While in Addis, I had the opportunity to interact with Laura Rawlings and her World Bank colleagues on their draft Social Protection (SP) strategy refresh (see powerpoints here).
The key features of the new strategy:
- a move from social risk management (mitigate, cope with and reduce risk) to a 3P framework (Prevention against a fall into poverty, Protection against loss of human capital, Promotion of opportunities and livelihoods)
- helping countries build context-specific SP programmes, especially in lower income countries
- emphasising promotion, through the labour market and other routes
- focus on governance, particularly social accountability
- harnessing other sectors through SP (e.g. nutrition)
- investing in knowledge management
I welcome this evolution of the strategy. The 3P framework is something we have pioneered at IDS, through our Centre for Social Protection, so it is great to see it being used by the Bank.
The main regret is that the T (for Transformation) from our framework has been dropped from theirs.
The "T" argument is that many shocks arise from the social and political power structures within society and that SP should, whenever possible, try to influence these rather than simply respond to them. In other words, can SP change the rules of the game? There are ways of doing this that involve changing power dynamics in a micro way. Transferring resources to women is one way of shifting power balances (although it can create problems for women if they are merely "fronts"). But there are other ways of doing this, via supporting citizens to claim rights to SP. The Bank's focus on social accountability may be the way they (partially) deal with this.
There is more attention to political analysis within the strategy which is a step forwards. Back in 2007 I was urging the Bank to do this (see here), but it is a shame that there is not a greater emphasis. There are at least 3 reasons for such an emphasis (a) SP is inherently political--it is wrapped up in ideology about the role of the state, (b) SP represents one area of intense negotiation and settlement between state and society, and (c) SP is open to vote buying.
I was pleased to see the emphasis on knowledge management, although I would like to see a greater focus on drawing on experience from front line operations, especially given the emphasis on building context specificity. Having more decentralised Bank staff helps but is not sufficient for this to happen--the Bank must reach out to partners in country to identify and mobilise knowledge and expertise that does not make it into the economics peer reviewed journals.
I congratulate the Bank on this evolution of the SP strategy and hope to see more boldness on the political analysis (upstream and downstream), on the structural drivers of vulnerability and on diversified knowledge management.
If you would like to share your views with the Bank, here is the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org