IASPN 5th anniversary: 5 years Exchanging Experiences and Expanding Opportunities
Celebrating in September 2014 five years of existence, the Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN) of the Organization of American States (OAS) accumulates achievements, challenges and lessons learned.
Since its launch in September 2009, the IASPN has been acting as a mechanism for cooperation and collaboration among the 34 OAS member states in the social protection field *. Over the last 5 years the IASPN has fostered the exchange of information and experiences among countries, mainly social development agencies and other agencies responsible for social protection policies, as well as civil society, international organizations, private sector and academia, through onsite and online activities like forums, meetings, diploma courses, workshops and a regional platform on social protection. In its work, the OAS / IASPN has collaborated with over 40 partners involved in the social protection field over the past 5 years, including ECLAC, ILO, FAO, UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, OPHI, World Bank, among others.
The actions of the IASPN are based on the OAS/SEDI model of partnership for development, in which all Member States have lessons and experiences to share and exchange. To illustrate this point the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation of Colombia (APC) shares its experience: "Through the various activities promoted by the IASPN, both live and online, Colombian authorities responsible for social inclusion have been able to present good practices while getting feedback with the achievements and lessons learned from other governments, which has led contributed to the process of building national public policies and strengthening institutional capacities, including the local level". In turn, they add that "the various activities and regional meetings that we have developed with their support, have generated valuable areas of joint construction of knowledge and practices in social development", and highlighted "the support given by the IASPN in achieving more efficient and relevant knowledge management generating improvement in technical capabilities to carry out activities of South-South Cooperation and their follow-up”.
The IASPN has coordinated in these 5 years of existence more than 20 cooperation activities in social protection in collaboration with social development agencies from countries. In one of the most recent activities that took place in Jamaica, one of the participants from the Ministry of Social Development of Vincent and the Grenadines shared that "the exchange was very timely, as it provided the knowledge and resources to produce positive changes in the provision of social services of the Ministry" and added that "the experience of Jamaica in terms of the Path Program would be incorporated in the country's Public Assistance Program".
Another example of collaboration is the trajectory with the Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS) in Chile, which has been a strategic partner of the IASPN since its establishment in 2009, and previously through a Horizontal Cooperation Program called Puente in the Caribbean. The Ministry of Social Development and FOSIS have actively participated in many of the activities from the IASPN, for instance, in Regional Workshops to discuss the supply and demand of social sector cooperation in Brasilia and Santa Marta. Additionally, not only have their social professionals participated in the Diploma Course on Social Protection, but for the latest edition of the Diploma Course, FOSIS organized site visits where participants learned about initiatives or FOSIS programs "in situ" and could talk with FOSIS workers and beneficiaries.
Through the Diploma Courses on Social Protection undertaken with renowned universities in the region, officials from the ministries of social development and related agencies of 23 countries in the region have been trained. One of the professionals who participated in the Diploma Course, Roland Pardo, Deputy Director of Social Policy of the Social and Economic Policy Analysis Unit of Bolivia, considers "the role to strengthen the institutional capacities of the ministries and other public institutions very important, through training of its officials in the Diploma, since the acquired knowledge and technical tools learned enable more efficient and effective advice for decision making by the authorities.”
On the other hand, and as active participants in technical assistance activities promoted by the IASPN, members of the Ministry of Social Development in Guatemala assert that the "experience with the IASPN has been very successful and that the network is fully aligned with the Social Development Policy promoted by the Government of Guatemala". Specifically, they mentioned that "the design of a methodology and the development of a Participatory Gender Assessment, which aimed at strengthening human and institutional capacities of the Ministry of Social Development for the incorporation and crosscutting of a gender and rights perspective in all its operations, were key to highlight gender inequalities in relation to social protection”.
Through the IASPN's learning and exchange online platform over 2000 resources on social protection have been uploaded in the last two years, more than 700 professionals from social protection have been registered as members, 17 IASPN Digest newsletters have been circulated to over 4500 individuals in the community of practice, and 12 online seminars have been organized within the framework of the Inter-American Dialogues on Social Protection Series with 19 strategic partners.
The IASPN positions itself as an important tool and strategic partner that strengthens bonds among countries in the region towards a social protection agenda that meets national needs and priorities, which in turn promotes the exchange of experiences and regional solutions. By having consolidated the network in these 5 years, the OAS seeks to continue promoting dialogue among the countries in terms of their social protection policies, and provide a space for the exchange among the various actors involved in this field of action.
* The main donor for the implementation of the general activities of the IASPN was the State Department of the United States. In turn, other countries that have contributed financially supporting particular activities have been the governments of Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Jamaica and Mexico. Additionally, various IASPN activities received the support of key social protection actors through their active collaboration.