Building Partnerships for Social Protection in Zimbabwe

May 29, 2017

Debate on the social protection landscape in Zimbabwe has gained renewed momentum with a call for partnerships and mobilization of financial and technical resources to ensure that no one is left behind as the country implements Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development.

Presenting a keynote address at a UNDP-organized dialogue forum on Social Protection held in Harare on 7 April, 2017, Dr Billy Mukamuri who is the chairperson of the University of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), stressed the need for a national platform which would take the lead in advancing the social protection agenda in the country.

“At CASS, we are ready to support in this effort by facilitating a national indaba on social protection bringing together academics, policy-makers and civil society” said Dr Mukamuri.

The session was attended by various representatives of UN Agencies as well as NGOs, including Save the Children, CARE and OXFAM.

Terming the event as timely, UNDP Country Director, Ms Verity Nyagah said UNDP views social protection as a key tool to transform its vision to “help countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion into reality”.

“UNDP has also played an important part in extending social protection programmes, reforming them, fostering innovation, transferring know-how across countries, and working closely with traditionally excluded communities to ensure that their voices are represented and their needs addressed” stated the Country Director.

In his remarks, Mr. Samson Muradzikwa who is the Chief of Social Policy & Research at UNICEF-Zimbabwe, and is the Chair of the United Nations Policy Advisors in Zimbabwe highlighted the significant decline in expenditures on social protection in 2015 of about 17% from the 2014 level. He attributed the decline to increased government fiscal challenges as well as decreased donor support to some social protection programs such as the Basic Education Assistance Module.

Describing financing as a major challenge, Mr Muradzikwa explained that social protection can be affordable and sustainably financed even in poor countries. “Spending on social protection is an investment, as it can result in positive immediate and long-term economic and social return”.

Echoing a similar theme, UNDP Livelihoods Specialist Ms Heema Devi Khadka underlined the need for national ownership of social protection initiatives.

“Leaving no one behind will require thinking about how to remove structural barriers and reach the hard to reach populations through social protection systems” said Ms Khadka, adding that forging synergies, partnership and collaboration with various stakeholders is very crucial.

The dialogue session was held against the background of the launch of the National Social Protection Policy Framework for Zimbabwe 2016 aimed at “reducing extreme poverty through empowering and building resilience in poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged households”. The policy proposes that all the 500 000 households which are deemed to be below the Food Poverty Line be considered as eligible for all forms of social assistance, at least in the short to medium term. “In the long term, all the 900,000 households should be targeted as the country moves towards universalization of social assistance to all deserving households” says the document.

According to the policy, Zimbabwe has a rich social protection tradition and a range of social protection instruments are being implemented in under each of the social protection pillars. These include cash and in-kind transfers, public works programs, health and education assistance, child protection services, Social insurance programs, and resilience and livelihoods rebuilding programmes. “Despite these initiatives, Poverty and vulnerability continues to be major challenges confronting Zimbabwe. In 2011, about 72.3 percent of the population was poor and living below the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL) while 22.5 percent were extremely poor, living below the Food Poverty Line (FPL).”

The forum endorsed the call for a social protection platform in Zimbabwe. The platform will serve as a tool for information exchange and learning. Participants also emphasized the need to leverage existing social protection interventions and move beyond cash transfers and sectoral agenda.

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