Overcoming Extreme Poverty by Social Protection Floors – Approaches to Closing the Right to Social Security Gap

Author: Markus Kaltenborn
Year: 2017

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains a very ambitious poverty reduction schedule: According to Sustainable Development Goal 1 extreme poverty shall be completely eradicated within the next 15 years (SDG 1.1), and also other forms of poverty shall be reduced within the same period at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages (SDG 1.2). Governments are requested to “(i)mplement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable” (SDG 1.3). The authors of the Agenda refer to the concept of so-called social protection floors which has been identified as an important instrument in the fight against extreme poverty and therefore has attracted much attention in recent development policy debates. In June 2012 the General Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) had adopted the Social Protection Floors Recommendation. In this document ILO members are urged, as a first step, to establish basic social security guarantees, including access to essential health care and basic income security for all residents of their countries and, as a second step, to systematically extend these basic social security guarantees into more comprehensive strategies. If we look for legal answers to the global challenge of extreme poverty, then social protection law – and in particular the human right to social security – deserves special attention. Based on the research framework which has been presented by Haglund and Stryker in their book Closing the Rights Gap. From Human Rights to Social Transformation (2015) this article will try to analyze which role the legal systems in the Global South will play in implementing SDG 1 at the national level and in closing the “right to social security-gap”. Haglund and Stryker describe, inter alia, two models for social rights realization which represent alternative approaches to the MDG/SDG concept: (a) the so-called multistage spiral model whose main focus lies on the different phases which new norms have to go through when they are implemented in a state’s society, and (b) the “policy legalization model” which highlights the role of litigation in ensuring social rights compliance. Furthermore the article will deal with the responsibility of the international community in this area of development policy.

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Social Protection and Human Rights