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Using adaptive social protection to cope with crisis and build resilience

In a world increasingly filled with risk, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks. ©
 Farhana Asnap/World Bank

Crisis is becoming a new normal in the world today. Over the past 30 years, the world has lost more than 2.5 million people and almost $4 trillion to natural disasters.  In 2017 alone, adverse natural events resulted in global losses of about $330 billion, making last year the costliest ever in terms of global weather-related disasters. Climate change, demographic shifts, and other global trends may also create fragility risks. Currently, conflicts drive 80 percent of all humanitarian needs and the share of the extreme poor living in conflict-affected situations is expected to rise to more than 60 percent by 2030.  

In a world increasingly filled with risk, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks.  Social protection systems also help build human capital by connecting people to jobs, investing in the health and education of their children, and protecting the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Adaptive social protection systems (ASP) go one step further by helping ensure that these critical investments in human capital are not undermined by a crisis or shock. Such systems share many of the same features as regular social protection systems to help meet critical needs, but they also include features that allow us to know not just who is poor right now, but who is vulnerable to becoming poorer in the face of a shock, what they may need to recover, as well as how to finance and deliver support to them in times of crisis. These systems can then be used as a platform for other interventions in health, education, and other social services.  

The World Bank is already helping countries develop systems for responding to crises through identifying risk through risk modeling and mapping , strengthening early warning systems, ensuring that a country has financial protection (e.g., insurance, catastrophe bonds) before a disaster, “building-better” and by investing in social protection.

While the Bank traditionally works in the development sphere, we have increasingly been working in complement with humanitarian actors as we increase our engagement in fragile and conflict affected countries, and in responding to other shocks such as natural disasters and climate change.

In response to the devastating food crisis in North-East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen last March, the World Bank mobilized a $1.8 billion package consisting of 17 projects to deliver cash to affected population to enable purchase of food, strengthen community resilience, and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable in those countries.  Famine in Yemen has been so far averted as a result of concerted efforts including those cash transfers.

In 2015, the Government of Pakistan joined hands with the World Bank to launch the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Temporarily Displaced Persons Emergency Recovery Project (TDP-ERP) to support the return and rehabilitation of the displaced families through an early recovery cash grant program.

And when pandemics such as Ebola struck, the Bank provided support for essential supplies and drugs, surges of foreign health workers to stricken communities, and psychosocial support for those affected by Ebola. The Bank also provided budget support to help the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone cope with economic impact of the outbreak and finance the scale-up of social safety net programs for people in these three countries.

Given the critical role social protection systems can play in responding to crises and addressing vulnerability, we continue to partner with governments and other development and humanitarian actors to call for increased coverage of Social Protection systems to reduce the burden on humanitarian systems and put the government in the driver’s seat in responding to the shocks wherever possible.

This week, approximately 240 policymakers from 70 countries are gathering in Frankfurt to discuss these important issues at the 7th South-South Learning Forum (SSLF). The event will cover all aspects of ASP from policies and programs for effective crisis response, sustainable financing, and information management systems, to all manner of shocks from natural disasters to refugees and economic crises. We look forward to learning from our colleagues from around the world.

This is the first in a series of blogs on adaptive social protection. Click here to read about the South-South Learning Forum. Find out more about World Bank Group Social Protection on Twitter.

You can also watch a moving slideshow about adaptive social protection here.


Michal Rutkowski

Global Director for Social Protection and Jobs, World Bank

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