Setting the stage for effective governance: First Annual National Social Protection Conference in Pakistan

The COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating floods in 2022 have highlighted the need for a more adaptive approach to social protection. The first Annual Social Protection Conference in Pakistan brought together stakeholders from all over Pakistan to develop joint actionable steps for a social protection system that is better equipped to address the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly in the wake of climate change.

Need of the hour: Building a more adaptive social protection system for Pakistan

Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) is an approach that aims to build resilience and responsiveness into social protection systems. Despite the potential benefits of ASP, Pakistan currently does not have a comprehensive system in place which takes the different levels of governance regarding responsiveness, coping and preparedness systematically into account. This requires a national reform agenda based on collaboration and coordination among different national and provincial stakeholders, including policymakers, social protection institutions and civil society.

A stakeholder platform to develop joint actionable steps for a better-equipped social protection system coping with challenges like climate change was highly needed: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), in collaboration with the German Cooperation, World Bank and ADB organised the first annual social protection conference from the 8th – 10th of May in Bhurban, Murree. The conference was attended by representatives from the federal social protection ministry, provincial and federal social protection institutions and line departments, national and international experts, academia, and development partners.

Sharing knowledge to counter the risk

A statement was developed by the participants which included a recommendation to form a Coordination Committee for consultation and collaboration when designing new social protection programmes. The committee also explores possibilities of removing duplications with provincial programmes. Collaboration with disaster management entities at federal and provincial levels has also been stressed. There was a consensus on developing mechanisms of two-way exchange on a reciprocal basis for different data sources, including beneficiary registries, climate-related and administrative data, which includes institutional arrangements for maintaining the security and privacy of data. The statement’s action points will be further deepened in focused discussions between the federal and provincial level, in particular regarding the two-way data sharing between the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) and provincial data sources. The formation of the Coordination Committee will be pursued and therefore, the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety is currently taking the lead in developing a concept with operational steps for such a committee. A follow-up dialogue on the national Social Protection agenda and the Bhurban Statement is planned for August 2023.

“This is the first national social protection conference, but it is not the last, there will be many such dialogues we will be hosting with our partners as we think this conversation has to go on.” - Shazia Marri, Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety and Chairperson of BISP