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US$4.75 million Social Protection Programme Launched for the Eastern Caribbean

June 4, 2020 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

As Eastern Caribbean countries brace for the 2020 hurricane season which officially started yesterday, the United Nations Barbados and OECS has launched a US$4.75 M Joint Programme for Social Protection in the Eastern Caribbean to expand coverage of social protection during times of crisis, including tropical storms and hurricanes, while enhancing resilience to future health-related, economic and climate shocks.

The initiative entitled: “Universal Adaptive Social Protection to Enhance Resilience and Acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Eastern Caribbean”, was officially launched on Friday, May 29, by United Nations Resident Coordinator, Didier Trebucq and the UN Sub-regional team for Barbados and the OECS.

The two-year pilot is the first Joint SDG Fund- supported initiative to be implemented in the region and entails collaboration between five UN agencies, the governments of Barbados and Saint Lucia and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission.

He added that while regional investments in social protection had reaped significant development gains over the years, recurrent climate and socio-economic threats, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, demands a response beyond “traditional approaches.”

The UN head noted that inequalities and gaps in social protection must be addressed while mitigating the risks from the 2020 hurricane season.

Over the long-term, the joint initiative will strengthen social protection systems in Barbados and Saint Lucia, through innovative and evidence-based management and operational tools, and policy support. The intention is to replicate this model across the Eastern Caribbean in partnership with the OECS and, more specifically, through the development of an adaptive/ shock-responsive Social Protection Strategy and Implementation Framework.

To meet the increasing demand for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 job losses, focus will be on enhancing Barbados’ National Insurance Scheme vis-à-vis information management, monitoring and outreach, and gauging impacts on its financial sustainability. The broader response will address development of a comprehensive and coherent social protection system designed to respond to shocks, including storms and hurricanes, and achieve universal coverage over time.

For Saint Lucia, COVID-19 assistance is being sought in enhancing the Public Assistance Programme to extend support to the most vulnerable persons; as well in data collection and other COVID-19-related analysis. Macro level emphasis will be on implementing social and disaster risk management policies and legislation with emphasis on gender-responsiveness and integrated service delivery.

By the end of the two-year joint programme, it is anticipated that the social protection landscape in these two countries would be better equipped to prepare and respond to crises and strengthened with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation policies. Financing strategies to foster sustainability and universal coverage should also be in place.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs of Barbados, the Hon. Cynthia Forde, welcomed the comprehensive initiative, indicating that while struggling to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, deficiencies were discovered, in Barbados’ system, that needed to be rectified.

Saint Lucia’s Minister of Equity, Social Justice, Local Government and Empowerment, the Hon. Lenard Montoute, also lauded the emphasis on adaptive social protection given the region’s high vulnerability to multiple hazards and unavoidable consequences of climate change.

Also addressing the launch was Head of Health and Acting Head of Human and Social Cluster at the OECS Commission, Dr. Carlene Radix, who stated that the Joint SDG programme provides new ways for collaboration and contributes to the development of an adaptive and universal social protection system, through integrated policy development, programme design and implementation.

The issue of social protection relative to migrant populations was raised during the Q&A segment of the launch. World Food Programme, Head of Office for the Caribbean, Regis Chapman, confirmed that this was a feature of the programme design.

Similarly, UNICEF Representative Eastern Caribbean, Aloys Kamuragiye, confirmed that gender equality (SDG 5) was mainstreamed across the entire joint programme, and should contribute significantly to reducing gender inequality.

Kamuragiye noted that with women mostly working in the tourism sector, they were impacted more by COVID-19, as in the case of being victims of Gender-based Violence which is also compounded by the pandemic.

Social protection, considered one of the most effective instruments in tackling poverty, seeks to help countries to accelerate progress toward attainment of the SDGs. To this end, the Joint Programme will leverage the expertise of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) as the two co-lead agencies, as well as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, to maximise the impact of results through a broader coalition of partnership with development partners.

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