Consultative Forum on Social Protection in Gambia
BANJUL, Gambia, 22 November 2012 – The first Social Protection Consultative Forum to be held in Gambia took place on 13 November 2012, in Banjul. This unique high level meeting, which gathered more than 80 participants, was co-organized by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UNICEF, UNDP, UNAIDS, ILO and IMF.
The Forum sought to provide a platform for policy-makers, researchers, national and international development partners, and civil society organizations to exchange knowledge, experiences, views and ideas on the social protection systems in Gambia, as well as globally. It also served as an avenue to explore future directions for designing and implementing inclusive and integrated social protection systems in Gambia.
“Social protection directly reduces poverty and helps make growth more pro-poor,” stated the Honourable Kebba S. Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, in his opening statement. “It stimulates the involvement of poor women and men in economic growth, protects the poorest and most vulnerable in a downturn and contributes to social cohesion and stability.”
The honourable Minister elaborated on the benefits of social protection in building human capital, managing risks and promoting investments, and the potential of having in place affordable social protection programmes that can represent ‘good value for money’. Minister Touray further called for effective coordination and leadership and a concerted effort by all actors in formulating Gambia’s social protection vision, policy and strategies.
The UN’s continued support to the Government of Gambia was reasserted by the UNICEF Representative in Gambia, Ms. Aichatou Diawara Flambert, in the welcoming remarks she delivered on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator in Gambia.
“The UN system in the country” - said Ms. Diawara Flambert, - “stands ready to provide technical assistance to the Government in its efforts to develop and strengthen integrated and inclusive social protection systems, which would take a multi-sector approach and would further invest in sustainable national systems in order to more effectively and efficiently address the multiple vulnerabilities faced by children, their families and other population groups.”
It was emphasized by the UN Resident Coordinator’s welcoming speech that the UN agencies based in the country applaud the Government for recognizing social protection as a powerful instrument in reducing vulnerability and extreme poverty and protecting the most disadvantaged population groups in Gambia.
Highlighted during the Forum were the current situation, including the opportunities and gaps, of the existing social protection systems in the country; the views and expectations of civil society organizations with regard to the development of social protection systems; and financing the social sectors in the country, in particular health, education and child protection, taking into account international spending targets and the matters of affordability and sustainability.
In addition, the Social Protection Floor Initiative was introduced to the participants as a development policy, and initial discussions were held on the future pathways for social protection systems development in the country.
The Social Protection Consultative Forum was a first step by the Government of Gambia and its development partners in the broader process of the conceptualization and formulation of a social protection policy for the country. As unanimously recommended by the Forum participants, the Government will now focus on the development of the Social Protection Strategy and Framework, and a minimum package of social safety-nets, on capacity building of partners, and expanding the fiscal space for effective and efficient public investments in social sectors.
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