Standards of Accessibility, Adaptability and Acceptability

The principle of equality and non-discrimination requires States to ensure that social protection programmes meet the standards of accessibility, adaptability, acceptability and adequacy for all rights holders. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has recommended these standards through several General Comments including 13, 14 and 19.

Accessibility means making the social protection programme(s) easy for people to reach, understand and use, irrespective of age, disability, ethnicity, geographical location or other factors. General Comment 19 outlines the following aspects of accessibility:

a.    Coverage: All persons must be covered without discrimination of any kind, especially individuals belonging to the most disadvantaged groups. In order to achieve universal coverage, non-contributory measures in addition to contributory schemes must be used.
b.    Eligibility: The selection used for the identification of beneficiaries within a programme must be reasonable, proportionate and transparent.
c.    Affordability: If a social protection programme requires contributions, then the contributions must be stipulated in advance. The direct and indirect costs and charges associated with making contributions must be affordable for all.
d.    Participation and information: Beneficiaries of social protection programmes must be able to participate in the administration of the programme, as well as have the right to seek, receive and impart information on entitlements in a clear and transparent manner.
e.    Physical access: Benefits must be provided in a timely manner and beneficiaries must have physical access to receive benefits and information. Particular attention must be paid in this regard to persons with disabilities, migrants and persons living in remote, disaster-prone or conflict areas.

Programmes must also avoid creating administrative obstacles, such as complex forms, or forms with language that is excessively formal or only in the language of the majority ethnic group.  For instance, some programmes require rights holders to provide identification documents that are costly and only obtainable from distant urban centres, severely hindering programme accessibility many marginalized people.

Adaptability means that the social protection programme should be constructed in ways that recognize and accommodate the local context. For example, outreach and information about a programme should be adapted to reach the most vulnerable segments of society, who may be illiterate, by using channels such as radio, and be available in languages used by minority and indigenous groups.

Acceptability refers to sensitizing a social protection programme toward the multiple forms of discrimination that might arise at the intersection of race, gender, class, ethnicity, disability or other identities and backgrounds. For example, indigenous peoples may find it difficult to use health centres where their mother tongue is not spoken or where no efforts are made to reconcile modern health care with their traditional practices. Similarly, patriarchal attitudes towards women can often lead to situations where women are not treated with respect when they come to seek entitlements or lodge complaints. To comply with this principle, social protection programmes should assess the asymmetries of power that exist in communities by holding broad consultations with the respective rights-holder groups. Special attention must be paid to groups that suffer from structural discrimination as a matter of priority in the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes in order to meet obligations assumed in human rights instruments.

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