The AfDB considers it necessary to strengthen social protection programs

Louella Desiderio – The Filipina star

August 28, 2022 | 00:00

MANILA, Philippines — Asian countries need to strengthen and expand their social protection programs to prepare for the impact of climate change, according to the Asian Development Bank (AfDB).

In the latest blog from the multilateral lender, AfDB Social Sector Specialist Amir Jilani said there is a need for countries in the region to strengthen their social protection programs as the region is the most disaster prone and vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Of the 10 countries most affected by climate change, six are in Asia.

“While poor communities in Asia have contributed the least to global warming, they are now experiencing the worst of the climate crisis,” Jilani said, noting that an average of more than 40,000 people in the region are killed each year. by storms, floods and other natural disasters, with women and girls more likely than men to die from climate-related disasters.

“The combination of densely populated urban and coastal areas, lowlands and many small islands means that developing countries in Asia will continue to be seriously threatened by climate change. Indeed, all aspects of life, from health and nutrition to security and income, will be affected,” Jilani said.

Through social protection measures, he said countries would be able to build resilience and protect the most vulnerable against climate, health and socio-economic shocks.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of having strong social protection systems as they have not only mitigated income and job losses but also helped prevent the spread of the virus, as well as deaths.

Countries that have boosted social assistance using digital tools to help households during the pandemic include the Philippines, Pakistan, Mongolia and Cambodia.

“As we emerge from the immediate crisis period, building adaptive and shock-responsive social protection systems has become more important than ever,” he said.

According to Jilani, countries could strengthen the role of social protection in responding to the challenge of climate change through universal delivery systems that allow automatic and effective extension of social protection to vulnerable populations.

This would include universal coverage of digital ID systems and social registries; strengthen registration options for vulnerable groups; improve the integration and interoperability of large-scale databases, including early warning systems to forecast needs and promote early action; and have robust payment mechanisms.

Jilani said expanding social protection coverage to the most vulnerable, including children, women, older people, people with disabilities and people in the informal sector or groups hardest hit by shocks, would be also beneficial.

“While expanding coverage involves trade-offs and fiscal considerations, there is ample evidence documenting the positive multiplier effects of social transfers on the economy. The cost-effectiveness of these programs, especially when they enable the poor to recover quickly from shocks or avoid adverse coping behaviors, can be substantial,” he added.

Conducting poverty, risk and vulnerability assessments, Jilani said, would help in selecting beneficiaries and understanding household needs.

Additionally, countries can provide “climate-smart” social protection systems to support climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“These include shock and weather-indexed insurance schemes, economic inclusion (graduation) programs that help diversify livelihoods, and temporary social assistance linked to job training for vulnerable workers,” Jilani said.

In the Philippines, the pilot project of an AfDB-supported graduation approach has helped build household resilience to the pandemic in terms of financial security, food security and mental health.

Jilani said that having a coherent policy and greater collaboration with those involved in climate change, disaster risk management and humanitarian response through mechanisms such as multi-sector technical working groups, National coordination and standardized guidelines would also help strengthen social protection.

“Finally, countries need to invest in the human and financial capacities needed to make social protection systems more adaptive,” Jilani added.

Joel C. Hicks