With UNICEF support, a high-level delegation from Iran visits Brazil to exchange experiences on making social protection programmes more child-sensitive
Iran's social protection system suffers from chronic inefficiencies despite decade long acclaimed universal basic income subsidies in place and reforms on-going to meet the emerging needs of vulnerable households especially those living below or above the poverty. The system has a fair infrastructure; however, it is not integrated nor inclusive. Furthermore; the system is very much adult centred and not based on life cycle targeting. Hence, in line with country programme priorities; UNICEF Iran with support of MENA regional office and Brazil’s renowned centre of excellence, the International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) has been providing technical support to theIranian Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour & Social Welfare (MCLSW), which is the lead technical ministry on setting policies and implementing social protection schemes via affiliated entities including the State Welfare Organization (SWO). This technical support has geared up after the COVID-19 pandemic, with an increased need to improve the shock responsiveness of the system to withstand the current and future shocks. UNICEF Iran is rolling out globally tested cash plus scheme in selected provinces as a proof of concept for national scale-up.
Against this background, a high-level mission to Brazil was organized by the UNICEF country offices in Iran and Brazil in close collaboration with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Citizenship and IPC-IG. The Iranian delegation consisted of high-level representatives from the Iranian MCLSW and the SWO, as well as senior UNICEF staff.
The primary objective was for Iran to learn how Brazil, over the last 18 years, has successfully translated policies and legislation into social protection programmes and schemes, especially at municipal/state level, for the welfare of children and adolescents. Expectations are that the learning experience will be followed by an ongoing cross-country collaboration between the two countries, facilitated through the two UNICEF country offices, and formalized within the scope of the Brazil-UNICEF partnership on Trilateral South-South Cooperation. Such cooperation will be focused around technical and knowledge exchange to enhance Iran’s national social protection programmes/schemes, including the establishment of an integrated and shock responsive child sensitive social protection system. In addition, this cooperation represents an opportunity for both sides to expand mutual areas of interest for inclusive economic growth.
The visit, which took place from 24 June to 2 July 2022, included a series of technical discussions and presentations by Brazil’s Ministry of Citizenship as well as several field visits in Brasilia and Boa Vista on social protection schemes, with special emphasis on vulnerable children and adolescents. Furthermore, Brazil highlighted how the country is managing its response to the inflow of migrants and refugees from Venezuela, providing them with inclusive services and thereby also harnessing the additional human capital.
During the visit, the Iranian delegation was briefed on successful ongoing social protection schemes benefiting vulnerable children and youth. These included the global good practices of the Brazilian Single Registry (Cadastro Único) and the cash transfer programme ‘Auxilio Brasil’ (previously Bolsa Família) with refined eligibility criteria such as targeting and transfer amounts adapted to the conditionalities (life cycle approaches – child grants) channeled through the emergency aid programme, Auxilio Emergencial (the Brazilian social protection response to the COVID-19 pandemic). The presentations also provided details of services provided to populations on the move from Venezuela through Operação Acolhida which were viewed firsthand during the field visit to shelters for these vulnerable populations.
The well-established social protection system in Brazil has evolved since 2006 and currently covers 34 million households that experience multiple vulnerabilities. All Brazilian nationals are entitled to basic social protection systems and through a unique identification number (national tax security number), the economic status and vulnerably of citizens are monitored. The strong tax system in Brazil is well integrated into the safety nets. The cash transfers and social protection schemes are proactive and tailored to the income and vulnerability status of household, with top-ups and conditionalities adapted for the beneficiaries. Households with children have conditionalities that ensure children are well-nourished (schemes for children 0-3), stay in school, develop and grow appropriately. In addition to receiving ‘child grants’ through strong schemes that are child sensitive, vulnerable households receive four additional top-ups to cover expenses related to birth, death, psychosocial, and newborn packages.
As emphasized by Mrs. Márcia Pádua, General Coordinator of Specialized Services for Families and Individuals of the Ministry of Citizenship, “the main objective of Brazil’s Unified Social Assistance System (SUAS) is to respond to poverty and other forms of vulnerabilities, including situations of people living on the streets, sexual and other forms of violence, disruption of family life, child labour, emergency situation and public calamity”.
During the visit, the IPC-IG elaborated on the achievements of the partnership with UNICEF Iran over the past two years including holding a series of technical online sessions on social protection issues and designing of the cash plus programme for vulnerable children who are out or at risk of school dropout, as well as the conducting an international webinar with Iran’s Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour, and Social Welfare on the Iranian social protection system.
In Brasilia, the delegation visited a Social Assistance Reference Centre (CRAS), a shelter and welcoming centre for people living on the streets (“Centro POP”). The centre provides food, shelter, health care and counseling services to people and children living on the streets. The visit also included a centre for children and adolescents without effective caregivers, run in a “family environment” model, providing inclusive services to children.
In Boa Vista in the Brazilian state of Roraima, an arrival point for migrants and refugees, the delegation visited two shelters for non-indigenous populations, one for indigenous populations as well as the Centre for Interiorisation. In a meeting hosted by UNICEF Office in Brazil, a detailed presentation was provided on social protection services provided to ‘the populations on the move’ accommodated in shelters; mainly migrants and refugees from Venezuela. This includes UNICEF-supported educational services for refugee children. The programme set up in Brazil to manage populations on the move benefits from strong coordination mechanism between the Government, the Army as well as international and national actors in the field including NGOs. A strong task force plans, coordinates, and implements all interventions with direct support and supervision of the Army. The shelters for refugees and migrants from Venezuela are the biggest in Latin America, accommodating around 1,500 with a capacity of up to 2000 people. It is worth mentioning that Iran has been hosting for the last forty years, Afghan refugees, among whom many are children benefiting from inclusive health and education national services. The latest data of the Ministry of Interior shows that since August 2021 and following the internal crisis in Afghanistan, the number of Afghan refugees in Iran has considerably increased, currently standing at approximately 4.7 million (documented and undocumented). The study visit provided an insight to the Iranian delegation on the needed coordination mechanism to provide services to refugees and UNICEF’s comparative advantage in the field to lead sectors.
Dr. Hamed Forouzan, Advisor to Minister & Head of International Affairs of MCLSW, who was a member of the Iranian delegation in the study tour, said:” Following the visit to Brazil’s social service system, we are interested to replicate the single registry model of providing social services to children in Iran with UNICEF support. We are also ready to host a delegation from Brazil to get a more comprehensive and detailed report of their experience in implementing the single registry model. Meanwhile during the visit of the Brazilian mission to Iran, we can exchange with them our successful experiences such as the State Welfare Organization's success in providing services to children with disability and children without effective caregivers.”
In a related activity, MCLSW and UNICEF Iran, through financial support from Austria, have initiated the roll-out of UNICEF’s globally tested cash plus model in selected provinces with a view to future national scale-up. The cash plus model includes support to enhancing the national vocational and technical training system for smooth transition from learning to earning, enhancement of human capital and therefore contribution to economic growth. In a meeting with Austrian Ambassador in Brazil (Former Austrian Ambassador to Iran) and Head of MENA region in Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Iranian delegation provided a brief progress report on implementation of the UNICEF-supported cash plus programme for vulnerable children and youth in Harsin and Khoramshahr cities, which involves providing conditional cash transfers, as well as technical and vocational training in line with the learning to earning agenda. The Austrian government, as the donor of this programme, reaffirmed its commitment to continue to provide full support including through promoting the value chain project approach (integration of social protection and job generation) and transferring the knowledge and know-how from Austria’s dual apprenticeship vocational training for adolescent and youth.
According to UNICEF Iran Deputy Representative, Gilles Chevalier, who accompanied the Iranian delegation to Brazil, “This study tour is an important step in the trilateral cooperation among UNICEF, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Brazil to strengthen child sensitive social protection systems. To adapt some of the successful approaches implemented in Brazil and accelerate the development of a Single Registry in Iran, members of this technical mission agreed on a follow-up action plan which will also benefit from IPC-IG unique expertise. Brazil and Iran have a lot to share and will continue exchanging success stories about social protection for children, including during a global conference on Social Protection that UNICEF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will organize in 2023.”
The Iranian delegation to Brazil was comprised of Mr. Ali Mohammad Ghaderi, Head of the State Welfare Organization, Dr. Hamed Forouzan, Advisor to Minister & Head of International Affairs of MCLSW, Dr. Hadi Mahdavi, expert at International Department of MCLSW, and Mr. Ali Farnoush, expert at the International Department of MCLSW, accompanied by UNICEF Iran Deputy Representative, Mr. Gilles Chevalier, and UNICEF Iran Chief of Social Policy Section, Ms. Nazanin Akhgar.
As a follow up to the visit, a debriefing meeting will be held between UNICEF, MCLSW & SWO on prioritizing areas and outlining a framework for partnership with Brazilian government and the IPC-IG. The delegation will also debrief senior officials and policymakers within the MCLSW on the necessity to establish a single registry for Social Protection benefiting vulnerable children and youth with UNICEF support.
Based on a partnership, UNICEF and the MCLSW have committed to jointly tackling child multidimensional poverty and enhance child sensitive social protection services. UNICEF would share global best practices, build national capacities and provide technical and financial support to MCLSW in line with national priorities.
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