25 March 2013, New York, USA – Almost 40 participants gathered at the United Nations Headquarters for the first module of the seminar series “Advancing Social Protection Floors”, organized jointly by the UNITAR New York Office and the International Labour Organization.

Following opening remarks and a brief overview of the UNITAR International Labour Organization of the seminar series, which will culminate with a final workshop on drafting a resolution, Mr. Vinicius Pinheiro, Deputy Director of the International Labour New York Office, gave a comprehensive overview over the connection between social protection floors, inequality and poverty. Dr. Michael Cichon, President of International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) further stressed the link between social protection and inclusive growth stating that, social protection and notably a floor of social protection is a prerequisite investment in the development process: “Healthy and well educated people are contributors to society and economy and help to build resilient communities.” Many countries of the global South have recognized this axiom and established social programs. In Brazil, the “Bolsa Familia” program provides social transfers and ensures access to primary education for families with no or low income. Bolivia’s, a tax on gas, the country’s most important natural resource, finances a public health care system providing access to free health services for all citizens. As Dr. Cichon, explained, these programs illustrate that providing for a social protection floors in not just a privilege of high-income countries: “If there is political will, it is possible!”

Ms.  Griet Cattaert, Social Security Officer of the International Labour Organization New York office, presented the ILO Recommendation No 202 establishes guidelines for ILO member states for the implementation of national social protection floors. She stressed that the big achievement of the recommendation lies in the achieved global consensus on principle elements of social protection floors. For the monitoring of the implementation process, however, strong civil societies are needed.

Mr. Leonardo Castilho, Human Rights Officer at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights analyzed social protection from a human rights perspective stressing the importance of adopting comprehensive policies and ensuring an adequate legal and institutional framework. National social protection floors are a crucial instrument to ensure the realization of the rights defined in the International Convenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights ratified by 160 countries. However, “there is no one fits all model for social protection floors”, Castilho emphasized. While a minimum core content of economic, cultural and social rights has to be granted by any country, regardless of its level of development, the full realization of those rights is progressive and limited to available resources.

Finally, Dr. Jorge H. Bravo, Chief at Population and Development Section in the Population Division of UN DESA, focused on the link between Population Dynamics and Social Protection. He illustrated how population affects social protection, especially for older persons, the fall of fertility and its implications on the structure of family.