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Social protection and cash

The Oxfam Social Protection Policy Compendium, states that 'Social protection is a human right, and Oxfam shares ILO's definition of social protection as "a basic right for all people that is realized through public or publicly mandated actions that enable people to deal with risk and vulnerability, that provide support in cases of extreme and chronic poverty and enhance the social status and rights of marginalized groups."  (ILO Convention 102 -1952). Social protection is one of the most powerful tools governments have for reducing inequality, poverty and want. Social protection is an essential pillar of redistributive policies, which - ideally - put money into the hands of those who have less, through progressive taxation, mainly from those who have more. Where social protection is universal and widely expanded, it transforms societies, not just by reducing dramatically income inequality, but also by creating a more caring and egalitarian society. (2018:1).  To be inclusive, social protection must be designed to acknowledge important gender, age and ability differences.  Oxfam is a vocal supporter of national and international moves to develop universal and comprehensive national social protection systems.

Social protection systems have a critical role in helping to manage humanitarian crises.  Functioning social protection systems mean that individuals and households are a) more resilient in advance of shocks and crises because they have been able to protect or build up assets and human capital and possibly diversity their livelihoods and b) people recover more quickly because they have reliable and predictable support.  Governments are ultimately responsible for social protection but international and national humanitarian and development agencies have a role in providing social protection (often through more limited 'safety nets') where governments do not provide or cannot manage to do so.

Where it is feasible to design, or link social protection systems to respond to large scale crises, we believe that this would enable a more rapid and appropriate response.  Cash based programming is often the easiest platform for creating linkages between humanitarian and social protection systems and we are working to understand how best to do this in different contexts.  Oxfam sees engagement with the more temporary and economically focused safety nets in humanitarian contexts as an entry point to support broader processes of advocacy for national governments to start to build universal systems (in line with the progressive approach of the Social Protection Floor) and does not promote economic safety nets as a policy.

Oxfam's Cash Team, along with other teams within Oxfam (the Even it Up campaign, Resilience, Disaster Risk Reduction, etc.) works on strengthening social protection systems and adapting them to better manage humanitarian crisis through research, capacity building, monitoring, advocacy, piloting innovations, preparedness planning and implementation.  The Cash Team has been actively involved in developing the Global Humanitarian strategy for the GHT to deliver social protection approaches in humanitarian settings.