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Highlights of the webinar on "Social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: the challenge of inclusion"

Highlights of the webinar on "Social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: the challenge of inclusion"

Without a doubt, social protection has earned a significant space in the region’s social development agenda, gaining significant political support in recent decades. Continuing the debate on the progress and challenges of social protection in the region, on May 17, the 4th edition of Inter-American Social Protection Dialogues Series entitled "Social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean: the challenge of inclusion", was carried out with the collaboration of ECLAC and CIPPEC/EUROSOCIAL.

This event sought to promote the dialogue and expand on the necessity of more inclusive social protection systems, which are responsive to a rights approach, solidary in their financing, and universal in coverage. It also captured some highlights of recent analytical work on the subject undertook by ECLAC.

Find below a brief recapitulation of some ideas presented by panelists Simone Cecchini and Rodrigo Martinez from ECLAC, Fabián Repetto from CIPPEC/ EUROSOCIAL, as well as from interventions made by the webinar’s attendees.

Social protection and its functions

Social protection is an element within the set of social policy, which also covers social promotion policies and sectoral policies such as health, education, and housing, among others. In this context, social protection has as functions to contribute to overcome poverty, to protect and ensure a basic level of income for the population, to identify the unmet demand of access to sectoral policies, to ensure access to these, and to encourage decent work. It was emphasized that there are no silver bullets to solve the problems of poverty and inequality that affect our hemisphere and which social protection seeks to confront. Nevertheless, the panelists try to offer clues about ways forward.


A rights-based approach

Poverty is nowadays universally recognized as a multidimensional phenomenon, one that extends far beyond the lack of income in order to include the deprivation of the capacities needed to live with dignity. In recent decades, progress in legal and constitutional recognition of social and economic rights in the region has been evidenced. In the same way, the discourse on the subject and the rights approach have advanced in the region, but this has not necessarily translated into a formal expression of social guarantees in social protection. While a basis on the universality of rights is required, effective social protection must adapt to the different needs of the population.

A comprehensive approach

When speaking of a comprehensive social protection system, one refers to its comprehensiveness in terms of both supply and demand. From the population’s side, which represents the demand side of social protection, it must be comprehensive in its two axes: the cross-cutting one, referring to population groups, and the longitudinal one, referring to the life cycle of the population. Meanwhile, programs and social protection policies, which represent the supply side, also need to be comprehensive in both its horizontal axis of sectors covered, as well as in its vertical axis, which represents its reach in terms of administrative levels within a State.


Incorporating a pragmatic approach

Considering the advances in the region regarding the recognition of the need for comprehensive social protection systems with a rights approach, the question about how this applies in practice is raised.

From the perspective of the demand for social protection, the issue of the definition of the problem was mentioned. There cannot be integral responses if there is not an integral concept in defining the problems to be addressed by public policy. And in this sense, it is necessary to go beyond the technical or statistical reading of a problem such as multidimensional poverty. On the one hand, the political dimension must be recovered (behind the problem of determination are discussions of a political nature and it is necessary to build political coalitions capable of sustaining the progress made), and on the other hand, the disciplinary technical dimension (since each discipline and sector approach a problem from their own disciplinary gaze).

As for how the issue of the provision of social protection from a holistic view is raised, it requires thinking about critical paths instead of waiting for the State to be in the same place, everywhere, at the same time. A more articulated public policy should be promoted: a vision that articulates social protection with the set of public policy.


Some challenges

Several challenges to social protection systems in the region were raised, among which were highlighted,
- The feasibility of implementing a rights-based approach in the region
- The issue of funding, in terms of the multiple demands and limited resources
- The population heterogeneity and protection gaps
- The coordination and intersectoral articulation as a basic requirement
- Having information systems in order to attain comprehensive management
- The need to recover the political dimension in the definition of the problems and solutions in public policy

The dialogue continues...

In a continent which remains the most unequal in the world in terms of income, the promotion of social protection is sought as a component of social policies, inclusive in nature, with a rights perspective and with a holistic view. It is worth mentioning that there is no panacea for the challenges that affect the region. On the contrary, we should expand and promote the dialogue on the subject for further progress in the search for solutions tailored to the countries and their needs.


* To view the full presentations of the ECLAC and CIPPEC/EUROSOCIAL panelists and to consult the suggested resources, please click here (resources available only in Spanish *

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