ISLAMABAD: Special Ass­istant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Senator Dr Sania Nishtar has stressed the need for establishment of a universal social protection system to support the poor in times of global crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.

In her keynote address at a meeting of Group of Friends on Social Protection along with Turkey, Nigeria and Costa Rica in New York on Saturday, she said that the quick and abrupt spread of coronavirus laid bare the lack of any social protection plan which could support the downtrodden in times of emergencies and so there was a need to fill the gap.

“Covid-19 has deeply imprinted the lives of the people across the globe, but its deepest weight falls disproportionately on the poor. There is no formal mechanism of experience-sharing between countries in this field and social protection is almost an orphan area in terms of government-to-government exchanges. Therefore, the intention is to launch a global government-to-government social protection platform as a starting point to achieve universal social protection,” she said.

Sania says $1.25bn cash disbursed among 160m people under Ehsaas

The meeting was convened by the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations and attended by a large number of UN member states.

Dr Nishtar said that Global Social Protection Platform would be a new initiative currently filling an important knowledge gap in the global social protection landscape. Countries could get direct exposure to global knowledge on a regular basis through this channel, she added.

About Pakistan’s response to the Covid-19 crises, the special assistant said Islamabad geared up its social safety net Ehsaas and disbursed cash payments of $1.25 billion to more than 160 million of its citizens who were in dire need of financial support to meet the challenges posed by global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. She said the programme had been globally recognised.

Earlier, Permanent Repre­sen­tative of Pakistan at UN Munir Akram, in his address of welcome, highlighted the need for universal social protection. He referred to social protection measures as economic imperative and not mere moral obligation.

Ambassador Akram also pointed out that almost 4bn people around the world were without any form of social protection, adding that the world must redouble its efforts to achieve social protection for all by 2030. He emphasised that a new era for social protection systems would be a foundation for inclusive and sustainable societies and “for achieving our overarching objectives of ‘leaving no one behind’ and ‘eradicating extreme poverty’”.

The World Bank, as technical partner of the Group, highlighted the significance of social protection instruments all over the world. The representative of the World Bank, Ugo Gentilini praised Pakistan’s Ehsaas programme being among the top four social protection programmes around the world. He also mentioned that the pandemic had laid the foundation for the need of universal social protection as today more and more countries were enhancing their social protection efforts.

In the coming months, Pakistan along with partner countries, would work on adoption of the declaration to establish a ‘Global Social Protection Knowledge Platform’, to share best practices around the world and to create a global hub of knowledge.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2021

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