The aim was to identify challenges and best practices through debate among, among others, Member States, UN agencies, treaty bodies and civil society.
For Mrs Bachelet, there could not have been a better time to discuss social security and social protection. Due to the pandemic, 255 million jobs have been lost in 2020 alone.
“Hubs in the coverage of social protection systems and inadequate social protection services contributed to the inequalities that accelerated and amplified the effects of COVID-19”Said the High Commissioner.
Social security facilitates access to health care, protects people from poverty and secures essential economic and social rights, including food, water, housing, health and education.
The High Commissioner believes that Member States “clearly recognized” the importance of social safety nets last year when they responded to the pandemic with unprecedented safeguards to mitigate its social, economic and health consequences.
At the peak of the crisis, from Malawi to Peru, the Philippines, Finland and the United States, governments rapidly expanded their social assistance programs.
They introduced new money transfers to many people who are typically excluded, including informal workers, most of them women and freelancers working in the growing app-based ‘concert economy’.
In Argentina and Bolivia, for example, resources were used to promote more progressive tax systems, creating a broader tax space for social protection.
“But many of these measures were temporary,” warned Mrs Bachelet.“And in every region, much more needs to be done to make the right to social security a reality for all.”
Now she argued that Member States should move from the temporary and ad hoc measures in the first months of the pandemic to long-term policies.
Lack of coverage
Only 26% of children globally receive social benefits, and less than half of women with newborns worldwide receive cash maternity benefits. Only about 30% of people with severe disabilities receive a disability pension.
The ongoing transition to a green economy and the introduction of new technologies are also shifting the working environment, especially for the most disadvantaged.
“Social security is an important tool to help workers navigate these changes and builds invaluable resilience to the economy in general,” Ms Bachelet argued.
For the High Commissioner, this kind of protection is not only “a fundamental human right”, but it is also “indispensable for the exercise of many other rights and necessary for a life of dignity.”
Work in progress
Renewal of solidarity is a cornerstone of the Secretary-General’sCommon agendawhich aims to combat inequality and guide how the world can better recover from the pandemic.
For Mrs Bachelet, international cooperation with less developed countries in this context is “essential and will benefit everyone.”
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) works to promote global social protection systems, prioritize health budgets and wider participation of health workers and communities in social protection schemes.
“Social protection systems are not a drain on resources: they are an invaluable investment in healthy societies,” the High Commissioner concluded.