New IPC-IG and UNICEF study focuses on the state of shock-responsive social protection in the MENA region
This report is the third in a series of four studies about non-contributory social protection in the MENA region produced under the scope of a joint research project carried out by the IPC-IG and the UNICEF MENARO.
Brasília, 27 March 2019 - A new study by the IPC-IG and UNICEF identifies a series of opportunities and challenges to improve and enhance shock-responsive social protection in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. To that end, "Building Shock-Responsive National Social Protection Systems in the MENA region" analysed eight countries facing different risks at different capacity levels: Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, State of Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
"The MENA region faces complex emergencies, including violent conflicts and major displacement of people. Moreover, many of these countries' social assistance systems have undergone recent reforms. Therefore, understanding how social protection programmes can be more responsive to shocks is a very important topic for the region", said Raquel Tebaldi, IPC-IG researcher and author of the report.
Social protection is typically recognised as an important policy instrument for addressing idiosyncratic shocks, but recently several studies have sought to investigate how social protection systems can also be resilient and respond to covariate shocks. A social protection system can be defined as shock-responsive when it "can respond flexibly in the event of an emergency1 " that affects a large numbers of people and/or communities at once, rather than idiosyncratic shocks, such as the death of a breadwinner, which may affect individual households or household members.
The MENA region has a long tradition of providing social support to the most vulnerable segments of society. However, government-led social protection programmes and policies remain limited in many countries, often relying to a large extent on food and fuel subsidies and on support from charities and non-governmental organisations. Yet, in recent years, the region has seen the gradual introduction of subsidy reforms that included the introduction or scale-up of targeted cash transfer programmes
Among its main findings, the study highlights that, in general, emergency preparedness measures are lacking, and the lack of comprehensive national social registries in the region is also a key challenge in enhancing overall system responsiveness.
- The social protection systems reviewed have different levels of institutionalisation. At one end of the spectrum, some countries still do not rely on a social protection strategy, while at the other, there are systems embedded in legislation. Well-established systems are more likely to be more responsive to shocks, and having clear policies is key in this sense.
- The literature on shock-responsive social protection highlights that emergency-preparedness measures can include: having emergency operational manuals and training staff on them; having contingency funds; establishing contingency agreements with service providers; and the use of early-warning systems. However, the review of this study's cases found that such measures are still uncommon.
- The lack of comprehensive national social registries in the region is a key challenge in enhancing system responsiveness, and registry coverage varies significantly across cases. Still, some countries have made significant strides in creating programme databases that include information on a significant proportion of the population and/or on both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, which is important to enable scalability. Furthermore, Egypt, Jordan and the State of Palestine are also taking steps to build social registries, which are important tools for extending coverage beyond the target group of a specific programme.
- Fiscal space is a key consideration in making systems more shock-responsive, as inadequate funding hinders system scalability. The programmes reviewed in this study have generally been expanding their coverage and expenditure over time, but they still need to expand further to reach all poor and vulnerable people. Moreover, explicit contingency funds that could be rapidly mobilised for shock response were not identified.
- The major refugee crisis and huge numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region have highlighted the challenges to coordination between humanitarian and social protection actors. Overall, challenges have arisen in terms of harmonising the provision of services across different interventions, a distinct concern for refugee-hosting countries. Iraq is the only country analysed where the right to national social protection initiatives is granted to non-nationals. However, this access is limited in practice.
- Monitoring and evaluation of regular programmes is not very robust in most cases, leading to a gap in evidence-based policymaking. These procedures could also benefit from stronger management information systems.
- Implementation capacity is typically challenged by the precarious situation of programme staff, who in some cases are paid late or do not receive proper compensation for work-related expenses. These challenges can be particularly heightened at times of crisis
This report is the third in a series of four studies about non-contributory social protection in the MENA region, produced under the scope of a joint research project carried out by the IPC-IG and the UNICEF MENARO. The following knowledge products have also been released under the same project: "Children's Right to Social Protection in the MENA Region:an Analysis of Legal Frameworks from a Child Rights Perspective"; "Overview of non-contributory social protection programmes in the MENA region though a child and equity lens"; and the One Pager series: "Overview of non-contributory social protection programmes in 20 countries of the MENA region though a child and equity lens". Find them all here, sorted by language: Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.
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1See: "Conceptualising shock-responsive social protection": https://bit.ly/2HWS9B7