Policy Support and Governance Gateway
©Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR for FAO

Social Protection

 In 2013, social protection helped lift 150 million people out of extreme poverty. However, still only 45 percent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social benefit - particularly people in rural areas lack social protection coverage.

Enhancing social protection systems to reduce poverty and eradicate hunger.

Social protection can reduce extreme poverty and enhance food security, while also building household resilience in times of crisis, and stimulating rural household to invest in agricultural production. For FAO, social protection measures include social assistance (e.g. cash transfers), social insurance (e.g. health insurance) and labour market programmes (unemployment benefits).

FAO works with governments and partners to incorporate social protection into national rural development policies, food security and nutrition strategies, climate adaptation programmes and investment plans. FAO emphasises the critical importance of extending social protection into rural areas, and supports governments in designing, implementing and assessing systems focused on benefitting the rural poor.

Key policy messages

·        Social protection is an investment, not a cost. Most countries, even the poorest, can afford social protection programmes. Well-designed and implemented social protection schemes not only generate multiple productive and social impacts, they can also boost local economic growth. FAO works to scale-up social-protection schemes, facilitating integration between social protection, food security and nutrition, disaster risk and agricultural policies. The aim is to boost the economic and productive potential of rural households and maximize the impact of social protection on rural transformation.

·        Social protection programmes reduce insecurity and can help address the social and economic determinants of malnutrition. For instance, social protection can allow access to more and better food, as well as  allow poor households to diversify their food consumption, often through increasing their own production..

·        Social protection is also a critical component of rural poverty reduction strategies. It can directly support and improve agricultural livelihoods by alleviating credit, savings and liquidity constraints. Social assistance provides the minimum basis of income security to ensure food security and small scale livelihood activity. Social insurance reaches the vulnerable, it allows those living in rural areas to manage the inherit risks of agricultural activities. Access to adequate social protection in rural areas has implications for risk management and economic inclusion.

·        Social protection also enhances the resilience capacity of rural households to reduce their vulnerability, while coping, responding to, and withstanding natural and man-made disasters, including those related to climate variability, change and conflict. Moreover, social protection can potentially address the economic barriers to allow poor household to transition to more productive and sustainable livelihoods, including climate smart practices. .

·        Despite critical impacts, sustaining and maximizing the role of social protection requires a comprehensive approach. Social protection is most effective, when embedded in multi-sector strategies that focus on agricultural development, food and nutrition security, natural resource management and rural poverty reduction. Evidence has shown that where Ministries, local organizations and partners work together to ensure coherence and compatibility between policies, the positive benefits from social protection are far greater.

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