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Delivering social protection and essential public services

The Addis Agenda committed to establish a new social compact to deliver social protection and essential public services for all. As part of the social compact, the international community committed to provide support to country efforts and to explore funding modalities. This compact contains two components: a commitment to deliver social protection systems and measures for all, including floors; and a package of essential public services. While there is some overlap of these two areas, social protection generally refers to cash transfers and social insurance, such as adequate pensions for older persons, and essential public services refers to the provision of basic social services, such as health care and education. Support to social service provision is discussed in specific clusters on education and health in the action area on international development cooperation. This cluster focuses on the social protection aspects of social compact.

Exploring coherent funding modalities

The ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up could call for sector agreements to ensure universal access to education, health, social protection floors, water and sanitation and housing, respecting human rights. The objective of these FfD agreements could be to establish financing commitments in each sector:

  1. Setting nationally appropriate spending targets for quality investments in essential public services for all. For example, in education, there is already a benchmark, adopted at the Incheon Declaration/World Education Forum 2015, to allocate at least 4-6% of GDP to education and/or at least 15-20% of public expenditure to education. Note that domestic investments, if they are to be pro-poor, cannot be raised by levying additional out of pocket payments on the poor and near-poor, keeping them in poverty or pushing deeper into poverty.  
  2. Agreeing on ODA/international public finance, specific commitments to each sector, including new innovative approaches.

Under the auspices of the ECOSOC FfD Forum, these international meetings could be held every four years, led by the most relevant UN agency/agencies.

FfD Agreements for a Social Compact


Potential Coordinating Agency/Agencies

FfD Global Commitment to Social Protection Floors

1.3, 1a, 8, 10.4


FfD Global Commitment to Health



FfD Global Commitment to Education



FfD Global Commitment to Water and Sanitation


UN Water

FfD Global Commitment to Housing


UN Habitat

FfD Global Commitment to Human Rights




Implications for monitoring

Monitoring delivery on the commitments of the new national social compact, reflecting the Addis agreement, requires tracking funding for national fiscally sustainable development strategies that include nationally appropriate social protection systems/floors, health, education, water and sanitation, housing for all, respecting human rights. The monitoring comprises two categories:

  • Monitoring the commitment to the new social compact in national budgets:  National data already collected and classified by function in the framework of the System of National Accounts and Government Finance Statistics for general government spending; new social compact expenditures to achieve relevant SDGs (as per Addis) to be included in national sustainable development strategies. When possible, track spending that explicitly addresses geographic disparities of services (both quality and access) and inequities among different population groups in service provision, as well as international benchmarks.
  • Monitoring the commitment to the new social compact in development aid:  This may be done through the existing OECD DAC CRS codes, selecting those appropriate within codes 110 (Education), 120 (Health), 13020 (Reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS), 16010 (Social/Welfare Services), 140 (Water and Sanitation), 16030 (Housing and slum upgrading) and 15160 (Human Rights). When new innovative approaches exist like airline ticket levies, percentage of credit card sales, and others, it will be added to the relevant sections.
Social protection

The 2017 outcome of the FfD Forum encouraged support for capacity-building to help countries, according to their needs, to design and implement nationally appropriate social protection systems, and asked the Task Force to lay out domestic and international funding sources for social protection and quick-disbursing instruments. As part of that work, the Task Force’s social protection cluster coordinator, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), prepared a paper on social protection financing, in consultation with the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B), building on the 2017 report of the Task Force. The paper found that resources for social protection are available in some countries, but more needs to be done, including in helping countries set up social protection systems, including floors, in accordance with SDG 1.3. Such systems would serve multiple purposes, such as developing human capital, promoting growth and political stability, and be utilized during economic shocks and disasters.

The figure presents regional averages of public expenditures on social protection, excluding health, as a percentage of GDP for 2015 or latest available year. There are large regional differences in the proportion of resources allocated to social protection, reflecting significant gaps at both country and regional levels. For example, African countries’ average spending on social protection is only 4.5 per cent of GDP. Countries in the LDCs and SIDS groupings also have low expenditure, with respective averages of 3.0 per cent of GDP and 1.9 per cent of GDP.




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Differences between countries, even within the same region or subregion, are also significant, as can be seen by the dispersion of countries within each region.

However, only a share of this expenditure falls on the taxpayer, the largest share being financed by employers’ and workers’ contributions. Social contributions (employers and workers contributions to social security) play an important role in financing public social protection, although, as shown in the figure, such contributions must be combined with tax revenues in order to fully meet the funding needs of comprehensive social protection systems.



Domestic resources are supplemented by international assistance with the role of ODA for social protection especially critical in LDCs. Between 2010 and 2015, the disbursed ODA to social protection varied between $1.9 billion and $2.6 billion, as shown below, accounting for about 2 per cent of total ODA.

Social protection policy updates

The effort to “Deliver as One” on Social Protection Floors at country-level and through regional United Nations Development Group Teams has gathered momentum, acting on the joint call by the UNDG Chair Helen Clark and ILO Director-General Guy Ryder to create One-UN Social Protection Floors country teams to implement Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors. Joint work at country and regional levels is underway in the Asia-Pacific region and Eastern and Southern Africa and is developed during 2017 in Europe and Central Asia, Arab States and Africa Region.

Furthermore, at the 2016 UN General Assembly, world leaders launched the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to support the extension of universal social protection in all countries. Heads of state, the World Bank Group, the International Labour Organization and other international Agencies convened on Wednesday 21 September 2016 to inaugurate the Partnership highlighting the feasibility of universal social protection in every country, as proven by 23 country cases where it has already been achieved.