Social protection and inclusion of persons of concern: Regional analysis of the inclusion of persons of concern to UNHCR in government social protection systems and implications for future action – Ethiopia

1. Summary.

The East Africa, Horn and Great Lakes (EHAGL) region is experiencing an increase in the frequency, severity and duration of crises, with new conflicts increasing the number of displaced and

number of refugees. Increasingly protracted displacements are compounded by increasing climatic shocks and insufficient humanitarian resources to meet the needs generated by these scenarios. However, despite this difficult context, progress is being made in establishing, strengthening and scaling up social protection policies, systems and programs in the region, alongside increased investment in these systems. This is often heavily funded by development partners, as a more sustainable approach to humanitarian crises, but in some countries there is an increase in domestic tax-based funding. COVID-19 has further accelerated efforts to expand social protection systems, building on strong evidence of the effectiveness of social protection systems in reaching the most vulnerable.

In the humanitarian and development sectors, there is growing recognition of the role that social protection can play in reducing poverty and addressing life cycle risks and vulnerabilities. In many countries, pilot interventions are proving effective and influencing the approaches of governments and development partners and are being scaled up in government social protection programs. Delivery systems are improving and there is more emphasis on developing shock-responsive systems with the capacity to expand and respond to drought, floods or conflict. Despite the problems of resources, capacities, fragmentation and coordination, the number of vulnerable people benefiting from social protection systems continues to increase. This is in line with a broader move towards the use of cash transfers for humanitarian response. There is a growing body of strong evidence on the effectiveness of social protection and social transfers in development and crisis contexts.

The growth of inclusive social protection systems aimed at providing more effective, efficient and sustainable solutions to vulnerable populations represents an opportunity for UNHCR. This involves re-examining ways to meet the basic and protection needs of forcibly displaced communities and exploring the role government social protection systems can play in meeting the needs of people of concern to UNHCR, accelerating the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) program and promote inclusiveness, efficiency, sustainability and place-based solutions.

It is against this background that UNHCR has developed a global roadmap for the inclusion of PoC in government social protection systems. This study aims to inform the implementation of this roadmap in the EHAGL region. It provides an overview of the social protection landscape in the region and ranks countries according to the level of development of their social protection systems. Nascent systems invest primarily in expanding social safety nets and access to social health protection and school feeding programs, with parallel humanitarian programming. Some countries are also developing contributory schemes such as social insurance and contributory pensions, but to date these reach only a small proportion of the formal sector. Most of the region’s population, including working refugees, lives in the informal sector. There is growing recognition of the need to expand the reach of social insurance mechanisms and provide more flexible products tailored to informal sector workers and to support the development of these schemes with awareness-raising programs to ensure their adoption.

The study then maps existing levels of PoC inclusion in social protection systems for each country. In most countries, we see partial inclusion through, for example, the participation of (mainly urban) refugees in national health insurance schemes, social registries or social safety nets (integrating displaced populations or refugees and vulnerable host communities). In some countries, inclusion may be established at the policy level but not yet operationalized. In other countries, policy discussions are just beginning or have not yet begun. Opportunities for inclusion vary greatly from region to region, determined by each country’s context, categories of

PoC, as well as the level of development of social protection systems.

The study identifies nine facilitators of inclusion. These include the protection policy environment, financing, capacity, level of development of the social protection system, inclusion of the PoC in national datasets, ability of the PoC to meet the criteria for eligibility, access to identity documents and financial systems and the levels of engagement of UNHCR in the sector (coordination, accompaniment and monitoring of inclusion). The study develops several recommendations for UNHCR to advance the inclusion of social protection at the country level. While these are primarily aimed at UNHCR country operations, they are also relevant to other stakeholders, including host governments, donors and other development partners, who wish to strengthen the inclusion of PoCs.

Joel C. Hicks