement with a potentially historic future. But that within the development sector social protection (as a sub-strand of social policy) had got stuck in a rut. For social protection to get out of the rut it might explore practices of backcasting to envisage that progressive future and then work back in stages to help us think what actions were needed in the present to get there. Backcasting was to feature again in the first panel of the day I attended.

The Alternative Visions for Rights Based Social Protection panel started on a good note with Kate Carroll exploring social protection in ActionAid’s National Development Strategy project. Conscious of several dimensions of social protection missing from government national development strategies (rights, power, gender) and taking a rights based approach, ActionAid in Nepal, Nigeria and Kenya were consciously developing alternative national visions. Using a process of backcasting that learns from the envisaging the future, ActionAid with its partners were working to contest formal National Development Strategies in ways that highlighted the roots of inequality and helped to forge coalitions for progressive social protection policy. The other presentation I liked from this panel was from Dipankar Datta (Concern Worldwide) looking at Strengthening Social Assistance Governance in India. In the context of mining development in the state of Orissa and the displacement of tribal communities Concern was taking a collaborative approach to building capacity in communities and local government for enjoyment of social protection entitlements. Where both political and bureaucratic capacity is constrained Concern was supporting tribal communities to monitor the delivery of social protection services. By generating data on receipts and correlating this with service targets community lead advocacy was reducing space for corruption in social protection systems. What was particularly interesting was that the approach sought to build on tribal leadership strengths, fill technical capacity gaps in local bureaucracy and utilise mobiles and the internet to innovatively capture and share social protection monitoring data.

The Social Protection for Climate Change Adaptation panel presentation on innovation in the Rwanda Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP) by Justine Gatsinzi (Government of Rwanda) and Paul Siegel (World Bank Consultant) highlighted how social protection gains could be undermined by climate shocks. Because the traditional VUP had an annual enrolment cycle climate shocks during the year could not be guarded against. The innovation was to integrate risk management through early warning systems (including community EWS), contingency planning, contingency finance (including diverse tools – mobile banking, insurance, flexible terms) and adequate standing institutional arrangements and capacity to respond. These additions would provide anticipatory capability within the VUP to climate proof social protection gains for beneficiaries. Rachel Godfrey-Wood (Consultant International Institute for Environment and Development) provided a clear case for the role of cash transfers to support and extend autonomous adaptation to climate change. Rachel argued that autonomous adaptation was largely overlooked as a legitimate vehicle for climate finance but offered many advantages over planned adaptation, which was notoriously difficult to implement. Autonomous adaptation supported by cash transfers was more likely to meet basic needs, avoid maladaptation and build innovation in livelihood strategies. Overall it worked to increase choices by putting more climate finance in the hands of the most vulnerable (which was also ethically sound). In contrast to planned adaptation it was not dependent on the availability of down scaled climate data or major behavioural change, had evidence of impact and was a more efficient way to deliver adaptation in the face of complexity. This sounded like an area where practical research to assemble evidence would be well worth the investment.

This had been a second really valuable day for me.