Participation refers to the effective involvement of stakeholders in all stages of the decision-making process about social security programmes, from policy design, over implementation to the monitoring of policies. Effective participation allows for greater transparency and accountability, the sharing of information and knowledge, the exchange of opinions. It is one of the prerequisite for ensuring good governance of social protection schemes.

In the case of contributory schemes, tripartite participation is a key element of the governance of social insurance schemes, taking into account that workers and employers finance these schemes and therefore should have their say in determining how the scheme operates.

From a human rights perspective, participation is a right. In this regard, the CESCR has noted that  “the right of individuals and groups to participate in decision-making processes that may affect their exercise of the right to social security should be an integral part of any policy, programme or strategy concerning social security.” (CESCR General Comment 19 para. 69).

There are several social protection programmes into which participatory mechanisms have been incorporated, with varying degrees of success. For example, the successful implementation of the Universal Health Coverage Scheme in Thailand has been attributed among other reasons to the critical role played by civil society and social movements in the formulation and design of the program. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia programme requires municipal Governments to establish supervisory bodies composed of representatives of both local government and civil society, who jointly make decisions on how best to implement the programme within their community.


Photo credit: “Conducting focus group discussion with Burkinabese farmers” by IRLI (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).


Expert Commentaries

Strengthening Universality for Youth-Centred Development: The Pacific approach

The Pacific Youth Development Framework (PYDF) 2014–20231 uses human rights principles and social protection approaches to promote inclusive and targeted investment in key youth populations to improve universal access to basic services and opportunities for young people in the Pacific. The PYDF comprises four priority outcomes for youth across the development sectors in the areas […]

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

In the wake of the International Labour Organization’s adoption of Recommendation 202 in June 2012, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors was created. But that was not the start of the unique network of today more than 80 NGOs and trade unions of which 16 form the Coalition’s Core Team from all parts of […]

The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes

Civil society and accountability in social protection programmes The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Despite international legislation about social protection […]

Good Practices for Effective Participation in Social Protection Design and Implementation

Robert Chambers, Research Associate, Participation, Power and Social Change Team at the Institute of Development Studies

Improving Representation in the Design and Implementation of Social Protection Programmes through Women’s Organizations

Markus Kaltenborn, Professor, Public Law and Director of the Institute of Development Research and Development Politics (IEE) at Ruhr University Bochum

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 […]


Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development: General Survey concerning the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

The ILO’s General Survey 2019 , compiled by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The Survey (published under the title Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development) focuses on the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), which calls for basic income security and essential healthcare […]

The Aarhus Convention: an implementation guide

The Aarhus Convention, which is open for global accession, offers powerful twin protections for the environment and human rights. It provides an effective model for ensuring public input in defining and implementing green economy programmes, in choosing the most appropriate road maps to sustainability and for increasing transparency and Government accountability, thereby putting Principle 10 […]

The Politics of Rights-Based, Transformative Social Policy in South and Southeast Asia  

A key normative principle of transformative social policy is that it is rights-based. This implies that it be universal, as a right extended categorically to all persons in a defined situation, or to all citizens, or, in its most radical form, as applicable to all residents regardless of citizenship status. To be transformative, social policy […]

Social Return on Investment: accounting for value in the context of implementing Health 2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Social return on investment (SROI) is a concept to account for social value when evaluating investments. It goes beyond traditional economic evaluation tools, by considering value produced for multiple stakeholders in all three dimensions of development: economic, social and environmental. This discussion paper reviews the main features of SROI (stakeholder engagement, the theory of change […]

Civil Society Guide for National Social Protection Floors (SPFs)

The Civil Society Guide for National Social Protection Floors (SPFs) was developed by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, in close collaboration with the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors. The guide is available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.    

Making Social Policy Work for Women

Watch human rights and policy specialists quit their silos and dialogue productively across disciplines in the third panel, entitled Making social policy work for women, of the research-advocacy-policy workshop Substantive Equality for Women: Connecting Human Rights and Public Policy organized by UNRISD, UNWomen and OHCHR on 15 June 2015. This panel took place during the […]

Participation and Social Protection in the Arab Region

Although there have been improvements over the past decade in social indicators such as life expectancy, primary school enrolment and literacy, the Arab region continues to face serious development challenges, including high rates of poverty, food insecurity and hunger, and child and maternal mortality.Extreme poverty increased from 4.1 per cent of the population living with […]

Social Security Governance: A Practical Guide for Board Members of Social Security Institutions in Central and Eastern Europe

This guide aims to promote social dialogue on social security reform and to encourage reforms that are well matched to national conditions while consistent with the standards for minimum adequacy, inclusiveness, and democratic governance embodied in the ILO social security conventions. Link to this page

Governance of Social Security Systems: A Guide for Board Members in Africa

This handbook is intended as a practical guide for members of governing boards of social security organizations in Africa. While the structure and mandate of social security boards varies from country to country, they all have important responsibilities: ensuring that social security contributions are used judiciously for intended purposes, providing inputs to policy makers on […]

Good Governance Guidelines for Social Security Institutions

The good governance guidelines seek to provide ISSA member organizations with guiding principles and practical guidelines on good governance. The guidelines begin by defining, for the first time, what ISSA means by “good governance”. The governance framework that underpins the guidelines aims to give the user an overview of the range of internal governance issues […]

Social Protection and Human Rights