Letter to the Biden administration: Use the G20 to advance social protection

In a public letter written ahead of the G20 summit in Rome, and in coordination with the AFL-CIO, the American Apparel & Footwear Association, and Fontheim International, Human Rights Watch called on the Biden administration to seize the opportunity to advancing efforts for a Global International Social Protection Fund.

As world leaders prepare for the G20 summit, we are writing to pressure the Biden administration to use this platform as an opportunity to advance proposals to increase funding and coordination of the social protection through an international Global Social Protection Fund.

The international community increasingly recognizes the importance of social protection; it is an internationally recognized human right, it is enshrined in international labor standards and the commitment to extend social protection is part of the SDGs. By providing essential support to people facing situations such as unemployment, illness, maternity, widowhood or old age, social protection has many benefits for individuals and their communities. It supports and increases people’s income and standard of living and prevents poverty, social insecurity and social exclusion. In addition to reducing inequalities and promoting social cohesion, social protection has also demonstrated its benefits for businesses and the wider economy. Investing in social protection and essential services – including health, education and care services – has positive effects on skills, employability, productivity and overall business performance. Moreover, social protection has proven to be a prerequisite for building resilience – against this crisis and against future crises. Whether it is an economic crisis, a health crisis or a climate crisis, social protection plays an essential role in maintaining jobs and supporting workers’ incomes.

Despite the benefits of social protection, less than a third of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive social protection systems and less than half have access to at least one social protection benefit. This leaves the vast majority of the world’s population unprotected in times of need or national or global economic shocks.

Financial commitments to support extensions of social protection are sorely lacking. While the expansion of social protection is economically feasible for the vast majority of rich countries, significant financing gaps exist for the world’s poorest countries, preventing the extension of social protection systems worldwide. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated the amount needed to finance social protection floors in the world’s poorest countries to be around $78 billion. This amount represents about 16% of the collective GDP of the world’s lowest income countries, but at the global level it represents less than 0.25% of global GDP, highlighting the potential for global cooperation to support the financing of social protection.

With your leadership, countries can better coordinate and help low-income countries around the world build the fiscal space needed to develop and expand social protection systems. Currently, less than 0.7% of total ODA is devoted to social protection. Given its demonstrable contribution to development, social protection should be given higher priority when it comes to international development assistance. Furthermore, we believe that a Global Social Protection Fund could lead to greater coordination and strengthened international financial and technical support for social protection. The aim would be to develop adequate, comprehensive and sustainable social protection systems that directly benefit people. The concept of such a fund has been endorsed by world leaders, including Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and we encourage you to use your authority to do so. progress.

If the Biden administration is serious about leading the charge toward an equitable and comprehensive economic recovery and mitigating the extreme impacts of future crises, it should: ensure adequate social spending at the national level; increase its ODA internationally; and endorse the proposal for a Global Social Protection Fund. To help the administration move this effort forward through its international work and across government agencies, we are requesting a meeting with the administration after the G20 summit.

We look forward to working together on these important issues.



American Apparel and Footwear Association

Fontheim International, LLC

Human Rights Watch

Joel C. Hicks