[9 October 2012] GENEVA/NEW YORK – “Nearly 80 percent of the world’s poor do not have access to social protection to shield them from the effects of unemployment, illness, or disability – not to mention crop failure or soaring food costs. Yet, if we were to dedicate 2 percent of global GDP to securing this human right, basic social protection could be provided to all of the world’s poor,” stated Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

“Following this summer's drought in the US, food prices are dangerously high for the third time in five years, and hunger remains at high levels, as today’s FAO figures* show. The right to food is denied every time prices spike and people are no longer able to put food on the table. Food and other basics must not be left to the mercy of economic cycles – the world's poorest citizens must be able to fall back on basic social protection,” said Mr. De Schutter.

In a briefing note launched today, the UN experts call for the creation of a Global Fund for Social Protection (GFSP), to be housed under existing international agencies such as the World Bank or established as an independent body, and funded by donations from developed countries.

The dual functions of the GFSP would be to (a) close the funding shortfall for putting in place a social protection floor in least developed countries (LDCS); and (b) help underwrite these schemes against the risks of excess demand triggered by major shocks by (i) advising LDCs on suitable private reinsurance options, (ii) subsidising premiums where necessary, and/or (iii) acting as the reinsurer of last resort in cases where private schemes are not extensive or affordable enough.

The UN experts explained that many developing countries face human, technical and financial constraints and thus cannot afford the surging expenditure on social protection that is required in the wake of catastrophes such as droughts, floods or disease epidemics that afflict large population groups, while simultaneously slashing a State's tax and export earnings.

“International support for social protection measures becomes even more relevant in the context of the global economic crisis and its severe impact on the LDCs. International solidarity is needed,” they urged, stating: “When the global financial crisis struck, Governments stepped in to prop up banks that were deemed too important to fail. The same logic must now be applied to basic social protection, which is too crucial to be denied.”

They stressed that in doing so, States would be answering the calls of the ILO, UNICEF, the G20 and the World Bank to make social protection global, fulfilling their human rights obligations, transforming the shape of their development aid, harvesting the multiplier effects of supporting incomes in developing countries, and continuing the promise of the Millennium Development Goals beyond their expiration in 2015.

The UN experts proposed that the GFSP be discussed and developed in the Social Protection work-stream of the FAO's Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which convenes next week in Rome, and in the remit of ILO work on the social protection floor.

(*) Read the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 (SOFI) report, jointly published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).


Read the briefing note: Underwriting the Poor: a Global Fund for Social Protection

Read the executive summary

Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization. For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm or www.srfood.org.

Magdalena Sepúlveda was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government or organization. For more information, visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm

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