Reporting on the Implementation of Social Protection Floors

By Wouter van Ginneken

Wouter van Ginneken
Wouter van Ginneken is a former staff member of the International Labour Office and a founding member of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors. He has been a member of the International Geneva Team of the International Movement ATD Fourth World since 2004.

Our Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF) aims at influencing policy-making both at the international level and at the national level. There are now a number of national platforms – GCSPF members – who wish to report to UN organizations about the implementation of social protections floors at the national level.

There are three main international organizations or fora[ In this note we shall only consider reporting procedures in the context of the United Nations. There may also be reporting procedures at the regional level, such as in the context of the African Union and the European Union.] to which such reporting can be addressed: (i) the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, and in particular through the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). (ii) the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, which oversees the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and (iii) the International Labour Office (ILO) in Geneva, which in 2012 adopted Recommendation No.202 on National Social Protection Floors.

National platforms are most effective when various civil-society organizations and social organizations, such as trade unions, work closely together. They also benefit from the support of other actors, such as academics, journalists, UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the ILO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, as well as national human rights institutions (NHRIs).

The three reporting procedures: opportunities and limitations

The CESCR is probably best equipped for civil society to report to on SPF implementation. The CESCR monitors the implementation of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which explicitly recognizes the right to social security and has been ratified by almost all countries in the world. A number of other committees also monitor the implementation of the right to social security in core human rights treaties covering specific groups of the population, such as the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a procedure through which the HRC monitors the implementation of all human rights instruments, including civil and political rights. This is principally a State-driven process, but its results can sometimes reach the headlines in the national media.

The advantage of reporting to the HLPF is that it happens every year, and that a number of indicators have been developed (including by the ILO) that permit regular monitoring. The advantage is also that the monitoring results are generally well published. However, it is basically a state-controlled procedure on which civil society can have only a limited impact.

ILO Recommendations – unlike ILO Conventions – are not regularly monitored by the ILO Committee of Experts. However, at irregular (10 or more years) intervals the ILO may decide to undertake a General Survey on a particular topic. In June 2019 the International Labour Conference will consider a General Survey that will focus on ILO Recommendation No.202, with questions also related to other ILO social security instruments. Workers’ organizations –being part of ILO’s tri-partite constituency - have a very significant impact on those surveys.

Reporting on the four social security guarantees

The aim of the reporting is to show whether a particular government is providing the four social security guarantees that have been formulated in ILO Recommendation 202, i.e.

  • Essential health care, including maternity care, that meets the criteria of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality;
  • Basic income security for children and providing access to nutrition, education, care and any other necessary goods and services;
  • Basic income security for persons in active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, in particular in cases of sickness, unemployment, maternity and disability; and
  • Basic income security for older persons.

What is considered basic or essential in a particular country will depend on its priorities, as well as on its level of economic and social development. In practice that level may be linked to a national poverty line that may have been determined (and updated) in the context of national dialogues.

Read the rest of this article in December's issue of ICSW Global Newsletter.