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Symposium on social protection in Southern Africa

​​​An international symposium to take stock of Southern Africa’s growing cash transfer programmes will be hosted by the Centre for Social Development in Africa of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) from 23-25 May 2011 at the Auckland Park Bunting Road campus.​​

The symposium with the theme Social Protection in Southern Africa: New Opportunities for Social Development, will bring together a group of leading African, Northern researchers and specialists from the International Labor Organization and other United Nations agencies.

‘Since the late 1990s, cash transfers have taken off in the Global South in approximately 45 countries with an increasing focus on the African continent. It is proving to be a simple and effective way of reducing poverty by giving money to the poor and vulnerable groups. Cash transfers have been found to improve child nutrition, school attendance, spur local economic development, empower women, and break the cycle of poverty across generations. In this way, it serves to secure people’s human right to a minimum standard of living’, said Prof Leila Patel, Director of the Centre for Social Development in Africa at UJ.

The symposium will place the spotlight on innovative schemes in the SADC region including Ethiopia and Uganda. Country case studies of pensions, child and family grants, employment schemes and urban poverty programs will be reviewed. Gaps in provision such as for women in the informal sector and financing, equity issues and social protection’s contribution to economic growth will be examined. ‘While income protection programmes are viewed as a new solution to the problem of poverty in the developing world, a critical appraisal of the issues is needed’, said Prof James Midgley, co-convener of the symposium from the University of California, Berkeley and UJ.

Dr Steven Devereux of the University of Sussex and a specialist on social protection in Africa will deliver a paper on the status and challenges of social protection in Africa. The role of development partners in driving social protection processes is ‘unsustainable both financially and politically’, says Dr Devereux. He argues for permanently institutionalising social protection in national policy frameworks in the African context.

The symposium hopes to contribute to South-South knowledge exchange about how to design and implement successful national social protection floors. It will build on the work of the ILO and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to promote South-South dialogue and learning. Christine Bockstal, an ILO specialist based in Geneva will share her insights of global initiatives on national social protection floors. This is particularly relevant as national governments and regional formations are becoming aware of the potential role that social protection can play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Other contributions will be made by Lisa Kurbiel, senior Social Policy Specialist with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Mozambique who will present a paper on, ‘Searching for equity within the new Urban Poverty Strategy in Mozambique’. Irene Murungi, Programme Officer with the National Association of Women’s Organisations in Uganda will turn attention to social protection in Uganda, and Professor Rodreck Mupedziswa from the University of Botswana will explain how social protection has promoted Botswana’s social development.

For more information on the programme click here

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