Social protection, gender and the MDGs - Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty

The Independent Expert's October 2010 report to the General Assembly explored the relationship between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and social protection. It identified how the MDGs framework could be best applied to promote the strengthening of social protection. The report also addressed how gender dimensions of poverty should be reflected in social protection schemes.

All States have committed to the Millennium Declaration, pledging to spare no effort in freeing the world’s population from extreme poverty. By increasing international focus on poverty, the MDGs have demonstrated the need to invest in social protection in developing countries. The report reviewed States’ lessons learned in achieving the Millennium Development Goals for the most vulnerable through social protection interventions, and their compliance with core human rights principles. The report addressed how social protection measures can play a significant role with a number of the MDG targets helping to ensure that the most marginalized are reached and helped.

The Independent Expert discussed how the Millennium Declaration contributed to placing social protection on the agenda of States engaged in reducing poverty domestically or though international cooperation. She also highlighted how some omissions in the MDGs may have diverted attention from addressing the needs and vulnerabilities of those living in extreme poverty in a sustainable manner. Finally, she formulated recommendations for States on ways to integrate human rights to the MDG framework – in particular the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living.

The Expert also identified how the gender dimensions of poverty and vulnerability should be reflected in social protection programmes. Despite strong evidence on the different ways in which men and women experience poverty and vulnerability, little attention has been paid to the role of gender in complying with the MDGs and in implementing effective social protection systems. In this sense, she examined specific social protection initiatives in which women have been targeted as beneficiaries (e.g. several cash transfers programmes) or when specific quotas for women have been established in public work programmes) and assess the impact and challenges of such policies, including how they have contributed to the achievement of the different MDGs.

For the purpose of this report, social protection initiatives refer to:

Policies and programmes that aim to enable people to respond to various contingencies and manage levels of risk or deprivation that are deemed unacceptable by society. These schemes aim to offset the absence or substantial reduction of income from work, provide assistance for families with children, provide people with health care, housing, water and sanitation, education or social work. Relevant social protection schemes addressing the needs of those living in extreme poverty are: cash transfer schemes, school stipends, social pensions, food vouchers, food transfers, user fee exemptions for health care or education or subsidized services.

Expert Meeting on MDGs Social Protection and Gender: 1 and 2 June 2010

An expert meeting gathering academics and professionals working on MDGs and/or on social protection and who have specific expertise on gender will contribute to the preparation of the report. The meeting was convened together with Center for Women’s Global Leadership of Rutgers University.

Questionnaire to States and civil society

To prepare her report, the independent expert sent a questionnaire requesting States and civil society organisations to provide detailed information on the different social protection schemes as they relate to the various MDGs. To read the questionnaire, click here: English, French, Spanish.
To read the submissions of Governments in response to the questionnaire, please click here: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus and Addendum, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden 1 and 2, Tanzania, Turkey and Ukraine.