While policies to promote broad-based economic growth are fundamental to overall social development, the benefits of growth do not automatically reach the poorest and most marginalized families; direct interventions are still required to reach the socially and economically excluded. Consequently, creating and strengthening social protection systems is an important priority for governments, donors, UN agencies and NGO partners in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESA). Child welfare and protection concerns are often at the heart of these social protection efforts, requiring UNICEF to inform policy, practice and advocacy in this area. Long considered a privilege of developed countries, social protection is now recognized for the role it can play in addressing poverty and vulnerability in developing countries. Among some development partners, social protection is considered part of the essential package of basic social services that the state ought to provide to its citizens.
The Livingstone Accord (March 2006) represents a major political landmark for social protection in the region. Thirteen countries in ESA, under the auspices of the African Union, have committed themselves to developing national social protection strategies, and integrating them into national development plans and budgets. This commitment opens up new opportunities for working with governments on the fulfillment of children’s rights to survival, development and protection. Preparations for a Pan-Africa ‘Livingstone II’ have just begun, with the objective of sharing experiences in social protection and further solidifying the political commitment to the sector; the AU will be developing a social protection position paper over the next 12 months.