Charting a different future for social protection: Kyrgyzstan’s opportunity


By Alexander Pick , Fiscal economist, OECD Development Centre

This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets of Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion

Women in Kemin, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Radiokafka/

A voice in Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand time, a chronicle of post-Communist disillusion in the former Soviet Union, declares that “the future is… not where it ought to be.” This despair at what constitutes progress neatly captures something we increasingly appreciate – that development is neither a linear process nor one with a clear end goal. Few countries understand this better than the former republics of the Soviet Union, where the geopolitical and economic aftershocks of the USSR’s fall continue to be felt today.

Kyrgyzstan embraced the move to a market economy quicker than any of them. Nonetheless, gross national income per capita in 2015 was below its level in 1990, and industry’s contribution to output and employment has shrunk dramatically. Moreover, large holes have appeared in the social safety net that once covered the entire population. This might be a surprise given that Kyrgyzstan spent 10.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) — a high rate for a country at its income level — on social protection in 2015, more than on health and education combined. In 1990, however, social protection spending was equivalent to 17% of GDP.
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Three reasons why local feminist movements offer solutions for gender equality and peace


By Maria Butler, Director of Global Programmes, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)  1

Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
OECD Global Forum on Development
Register today to attend

pray the devil back to hell
A group of Liberian women fight for peace. Taken from the documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, directed by Gini Reticker

The OECD policy paper Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict-affected Situations (October 2017) demands a “fundamental shift in perspective on gender.”  It challenges the donor community to understand gender and conflict more holistically, more deeply and more politically with a strong focus on women as agents of change. It is a must-read for all policy makers and donors alike. However, an important aspect missed in this paper is the importance of feminist movements and how to leverage local feminist movements for change. Women are working at the frontlines of peace, development, humanitarian aid and human rights. Here are three reasons why feminist movements are central to fostering more peaceful and secure societies.

First, there is proof. One of the most compelling research findings on political violence is that societies with more equality between men and women tend to be more peaceful. Research on violence against women in 70 countries also reveals that the most important and consistent factor driving policy change is feminist activism.   Furthermore, when women are included in peace processes, the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years increases 35% (Global Study 2015). Continue reading

Gender equality in West Africa? The key role of social norms


By Gaëlle Ferrant, OECD Development Centre, and Nadia Hamel, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
2018 OECD Global Forum on Development


Photo courtesy of:

Despite some progress, gender equality remains unfinished business worldwide, including in West Africa and particularly in the Sahel1. Such West African countries as Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone have closed the gender gap in primary school enrolment. However, youth (aged 15-24) illiteracy rate in Chad is still twice as high for women than for men. In Liberia, only one-third of girls were enrolled in secondary school in 2015. Women are increasingly represented in the Senegalese parliament, and the proportion of female MPs almost doubled in the last five years, from 23% in 2012 to 42% in 2017. Nevertheless, women’s equal political participation remains a major challenge throughout the region. Women in parliaments increased only marginally from 13% in 2007 to almost 16% in 2017, with wide disparities across countries ranging from 6% in Nigeria to 42% in Senegal.

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Africa’s industrialisation: leaving no woman behind

By Li Yong, UNIDO Director General

Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details.

women-work-industry-africaAfrica must industrialise to fulfill its economic potential. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda, we need to support Africa in accelerating its development by promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.

Inclusive industrialisation means ensuring that no one is left behind, especially not women. Including women is critical, not only because gender equality is a fundamental human right, but also because it enables faster economic growth, shared prosperity and sustainable development. The 2016 Global Gender Gap report1 shows a positive correlation between gender equality and gross domestic product, economic competitiveness and human development. The economic benefits to increasing female labor force participation are real. The OECD estimates that GDP would increase by 12% if participation rates for women were to reach those of men by 2030.2 

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Six key challenges to improving nutrition through social protection in the Sahel and West Africa

By Jennifer Sheahan, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

Français suit

The Sahel and West Africa region is home to some of the most nutritionally insecure people in the world. In 2015, 19 to 21 million children in the region under the age of five were affected by stunting. This figure is growing and may exceed 22 million by 2025. Today, strong evidence exists linking social protection to improved nutrition. In December 2016, the 32nd Annual RPCA Meeting focused political attention on some of the key challenges to be overcome in this area.


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The EU Social Protection Systems Programme – a joint effort towards the SDGs

By Stefano Signore, European Commission, Head of Unit Migration, Employment, Inequalities within the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO)

Adoption of the SDGs – the new development agenda

In September 2015, the world celebrated the long-awaited adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN General Assembly. The endorsement serves as a starting point to a new development agenda for the next 15 years with the promising ambition to leave no one behind at its centre. The intention is a real labour of Hercules as we are talking about several groups of 1 billion people: 1 billion that continue to live on less than $1.25 a day, 1 billion aged 15 and above having either no schooling or an incomplete primary education, 1 billion migrants worldwide, and close to 1 billion, who are suffering from malnutrition in rural areas predominantly.

Likewise a new era for social protection

At the same time, the universal and integrated SDG agenda marks a new era for social protection. The shadowy existence that it was doomed to play in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which made no single reference to social protection, has come to an end. The international community now recognizes the importance of social protection’s cross-cutting policy approach to make a real difference for real people. Social protection is placed prominently across the 17 goals. It finds explicit mention, namely in SDGs 1, 5 and 10, when it comes to its main impacts of tackling poverty and inequalities within populations and individual households. Widespread evidence demonstrates that social protection can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in terms of human capital development, social risk management, social cohesion, macroeconomic resilience and the promotion of inclusive economic growth. Overall, social protection contributes to at least three-quarters of the SDGs.

Social protection recognized within the global context of quadruple A

July’s Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) likewise assigned an important role to social protection within the global framework for financing development in the SDG era.To be able to deliver by 2030 appropriate social protection systems for all, which notably include poor and vulnerable groups, the conference’s outcome document calls for a new social compact. Its paragraph 12 further elaborates on this point by highlighting the necessary close relationship between social protection policies and their (domestic) sources of financing. It requires social protection systems to be more comprehensive and coherent and to be characterised by effective and efficient programmes and mechanisms and by high-quality administrative and technical services. The paragraph also reminds us of the importance ofcountry-led and owned approaches, requiring foremost national agreements and the common pursuit of values and interests.

Altogether, the emerging positive profile of social protection is highly welcomed, but at the same time it entails an obligation to deliver results. But what exactly is it that the SDGs require us to deliver between now and 2030?

Admittedly, the SDGs are very broad and not easy to attain. Their complex set of targets acknowledges that economic growth as a unidimensional factor for prosperity has proven ineffective in reducing poverty and generating inclusive growth. On the contrary, the world is witnessing increasing inequality with regard to income and other factors. And the majority of the extreme poor today, remarkably, live in middle-income countries.

Social protection and the EU Social Protection Systems Programme have a lot to offer

The September 16th kick-off meeting of the European Union Social Protection Systems (EU SPS) Programme at the OECD in Paris confirmed that these challenges caused by the vague and ambiguous concepts of the SDGs are well-known and a cause for concern in political and academic thinking in the field of social protection. About 100 renowned experts and representatives from academia, development organisations and 10 partner countries[i] in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southeast Asia gathered to launch the programme – an EU-funded flagship global thematic project, co-financed and jointly implemented by the OECD Development Centre and the Government of Finland in collaboration with institutions from these 10 beneficiary partner countries. Together, they discussed critical challenges that social protection systems have to overcome to fulfil their potential and contribute to attaining the SDGs.

The event neither intended to deliver, nor is capable of delivering, a blueprint for an implementation strategy on how to strengthen the systematisation of social protection in partner countries. As a major result of the lively debate, however, it became abundantly clear that research, sustainable financing and capacity strengthening represent the initial building blocks for a robust social protection system. To achieve the SDGs, further endeavours will be necessary to leverage the impact of social protection through more joint efforts across sectors.

This implies the establishment of a dialogue on development models and redistributive policies in particular with those governmental entities responsible for macroeconomics and public budgeting. Moreover, strengthened linkages of cross-sectoral strategies and budgets correspond strongly to the cross-cutting character of social protection.

Depending on the sector, social protection can support many policy areas with in-cash or in-kind transfers, which are two of its fundamental instruments. Each has its own raison d’être and specific procedures for effective implementation. In developing economies, cash transfer programmes have attracted the attention of academia, resulting in an impressive volume of evidence in this area. Concerning in-kind transfers in the health and education sectors, or macro-level effects of social protection programmes, more evidence of their impact on poverty and inequalities is needed. Policy makers particularly appreciate externally validated evidence as it provides a solid basis upon which to transform scientific evidence into action.

In this regard, the messages conveyed at the Paris kick-off meeting should inspire the entire implementation phase of the programme. As a final outcome, nationally generated evidence should support the adoption of socially fair and equitable policies and programmes and their effective implementation in all 10 partner countries. Generating greater knowledge for effective implementation of the SDGs precisely matches the demand to fulfill our major promise: to leave no one behind.

[i] Ethiopia, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Viet Nam

Social protection: Worldwide priority, local solutions

By Alexandre Kolev, Head of the social cohesion unit at the OECD Development Centre

The past decades have seen the dramatic expansion of social protection programmes in developing countries. Today, about 2 billion people in developing countries have access to social safety net programmes. Virtually all countries, even some in fragile contexts, have interventions in place that aim to address consumption deficits, and some middle income countries, especially in Latin America, have introduced cash transfers to encourage human capital development. Conditional cash transfers now exist in 64 countries, a dramatic increase from 2 countries in 1997 and 27 in 2008.

The recent rise in social protection has been fuelled by overwhelming evidence that social protection schemes deliver real results. Numerous evaluations around the world — 86 alone between 2011 and 2015 — show positive impacts, including a reduction in poverty by 50% for the most successful cases, increased household income and consumption, better health and education, and increased investment in productive assets and savings. Continue reading