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from SRM to 3P’s

March 17, 2011


Last Tuesday, I represented IDS at one of the World Bank’s consultation meetings on their new Social Protection Strategy. It’s been a decade since Robert Holzmann launched his Social Risk Management framework, which has been largely influential on current thinking about social protection around the world. Ten years on, it is now time for the new Director of Social Protection & Labor, Arup Banerjee, to present his take on social protection and consequently update the WB’s overall strategy. Whilst the Bank’s rhetoric in the last decade was dominated by references to risk and how to prevent, mitigate or cope with risk, the new strategy focuses on the so-called 3 P’s: prevention, protection and promotion. As also admitted by Banerjee, this 3P framework is not new and was already proposed by ILO and IDS (Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler) in the early 2000’s. Shifting the remit of social protection away from risk towards these 3Ps are to provide more tangible guidelines about appropriate interventions to meet the larger objective of building resilience and opportunity.

Although the various representatives of academic institutes and NGOs were largely appreciative of this new shift in strategy, there were also concerns about gaps in the current concept note. These included the conflation of low-income countries and fragile states into one category, the distinction between social protection and labor market policies, the focus on chronic poverty as opposed to shocks, donor harmonization and the Bank’s apparent one-size-fits-all model. From my perspective, although the concept note on the new strategy is already more recognisant of the creation of opportunities for people to ‘promote’  them out of poverty and the inequalities that lock them into poverty, there could be more acknowledgment for the potential of social protection to address structural inequalities beyond poverty. In response to a question about the lack of a gender perspective, Banerjee explained that the WB is very gender-aware and will always prefer to hand out cash transfers to women as opposed to men for reasons of empowerment beyond poverty. If this kind of reasoning does indeed play a role in the Bank’s design of social protection programmes, why not acknowledge it in the concept note and new strategy as a whole?

More information can be found on the World Bank website.

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