Assessment-based National Dialogue

by Loveleen De
from Global Newsletter - January 2017

A process to define and agree on social protection policy recommendations through national dialogue.

The Assessment-based National Dialogue (ABND) process, introduced and supported by the ILO, is based on a multipartite national discussion and therefore encourages the participation of all stakeholders working in the field of social protection in the country, including representatives of national ministries, social security agencies, employers, workers, civil society organizations and development agencies. It has been an important policy tool, used to identify social protection priorities at the national level through the engagement of all key actors.

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Loveleen De is a social protection officer with the ILO. She has facilitated the Assessment-based National Dialogue (ABND) exercise in the Philippines and developed training material on the ABND methodology. She is co-editor of a series of volumes on Social Protection Floors that showcase interesting experiences from developing countries.

Take as an example Myanmar, a lower-middle income country in South-East Asia with a fast growing economy. It launched its National Social Protection Strategic Plan in December 2014. This Strategic Plan paves the way for eight flagship social protection programmes. It answers to the call of the then President U Thein Sein to collectively build a society with equality and harmony and respond to the needs of all people in the country.

The Plan was developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. A high-level national Social Protection Working Committee was established to coordinate the activities of the government, development partners and civil society towards preparing the Plan. One of such activities was an Assessment-based National Dialogue (ABND) exercise, conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ABND exercise helped to formulate relevant, feasible and evidence-based policy options through a qualitative and financial assessment of the national social protection system and a national dialogue process. In 2013-14, Myanmar was undergoing a transition to democracy, and the ABND successfully facilitated participatory dialogue in the country.

In Myanmar, the ABND process convened a range of stakeholders, such as national ministries working in areas related to social protection, representatives of workers and employers, development agencies, civil society organizations and research institutions. They participated in a series of dialogue workshops to debate and create a consensual picture of the social protection situation in Myanmar and the challenges, and ultimately to decide on concrete policy recommendations to establish a Social Protection Floor (SPF) for all. The recommendations identified at the participatory workshops helped in drafting the National Social Protection Strategic Plan.

Why is national dialogue needed?

At the 2012 International Labour Conference, 184 countries adopted Recommendation No. 202 on National Social Protection Floors. SPFs comprise, at the least, access to health care and support for children, people of working age and the elderly. The precise nature of social protection, however, varies according to the social, economic and political context in the country and must be defined nationally. Thus, building a comprehensive national social protection system is a continuous process undertaken by each country.

One of the foremost steps in this process is to develop a common vision for the country, embedded in a national social protection strategy. The ILO uses the ABND methodology to support countries in conducting national dialogues to develop a common vision and priorities for social protection. The dialogues endeavour to build a consensus among the participating agencies. The final outputs of the process can vary from a national definition of the SPF to a national social protection strategy or a time-bound implementation plan for an existing strategy. The working group, which includes representatives of all key stakeholders, is kept as inclusive as possible so as to encourage transparency in the process and to represent the social protection needs and challenges at the ground level.

ABND map

The ABND methodology has been used in several countries to date, including Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam (completed) and Kyrgyzstan, Niger, Philippines, East Timor, Zambia and others (ongoing or planned).

For more, read Global Newsletter - January 2017 for the rest of the article