Inclusion of refugees in government social protection systems in Africa, January 2021 – Cameroon


This study is undertaken to better understand the inclusion of refugees in government social protection programs in eight African countries (Ghana and Cameroon in West and Central Africa; the Republic of Congo, South Africa and Malawi in Southern Africa; and Djibouti, Kenya and Rwanda in East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region). It maps and examines enabling factors for inclusion and makes recommendations for action, drawn from the evidence base provided by UNHCR country offices, complemented by analysis of social protection focal points by the three regional offices. (BR) and the Resilience and Solutions Division. (DRS).

International and regional human rights instruments, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 1981 establish the universal human right to social security and, by extension, to social protection. Social protection is defined as a set of policies and programs aimed at preventing or protecting all people against poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion throughout their lives, with a focus on vulnerable groups. Social protection systems include social assistance or social safety nets (non-contributory benefits), social insurance (contributory scheme) and labor market intervention programs (a mixture of non-contributory and contributory benefits).

While refugees are covered by these general human rights instruments, the more specific international treaties protecting them provide for their right to access social protection. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees contains specific provisions relating to refugees’ access to social security and public relief. More recently, the New York Declaration in 2016 and the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018 called for the inclusion of refugees in social protection systems.

Joel C. Hicks