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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Social Protection Floors and Human Rights

Date: 6 Mar 2015

  • Time: 13.00 — 15.00
  • Location: Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
  • Counterpart(s): Government of Finland, Government of Chile, International Labour Organization (ILO), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Geneva Office), Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors
  • Project Title: Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

28th Session of the Human Rights Council

This event aims to raise awareness of social security as a human right. It also aims to explain the steps needed to ensure that national implementation of the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202 is consistent with international and domestic human rights obligations, including gender equality. The annual OHCHR report on economic, social and cultural rights, submitted to the Human Right Council at its 28th session, will constitute a basis for the discussion, given its focus on the contribution of social protection floors to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights (A/HRC/28/35).

In recent years, social protection strategies have rapidly gained strong political support and widespread acceptance in development discourse and practice. However, although development actors generally acknowledge that human rights should play an essential role in poverty reduction, there has been a lack of deep analysis of the implications of human rights obligations in the design, implementation and evaluation of social protection systems.

The global political support for the idea of nationally-defined social protection floors crystallized in 2009, when the heads of UN agencies launched the One-UN Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPF-I). In the meantime, this initiative garnered significant attention and momentum.

Social protection floors are rooted in the understanding that at least a minimum level of social protection should be guaranteed to all throughout the life course to enable people to live in dignity. Based on an integrated approach, this includes access to at least essential health care, as well as at least a basic level of income security for children (e.g. through child benefits), persons in working age (e.g. unemployment and maternity protection) and old age (e.g. pensions) as part of national social protection systems.

Greater awareness of both existing analytical work linking social protection and human rights as well as of the work of UN human rights monitoring bodies is needed. In recent years, treaty bodies, Special Procedures and recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process have significantly contributed to a better understanding of rights based approach to social protection. Greater knowledge of country experiences that have successfully implemented SPFs and used this rights-based approach is also needed.

In its twenty-fifth session, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report exploring the contribution of social protection floors to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights (Res. A/HRC/25/11). While commitment to social protection and human rights in general is growing, the understanding of the norms and principles of human rights in designing social protection floors needs to be further strengthened. With fiscal consolidation measures being implemented worldwide, now, more than ever, the links between social protection floors and human rights obligations should be stressed.

To address some of these issues, UNRISD has developed a web platform, "Linking Social Protection and Human Rights". Support is provided by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and new content is being added in partnership with the Social Protection Department of the International Labour Organization. The web platform provides resources that can improve the understanding and application of a human rights-based approach to social protection. It is targeted at policy makers, development practitioners and human rights advocates, with the intention of strengthening a growing social protection community that cuts across disciplines. Visit www.unrisd.org/sp-hr.

International Labour Organization (ILO)
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Geneva Office
Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

State support
The event will be sponsored by Finland and Chile.

There will be brief presentations by seven panelists, which will then form the basis for subsequent debates and questions from the floor.

The event will bring together the experiences of various national governments, donor agencies, international agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Isabel Ortiz
Director, ILO Social Protection Department
Juan Somavia
Former Director General, ILO
Magdalena Sepúlveda
Senior Research Fellow, UNRISD
Craig Mokhiber
Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch (OHCHR)
Ronald Wiman
Senior Social Policy Expert, EU Social Protection Systems Programme
Virginia Brás Gomes
Member of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Priti Darooka
Representative of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, Executive Director of PWESCR

Photo credit: Rémi (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).