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 less than 1.25 United States dollars ($) a day in 2010 to 7.4 per cent in 2012. Twenty-eight per cent of urban dwellers in the Arab region live in slums and around 50 million people are estimated to be suffering from malnutrition.
Social protection policies are key tools for combating poverty and promoting decent living for all
peoples, without any distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political affiliation,
nationality or social origin, property ownership, birth or other status, and should form an inclusive and
comprehensive set of policies. People’s concerns should be considered when policy is formulated to ensure equity, equality and participation – the key pillars of social justice.
The first section of this paper introduces social protection as a basic human right enshrined in
international declarations and conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It also provides a brief overview of social protection provision in the Arab region, highlighting achievements and challenges. The second section examines various participatory approaches to promoting social protection, including: participatory budgeting for allocating funds; more efficient governance through decentralization; and tools (observatories) and processes (national dialogues and partnerships) for use throughout the cycle of social protection policy formulation and implementation. It concludes by highlighting a case study on successful and participatory community–based contributory health insurance.
The paper concludes with social protection policy recommendations adapted to the context, national
development needs and priorities of the Arab region.