Over the last two decades, an increasing number of low- and middle-income countries worldwide have started to put social protection programmes in place, including cash transfers and linkages to access to basic goods and services. Extensive evidence demonstrates that social protection helps reduce poverty, inequality, and childhood deprivation and has long-term positive impacts on human capital development. The provision of direct income support to the poor and marginalised can, under certain circumstances, generate trust in the state and support for public institutions. Social protection can also unlock the productive potential of the poorest, increase local economic growth and micro-economic activity and even stimulate aggregate growth. When properly designed, social protection also has potential to decrease inequalities, for example, gender and geographic disparities. Social protection’s contribution to the reduction of poverty and income inequality can diminish the likelihood of social unrest and thus better assures social peace. The combination of social and economic impacts is also seen as contributing to strengthening resilience: enhancing the capacity of poor households to cope, respond and withstand disasters better.
As part of those commitments under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, the global community pledges to expand the coverage of social protection measures for all, and to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030. This expansion must include scale up of social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement to ensure no one is left behind. Concomitantly, development actors recognised the importance of social protection at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), and committed through the Grand Bargain to “increase social protection programmes and strengthen national and local systems and coping mechanisms in order to build resilience in fragile contexts.”
While establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted instability and displaced populations is more complex, experience suggests that it can and does play an important role both in humanitarian and developmental fronts––particularly in times of critical transitional junctures. Incremental adjustments to social protection provision have already helped countries such as Jordan and Lebanon respond to large displaced populations, and may provide lessons and roadmaps for others to pursue.