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transformation, social justice and child sensitive social protection

April 19, 2011


big words that were used during last week’s conference at the Centre for Social Protection. During this three-day conference, researchers and practitioners came together to discuss how to move the social protection debate forward and especially how to be mor ambitious when it come to social protection. Programmes can help the poor survive, cope, migitate effects of shocks and in some cases even ‘graduate’ the poor out of poverty. But can we also desire and expect social protection to do more than that? To go beyond cushioning the effects of poverty and hardship but also to address those underlying issues that perpetuate and reinforce patterns of poverty and vulnerability, thereby entrenching the difficult sitation of particular groups? There was wide consensus that we should and can aspire social protection to do just that; consider issues of equity, social justice and empowerment; a big question remains: how?

I presented a paper on child sensitive social protection and what we can expect from a loosely used term like that. What does it mean and how should it be used for it to be meaningful? Should be used at all? It was encouraging to see that the presentation sparked quite some debate; a clear display of continued interest in the subject. Nevertheless, questions around definition and use of the concept remains. How different is child-sensitive from gender or HIV-sensitive social protection? And with all those sensitivities around, what value do these terms add to the debate? I agree with these concerns but having said that, I also believe that there is a role to play for the concept of child sensitive social protection. Not as a definition per se or a separate form or stream of social protection. But rather as a tool that helps us to assess the extent to which social protection is truly sensitive to issues that matter for children. A tool that forces us to think about it in concrete terms and along the lines of children’s practical and strategic needs without the assumption of universal truths about what is good or bad policy for children. But also to assess how policies that are not intentionally designed to benefit children can actually positively impact their lives. How is to be discussed further but, all in all, child sensitive social protection can be considered to remain on the agenda and there is a need to move to advance its discussion.

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