Completing the development jigsaw
Not lacking in ambition, yesterday’s launch of the European Report on Development (ERD 2010/2011) revealed to a crowded audience nothing less than the “missing piece” in the development puzzle – and outlined a strategy for completing the jigsaw.
And what is that “missing piece”? Those who have been following closely will know that it is, of course, social protection.
“Social protection is the missing piece in the development puzzle,” Giorgia Giovannetti, the ERD’s lead author, told the packed conference hall at the European Development Days in Brussels, where the launch was held. “We believe the time is ripe for a new EU social protection agenda. Social protection can and should be a distinctive feature of the EU’s development agenda.”
Welcoming the report, Anthony Smith, head of international relations at the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK, one of the seven EU Member States funding the ERD initiative, said: “We need to strengthen growth in developing countries but we also need to protect against shocks.”
“The economic crisis has shown that we need a safety net, not just in industrialised countries but also in Africa,” noted Georges Serres, deputy director-general of global affairs, development and partnership at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in France, which is another of the seven countries supporting the ERD. He also commended the quality of the research presented in the report, saying that it clearly demonstrated how Europe can create excellent knowledge to support development policy.
On time, on target
And the ERD’s findings chime with the shifting global mood. “The ERD comes at exactly the right time and is right on target,” enthused Michael Cichon, director of the Social Security Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), noting that social protection has evolved into a pan-African policy in its own right.
A long-time advocate of social protection at the ILO, which is currently promoting its very own Social Protection Floor initiative, Cichon explained, in simple terms, the benefits to poorer societies of social protection: “You have to invest in people as a first step – because only people who are well-nourished, healthy and educated can be productive.”
François Bourguignon, director of the Paris School of Economics, delivered a note of caution. While acknowledging that social protection can help ensure that no part of the population is left out of sharing the fruits of growth, he warned that “social protection should not become another fad”, like large infrastructure projects, for example, once were. “It is a piece in the larger development puzzle, and it needs to be treated as one of many policy instruments.”
During the Q&A session, the audience reacted largely positively to the ERD 2010/2011 and its findings and recommendations. Among the interventions, one speaker claimed that European welfare systems were proving “unaffordable” and “unsustainable” and so it was irresponsible for the EU to suggest to poorer countries that they should establish their own. In contrast, another speaker suggested that, since social protection was partly about economic justice and wealth redistribution, then wealthy countries should set up a permanent global fund to finance cross-border social transfers.