Sector project on social protection

Project description

Title: Sector project on social protection
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Worldwide
Overall term: 2017 to 2020


Social protection is a human right and a vital constituent of sustainable development. It helps to reduce poverty and inequality, and enables disadvantaged population groups to participate in social, economic and political development. All people can be exposed to sickness, unemployment, natural disasters or other risks during the course of their lives. Despite this, over 70 per cent of the world’s population are not covered by social protection and are largely left to cope on their own if any of these situations arises. In an effort to counteract this, a separate target for sustainable development was agreed within the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Target 1.3) for universal access to social protection systems. Social protection also plays a major role in the implementation of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

German development cooperation is a long-standing partner in international cooperation in the field of social protection. In partner countries, Germany is perceived and highly regarded as a pioneer in this field. German development cooperation is credited with considerable implementation expertise and active involvement in international bodies. The sector project is seeking to raise the profile of social protection on the various agendas of German development cooperation in order to step up support for the establishment and expansion of systems for universal social protection.


German development cooperation is designing and providing increased support for the establishment and expansion of systems for universal social protection.


The SDGs of the United Nations are driving international efforts to ensure that all people have access to social protection. Target 1.3 emphasises the need for universal access to social protection, which is additionally recognised as a key to achieving further SDGs. Against this background, the sector project aims to establish and develop social protection systems with a view to creating universal social safety nets in order to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The plan is to respond to the high demand from partner countries and to strengthen and harness Germany’s good reputation in this area. In the medium term, this is to lead to the implementation of additional social protection measures that will benefit disadvantaged and vulnerable population groups directly.

The primary task of the sector project is to advise BMZ on social protection. In order to ensure solid international positioning and practical relevance, activities are taken up in international networks and at country level. To carry out its task, the sector project is working in three fields of action: positioning, practical work and further development and innovation.

1. Positioning

The first field of action, ‘Positioning’, aims to underline the relevance of universal social protection for the achievement of the SDGs in German development cooperation. The sector project is helping BMZ and the issue of social protection to gain a strategic position in the relevant national and global structures with regard to expertise and policy. To this end, the sector project is providing specialist inputs and strategic advice to support BMZ in developing and refining German positions on social protection. For instance, the project is preparing a concept which illustrates and highlights the relevance of universal social protection, in other words the protection of all people from risks to their welfare throughout their life cycle, in the context of the 2030 Agenda. The sector-specific and intersectoral relevance of social protection is being addressed in particular detail. The sector project also sets out to identify suitable processes and platforms at an early stage, briefs BMZ comprehensively on the relevant content, provides strategic advice, and participates in consultations and discussions. The sector project proactively provides ongoing input related to work topics, events and studies to underpin the positioning of BMZ and the issue of social protection.

At national level, the BMZ sector division concerned receives support in presenting the overall political relevance of social protection to other BMZ divisions and other relevant ministries. The aim is to increase the recognition of the relevance and demand for social protection by other BMZ divisions. At international level, the sector project consolidates BMZ’s position by presenting the German social protection agenda and contributing expertise to international bodies and multilateral initiatives, such as the United Nations Commission for Social Development and the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B).

2. Practical work

The aim in the second field of action, ‘Practical work’, is to enable German development cooperation actors to increasingly rely on tried and tested advisory approaches and instruments in the development and expansion of social protection systems. The sector project supplies knowledge from its own advisory approaches and instruments and processes practical experience from other German development cooperation projects. Tools and strategies are continuously refined through their application, and the German development cooperation experience gained is reviewed. Tools developed during the predecessor project, some of which have already been applied, are being developed further and piloted together with partner countries and/or German development cooperation partners. To this end, the sector project advises on adapting the tools to the context of the country concerned and prepares lessons learned from their application. Importance is accorded to taking gender equality and particularly vulnerable population groups into account in this process. A special role is played by the Inter Agency Social Protection Assessments (ISPA) tools, which are monitored on an ongoing basis and, where applicable, improved. Successes and challenges are systematically evaluated and made available to the professional community.

This field of action also includes the Germany’s contribution to the EU Social Protection Systems (EU-SPS) initiative, being implemented in Malawi, Namibia, Indonesia and Cambodia within the local context. At supraregional level, partner country nationals receive specific training, for instance via universities and in the introduction of information management systems for health insurance institutions.

3. Further development and innovation

This third field of action, ‘Further development and innovation’, involves the preparation, consolidation and further development of strategies and tools for the establishment and expansion of social protection systems. The conceptual foundation for the German position on social protection is also elaborated here. With the overarching goal of making social protection universally accessible, sustainable and adaptable, the following topics are addressed: basic social care including graduated benefits, food security, employment programmes and social insurance schemes with the main focus on social security in the event of illness. This also includes the development of open-source software for health insurance information management systems.

One issue of general relevance is capacity development for the coordination of social protection measures in partner countries, with a view to guaranteeing a coherent overall system and its financing. Social protection is of relevance across sectors and therefore requires interface management (for example in the context of fragile situations or adaptation to climate change) and proactive cooperation with other players. This collaboration helps to integrate social protection in the priority areas of German development cooperation.

The sector project keeps close to the core of the ongoing international discourse on social protection. This enables it to identify effective approaches and issues at an early stage, provide ideas and impetus and, where applicable, develop innovative strategies and tools.


The work of the sector project to date has helped German development cooperation to position itself internationally in the field of social protection. The sector project has developed strategies and tools for the establishment and expansion of social protection systems; using these and through direct advisory services, it has been able to assist political decision-makers in partner countries in strengthening their social protection systems. It will continue this work and in the process will increasingly promote awareness in national bodies of the relevance of social protection for sustainable development and for achieving the 2030 Agenda.

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