Social protection for resilience building: Supporting livelihoods in protracted crises, fragile and humanitarian contexts

Introduction

The paper discusses the role that social protection can play in saving livelihoods while also enhancing the capacity of households to respond, cope and withstand threats and crises. The paper builds on FAO Social Protection Framework (FAO, 2017) and focuses on the role of social protection systems in humanitarian contexts, with a closer look at protracted crises and a discussion on the importance of shock-sensitive and responsive systems, even in stable contexts. The paper acknowledges that strengthening resilience at national and community levels requires a multisector approach, where risk-informed social protection interventions, including cash transfers, can become a critical component.

The paper falls within the current context of i) increased complexity and recurrence of humanitarian crises; ii) massive population movements due to distress migration, forced and protracted displacement; iii) limited financial, capacity to effectively meet humanitarian appeals and; iv) scale-up of social protection interventions and innovations across regions. It draws upon a review of FAO work on social protection in development and humanitarian contexts, and then develops the key aspects of the FAO approach vis-à-vis social protection in a range of different scenarios. In conclusion, key messages for FAO future engagement in this sector are identified.

Evidence coming from across regions have shown the important contributions social protection programmes have on a broad range of indicators, including food security, access to basic services, as well as in enhancing the economic and productive capacity of the poorest and marginalized communities. These benefits have been shown to strengthen the capacity of rural households to move progressively out of poverty, but also to effectively manage multiple risks and stresses.

The paper describes different operational entry points to allow existing social protection programmes to enhance their ability to effectively manage a crisis. However, it also discusses key challenges in this regard, including the capacity of the system, considerations regarding neutrality and impartiality in conflict contexts, sustainable financing of contingency mechanisms, as well as the need to find convergence between poverty reduction and humanitarian action objectives. For the latter, FAO Strategic Framework reflects the Organization’s commitment to a comprehensive vision around rural poverty and resilience: focusing on prevention, strengthening economic and productive capacities at household and community level, while promoting innovative sustainable solutions and livelihoods strategies in the context of rural transformation. This approach is further reinforced by the alignment to the 2030 Agenda and the Agenda for Humanity.

In this context, FAO comparative advantage lies in knowledge generation, policy work and operational know-how to effectively support governments in the design and implementation of shock-sensitive and responsive social protection systems, and in the direct implementation of cash-based and cash plus interventions in emergency contexts. But, most importantly, FAO works through a twin-track approach to effectively gather key lessons and operational expertise to progressively and effectively contribute to bridging the humanitarian and development divide.