Social protection programs are most effective in tackling drivers, consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition, Under-Secretary-General tells webinar – Global
Below is the text of the video message from the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, at the Africa Dialogue Series webinar on “The role of social protection in strengthening food security and nutrition for a more great resilience in Africa”, today:
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a pleasure to join you today for the international Africa Dialogue Series (ADS) webinar on “The role of social protection in enhancing food security and nutrition for greater resilience in Africa”.
Throughout this month, the Africa Dialogue Series focuses on the resilience of food systems in Africa with the aim of dealing with a harsh reality: external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global impacts of the war in Ukraine, continue to have a disproportionate impact on African countries.
In 2022, more than 100 million people in the continent’s hotspot countries are expected to be acutely food insecure, representing a sharp increase of 22% from just a year ago. This week, ADS looks to social protection as a way to build resilience, bearing in mind that currently Africa has the lowest social protection coverage in the world – 17% of the total population. against a global average of 47%.
Social protection programs are the most effective tool to address both the drivers and the consequences of food insecurity and malnutrition. But if we are to maximize the potential of social protection programs, we need to take four urgent steps.
First, promote universal social protection programs that lead to income distribution outcomes that guarantee the sustainability of economic growth. This requires moving away from a charity assistance approach to a clear recognition that social protection policies must be designed to generate social, economic and cultural returns. For example, by adopting food-for-asset policies that build or rehabilitate assets that will improve long-term food security and resilience, in addition to cash transfers to address food insecurity.
Second, to improve access to healthy food through specially designed school meals to combat malnutrition. Local school meals programs are a prime example of social protection policies that have a wider impact, promoting economic growth and social cohesion in local communities.
Third, strengthen national resource mobilization systems to underpin social protection policies. It is critical for Africa’s resilience that critical policies such as social protection are funded from national budgets to ensure their long-term sustainability. Funding for social protection must also be linked to overall funding for social sectors, including the creation of decent jobs in the green, care and digital economies.
This integrated approach could have the dual benefit of mobilizing additional financing for social protection systems through social security contributions while simultaneously preparing people for tomorrow’s global economy and building their resilience to future shocks.
Fourth, promote efficiency and reprioritization of public spending in line with these key priorities. Inefficient public spending on education, infrastructure and health represents a combined annual loss of 2.87% of Africa’s GDP. Increasing the efficiency of public spending would free up enough resources to fund strong social protection systems.
I hope that today’s discussions will assess some of these measures and come up with concrete recommendations for moving towards stronger social protection systems in Africa. I wish you fruitful deliberations.
For news media. Not an official record.