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Recommendations for Strengthening Myanmar’s Social Protection Systems

© UNICEF Myanmar/2012/Myo Thame
H.E President U Thein Sein is delivering inaugural speech at the opening session of Social Protection Conference held on June 25, 2012 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

By Zafrin Chowdhury

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 26 June 2012:  The first ever International Social Protection Conference concluded its two day proceedings on 26 June with a set of recommendations for strengthening the social protection systems in Myanmar. 

The conference was inaugurated on 25 June by H.E. Thein Sein, the President of Myanmar.  “We must adopt a Social Protection System for Myanmar.  Assistance and support of international organizations including the UN have an important role in social protection coverage” said H.E President U Thein Sein in his opening speech.

The conference was jointly hosted by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Myanmar Development Resource Institute and UNICEF. 

Union Minister for Labour and Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, His Excellency U Aung Kyi, highlighted the role of social protection in minimizing negative impacts caused by economic and social shocks and to reduce extreme poverty and hunger and creating resilience to such shocks and hazard.
Broad-based participation in the Conference had drawn from about 500 delegates from the Government of the Union of Myanmar, Honourable Members of the Hluttaw (Parliament), Regional Chief Ministers, the UN Agencies, the diplomatic corps, multilateral and bilateral organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, the academic community, experts from the region, the media  –  all assembled for the Social Protection Conference:  A Call to Action.

The Conference built on decisions and recommendations of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) for Social Protection of Children, established in 2009.  The IAWG brings together over 20 departments and agencies, chaired by the Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Twelve papers were presented covering a wide range of topics on social protection and social security.  Experts from ASEAN countries, South Korea and World Bank shared their experiences for developing policies on social protection in the context of Myanmar.

At the end of the two-day proceedings, the conference came up with the following recommendations in line with the vision shared by President U Thein Sein, shared his vision on social protection:

• Adopt a ‘Myanmar Social Protection System,’ based on the needs of different social groups and sectors, including children and women, the vulnerable, the aged and people with disabilities;
• Recognize the basic needs of every citizen:  comprehensive health care, education, income security and job seurity;
• Promote the rights of workers and farmers in establishing universal health care system;
• Ensure that social protection policy be developed and aligned with the second phase of the Government’s overall reform strategy, people-centered development approach, and specifically linking social protection with the Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Strategies:
• Encourage energetic cooperation, including with bilateral and multilateral organizations and NGOs, for an integrated and all inclusive social protection system;
• Create a high-level national institution (committee) for the coordination of social protection to ensure its policy formulation, and monitoring implementation to inform the policy makers and the public.
• Develop a comprehensive social protection policy and strategies.

Myanmar is developing substantial policy momentum through the current rapid transition and suspension of economic sanctions. A newly established Hluttaw (Parliament) is active in policy reform and administrative decentralization. Despite these positive trends, the country faces many socioeconomic challenges.  Almost a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

The conference participants appreciated the leadership of the President and made commitments to follow up on his vision. It was agreed to create a high-level National Committee for the coordination of social protection, led by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. It was also agreed to work towards a rights-based, inclusive and systemic policy development, with due attention given to poverty alleviation and addressing inequities, social exclusion, and emergencies.



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