Many countries are characterised by a situation of structural food and nutritional insecurity, the main causes being booming population, climate change, social conflicts and a reduced availability of natural resources. Hit by a number of shocks increasing in intensity and frequency, impoverished households are no longer able to protect their meagre capital and invest for the future. Welfare support (that is, regulated by the states within the region) restricted to periods of acute crisis, potentially bolstered by humanitarian responses (that is, supported by donors and international actors), cannot deal with this type of structural food and nutrition insecurity.
Following a growth in awareness among regional actors over the past few years, an increasing number of states have engaged in a movement which seeks to establish permanent social transfer programmes in order that aid to the most vulnerable people becomes more reliable and regular, and therefore more effective. At the same time, humanitarian actors have been led to extend their activities beyond simply the climaxes of crises, and tend to coordinate their responses in matters of emergency response and development. Cash transfers are increasingly being used in humanitarian responses as much as in national social welfare programmes.
In this context, there is a growing interest in how social protection can feature as a shock-response instrument, protecting household consumption whilst promoting demand and protecting economic growth at the macro level. It is viewed that shock resilient social protection can have various objectives focusing on the short, medium and long run by meeting crisis needs and developing future crisis response capacity. Generally, the immediate goal of social protection within a shock context is to compensate for loss of income or compensation for rising prices to protect access to essential goods and services in situations of increasing unemployment, inflation or a lack of basic services. This in turn can help to smooth consumption, whilst contributing to the protection of economic demand. (McCord, 2013). The effectiveness of these social protection programmes in response to a shock depends upon its timeliness, adaptability and its financial resources (Bastagli, 2014).
Graph: What are the mid-term areas for focus to achieve the intended vision? Taken from Cash Transfers and Resilience: Strengthening linkages between emergency cash transfers and national social transfer programmes in the Sahel Author: Cécile Cherrier.
The link between protection and emergency cash transfer has been the objective of a learning event in Dakar, Senegal, in 2014. You can read the discussion paper here, the workshop report here, and watch a video in French here.
In March 2015, Oxford Policy Management (OPM), leading a consortium in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) and INASP, was awarded the HIEP research project on Shock- Responsive Social Protection Systems. This two-year study aims to strengthen the evidence base as to when and how social protection systems can better scale up in response to shocks in low-income countries and fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS), thus reducing the need for separate humanitarian responses. The key research question is, 'What factors enable social protection systems to be responsive to shocks and to deliver effective shock response?
Two distinct but related themes underpin this project. First is an exploration of the features of social protection systems that might facilitate or impede an effective response to shocks. Second is the intersection between social protection, humanitarian interventions and disaster risk management, and the opportunities for improving coordination between these sectors. We are exploring these issues through a series of six case studies: three in-depth studies in Mali, Mozambique and Pakistan, two lighter reviews in Lesotho and the Philippines, and a light study of region-wide initiatives in the Sahel. So far the team has conducted preliminary visits to Mali, Pakistan and Mozambique.
For more information, read the one-pager introduction to Shock-Responsive Social Protection Research.
The research team welcomes news of any relevant interventions or related studies being undertaken and would be happy to include information from these in the research. Please contact Clare O'Brien of OPM, at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions about the research programme, or if you would like to receive communications about the project findings.
Additionally, the latest news regarding this study can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #shockresponsiveSP