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Social Protection

Social Protection helps tackle vulnerabilities faced by rural households and plays a fundamental role in improving food and nutrition security and reducing rural poverty. The predictability of social protection instruments enables households to better manage risks and engage in more profitable livelihoods. The impact of social protection systems is greater if they are coordinated with broader food and nutrition security, rural development and poverty reduction strategies

FAO’s role in social protection

About 73 percent of the world population have no access to adequate social protection (ILO,2014). A majority of people without social protection live in the rural areas of developing countries, many of them dependent on agriculture to make a living. Poor rural households are already constrained by limited access to resources, low agricultural productivity and poorly functioning markets, which reduce their ability to cope with economic and natural risks and shocks that threaten their livelihoods.

Providing them with access to social protection helps them to better manage the social and economic risks and environmental threats they are exposed to. Through direct income support to the most vulnerable households, social protection helps alleviate extreme poverty and overcome food insecurity. At the same time, by providing more income security and investing in rural livelihoods, social protection can contribute to improve agricultural productivity, stimulate local economic development, build resilience, encourage sustainable natural resource uses and promote social inclusion.

If properly designed, social protection tends to benefit women and promotes their economic and social empowerment. Similarly, it can also benefit children and youth, as social protection helps improve nutrition and health outcomes inasmuch as household income security allows young people to stay in school longer, and cash for work programmes help enhance employment opportunities for youth.

Synergies with food and agriculture and rural development policies

FAO is committed to support governments and partners in addressing the main challenges for incorporating social protection into national strategies and actions to fight hunger and in promoting greater policy coherence and synergies between social protection, food and nutrition security, agricultural development, natural resource management and rural poverty reduction. FAO’s work focuses on:

  • incorporating social protection into national strategies and actions to fight hunger and malnutrition; 
  • maximizing synergies between social protection and agricultural policies and articulating a coordinated strategy for rural development and poverty reduction;
  • incorporating social protection into strategies and investment plans to increase resilience  and adaptation to shocks;
  • supporting governments in expanding social protection systems in rural areas;
  • supporting governments and other stakeholders, including civil society organizations, in developing good governance systems. 

This involves: 

  • strengthening human and institutional capacities to manage policy processes in a coherent manner, providing policy advice and support to the design and implementation of programmes; 
  • facilitating policy dialogues among stakeholders and providing evidence-based knowledge and capacity development in the use of relevant policy tools for supporting countries in strengthening the linkages between social protection, agriculture and rural development;
  • raising awareness among stakeholders on the role of social protection in reducing rural poverty and increasing economic and social empowerment;
  • knowledge generation and dissemination at the local, national, regional and global levels through the collection and compilation of information, data and good practices on the impact of social protection schemes on rural poverty, food and nutrition  security and related areas;
  • sharing methods and analytical tools for assessing the effectiveness of social protection initiatives in rural poverty reduction and food security.

In achieving these goals, FAO has strengthened its commitment by placing social protection at the centre of its renewed strategic framework and establishing an inter-divisional team which will work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders at international, regional and country levels.

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