Adequate Legal and Institutional Framework and Long-term Social Protection Strategies

A human rights-based approach to social protection requires grounding social protection systems in a strong legal and institutional framework. This should ensure both programme stability and the recognition of beneficiaries as rights holders. The need to provide for strong legal frameworks that clearly lay out entitlements, rights and obligations is provided for in Recommendation No. 202 (paras 3b and 7).

In particular, enshrinement in law along with a long-term national action plan for social protection greatly increases the guarantees of social protection for all, and especially for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. It also helps ensure that social protection measures are guarded from political manipulation and that they receive lasting commitment from state authorities, regardless of change of government leaders. An adequate legal framework is one that includes:

  • precise eligibility requirements for social protection programmes;
  • mechanisms to ensure transparency and access to information about available programmes;
  • definition of the various roles and responsibilities of all those involved in implementing the programmes at different levels of government;
  • articulation of the long-term financial requirements, ensuring adequacy and predictability of benefits;
  • accessible complaints and appeal mechanisms; and
  • participation channels for beneficiaries.

A clear institutional framework is essential to enable rights holders to identify duty bearers in charge of specific responsibilities. The institutional framework should facilitate the adequate delivery of social security systems and be administer in a sound, transparent and accountable manner in particular in such a way to allow for financial sustainability in the long-run (ILO Convention No. 102, Articles 71 and 72 and Recommendation No. 202, paras 3j, k, and n).

One key element of an effective institutional framework is a functional financial governance structure. Based on the principles of good governance, set out in ILO Convention No. 102 (Art. 71), the following principles have been identified by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (2011, pp. 180-199):

  1. Social security financing should be sustainable, based on the principle of sustainable financing, and under the general responsibility of the State.
  2. Social security funds should be protected to the best extent possible against mismanagement, cyclical fluctuations and market failures.
  3. The purchasing power of benefits in payment should be maintained by adjusting them to the costs of living.
  4. Financial deficits in relation to social security should be obviated in the long term, through the establishment by the State of a funding plan to assure such solvency.

ILO Recommendation No. 202 (paras 3j, 3k, 11, 12) further specified that national social protection floors should be financed by national resources, yet countries with insufficient economic and fiscal capacities may seek international support to guarantee a basic level of social security for all.

For more on the obligation to adopt and implement a national social security strategy and plan of action under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), see General Comment 19 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Expert Commentaries

Beyond Addis: Financing social protection in the 2030 Agenda

 In 2015, both the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit resulted in a renewed global commitment to development and poverty eradication. Following the Summit, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This new global development […]

Legal Instruments

Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

A reference for the development of social security systems, Convention No. 102 is the flagship of the up-to-date social security Conventions since it is deemed to embody the internationally accepted definition of the very principle of social security.  Convention No. 102 is unique for both its conceptual formulation of social security, and the guidance it provides for […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]

Legal Cases

Austerity measures that contravene Conventions by reducing social protection and increasing poverty in Greece

Recalling previous recommendations, the Committee observed that the austerity measures in conjunction with the continuous contractions of the economy, employment and public finances posed a threat to the viability of the Greek national social security system, resulting in the impoverishment of the population, thus undermining the application of all accepted parts of Social Security (Minimum […]

Combining constitutional and international standards for social protection resource mobilization in Latvia

Summary: In 2000, twenty Latvian parliamentarians complained to Latvia’s Constitutional Court that certain employers within Latvia were not paying social insurance premiums into a fund for their employees, and that this was a breach of the human right to social security as per Latvia’s constitution as well as Articles 9 and 11 of the International […]

Ensuring mechanisms that protect the right to life against the risk of famine in India

Summary: In 2001 the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties claimed that that recent starvation deaths that occurred in the Indian State of Rajasthan were the result of the State’s failure to release grain stocks in fact kept as a guard against famine, and that this denial amounted to a violation of the human right to […]

Special protection in pension programmes for women in South Africa

Summary: Four male applicants, above the age of 60 but below 65, mounted a constitutional challenge to Section 10 of South Africa’s Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004 and the relevant Regulations, which set the age for accessing an old age grant at 60 for women and 65 for men. The four men contested the […]

Resources

Report on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of State (A /HRC/34/57/Add.1), submitted by the Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, on his mission to the institutions of the EU

The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, on his visit to institutions of […]

El Financiamiento del Desarrollo en Bolivia: Cambios y Continuidades en la Relación Estado-Cooperación Internacional (2006–2013)

Este document analiza  los  cambios  en  la  relación  entre  el  estado  y  la  cooperación internacional  en  Bolivia  a  partir  de  2006.  La  hipótesis  de  inicio  sostiene  que Bolivia logró  una autonomía  económica  tal  con  la  bonanza  económica  registrada  desde  2006 que modificó  el marco de las  relaciones entre  el  estado  y la cooperación  internacional. Los […]

Rationalizing Social Protection Expenditure in Ghana

This report has been prepared in the context of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project that seeks to support Ghana to rationalize its social protection expenditure. The Report analyses expenditure in terms of its sustainability, robustness, efficiency and effectiveness in preventing or reducing poverty, social exclusion and ill health. It includes an analysis of the current […]

Practical Options for the Extension of Social Protection Coverage in Zambia: small scale farmers

The study explores the possible strategies to expand social protection to small scale farmers as well as the requirements for SHI scheme design adjustments to fit the income patterns and employment arrangements which prevail in the sector. The report also offers a case study on a possible linkage between the future SHI scheme and a […]

Practical Options for the Extension of Social Protection Coverage in Zambia: domestic workers

This report provides an overview of the nature and extent of social security benefits for domestic workers in Zambia and explores perception of benefits and willingness to contribute from both domestic workers and employers’ perspectives.

Practical Options for the Extension of Social Protection Coverage in Zambia: casual saw mill workers

The study focuses on reviewing the nature and extent of social security benefits provided by legislation to casual workers in the saw milling industry, understanding their patterns of income and specific employment arrangements and exploring innovative ways of providing social protection to workers in atypical form of work.

Social Protection for Sustainable Development: Dialogues between Africa and Brazil

Making sustainable development a reality by 2030 will require a substantial transformation to be made to development practices. The significant increase in the number and quality of social protection systems throughout the Global South brings renewed hope and enthusiasm. In Africa, 48 countries have established flagship programmes, with more than 120 different initiatives being implemented. […]

Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures — World Cities Report 2015

The analysis of urban development of the past twenty years presented in this maiden edition of the World Cities Report shows, with compelling evidence, that there are new forms of collaboration and cooperation, planning, governance, finance and learning that can sustain positive change. The Report unequivocally demonstrates that the current urbanization model is unsustainable in […]

Social Assistance in Vietnam: A review and proposals for reform

The paper sets out the strengths and weaknesses of the current national social protection system and shows that, if Vietnam were to adopt a more inclusive life cycle social protection system – at a cost, initially of no more than 1% of GDP – the reforms would have significant impacts on poverty and economic growth.

The Rights to Social Protection and Adequate Food: Human rights‐based frameworks for social protection in the context of realizing the right to food and the need for legal underpinnings

The right to adequate food lies at the heart of the mandate of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). That concept takes into consideration the availability, access and adequacy of food, and that individuals, alone or in community with others, may acquire food through their own production, through purchases with their […]