The SDC and Social Protection

SDC’s Reflexion Paper: Leveraging Switzerland’s experience to enhance SDC’s engagement in Social Protection

Social protection has been a growing area of national and international development policies, and is an integral component of the 2030 Agenda. Many low- and middle-income countries have adopted social protection policies and it has rapidly become a priority of bilateral and multilateral development agencies.

This reflexion paper contributes to SDC’s strategic positioning. It builds on the SDC’s Issue Paper on Social Protection and analyses the experience and comparative advantage of the SDC and of Switzerland in social protection.

Although social protection is not a stand-alone theme, the SDC has long experience with social protection instruments in a variety of contexts and across the whole spectrum from emergency cash response to building national capacities. This includes humanitarian cash transfers and shock-responsive safety nets, inclusive insurance and micro-insurance schemes, social health protection for universal health coverage, and livelihood promotion for excluded or vulnerable groups.

Switzerland’s social protection system is recognised internationally for its quality. Some elements of the Swiss approach to social protection are highly relevant in the context of development cooperation. For example, the decentralised provision of services and the involvement of civil society and the private sector can be interesting options for SDC’s partner countries in developing their social protection systems. Engaging in the international dialogue on social protection also offers opportunities for exchange and learning to Swiss institutions.

Social_Protection_Final 5-pager.pdf


SDC’s engagement in social protection

12.12.2018 / Justine Boillat, Scientific collaborator, Quality Assurance and Poverty Reduction Section, ​SDC​​

Social protection is a growing field in both national and international development policy and is a prominent feature of the 2030 Agenda. In fact, at global level, only a few countries have been able to reduce poverty and improve living conditions on a broad scale without putting comprehensive social protection systems in place. International initiatives receive increasing support indicating that social protection is perceived as an investment into the future rather than a cost. For example the ILO’s Global Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All brings together governments, bilateral and multilateral development agencies, civil society and the private sector to invest in social protection.

Across the SDC, the consensus is also growing that social protection is a key approach to sustainable systemic change in partner countries, as well as fundamental to promote inclusion and meet the commitment to leave no one behind.

In 2018, the SDC produced a reflexion paper on social protection based on its experience in multiple contexts. Switzerland’s own social protection system was also taken into account. The SDC defines social protection as the set of public and private initiatives designed to support all people across the life-cycle, providing protection against social and economic risks and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. It can be provided through three main modalities: social assistance, social insurance and labour market policies. Social protection protects vulnerable women and men from the consequences of living in poverty, prevents people from falling into acute poverty and enables sustainable escape out of poverty.

An independent evaluation of the SDC’s performance in social protection is currently ongoing. The evaluation results and recommendations, expected in 2019, will provide useful elements to pursue and strengthen SDC’s engagement in social protection. In general, the topic will be high on the international agenda in 2019: in addition to the ILO which celebrates 100 years of social protection, it will be the annual priority theme of both the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Commission for Social Development.  


For further information please contact Justine Boillat SDC-QA.

SDC Issue Paper on Social Protection

​​​​​​13.04.2017 / Kim Andr​​​eas Kessler, Academic Intern, Quality Assurance and Poverty Reduction Section, ​SDC​​

​​​​The Quality Assurance and Poverty Reduction Section is pleased to announce that the Is​sue Paper on Social Protection has been discussed and approved by the SDC Directorate. The paper sets the ground for consistent communication and advocacy within the SDC and with development partners and partner countries. It aims to foster SDC’s engagement in Social Protection, to encourage SCOs/Embassies to work in a holistic manner and to develop joint initiatives between all SDC domains. 

The SDC defines Social Protection as all public and private initiatives that provide income or consumption transfers to poor people, protect the vulnerable against livelihood risks and enhance the social status and rights of the marginalised. A light mapping exercise showed that more than 70 SDC projects include Social Protection. Most projects focus on social assistance and social insurance while labour market policies, which are also part of Social Protection, are addressed to a lesser extent by the SDC. 

Three core objectives for SDC’s engagement in Social Protection have been identified:​
  1. Reduce poverty and inequality (SDG1 and SDG10)
  2. Promote gender equality (SDG5)
  3. Promote resilience and preparedness of vulnerable communities, especially regarding climate change

Social Protection approach includes the following features:​
        • It is interdisciplinary and involves a variety of themes
        • It integrates all four SDC domains which is called upon in the new Dispatch 2017-2020
        • It connects to public-private partnerships for development (PPPD)
        • It links short term with long term interventions

This Issue Paper will feed into future reflections for SDC and should sharpen and possibly increase SDC’s support to this approach. 
To read the Issue Paper, click​ here. 


Microinsurances, Simon Zbinden 2016

January 2017

Have a look at the newLightbulb video in which Simon Zbinden speaks about microinsurances. Lightbulb shall inspire, trigger reflection and debate, and eventually shape good practice.





SDC and Social Protection

Anne Moulin, Focal Point Quality Assurance Poverty, SDC Bern / March 2016

In the last decade, social protection has become an important component of development policy. While the SDC supports interventions such as cash transfers in humanitarian settings and private/semi-private (agricultural) insurance schemes, it has done so without particular guidance or reference to an SDC position on social protection.

As part of the SDC-IDS Collaboration, researchers from the Centre for Social Protection (CSP) at IDS have been working with the SDC to look at the part social protection plays in SDC's work and how this could develop in the future.

The focus of this work was a Mirror Event, held on 18 February 2016 and hosted by the SDC. It was attended by Keetie Roelen and Stephen Devereux from the CSP, members of the SDC Directorate and other interested SDC staff.




SDC-IDS Mirror Event on Social Protection

Stephen Devereux, Research Fel​​low, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) / March 2016


On 18 February 2016, the SDC hosted a Mirror Event on Social Protection as part of the SDC-IDS Collaboration.

Presenters from the Centre for Social Protection at IDS introduced the concept and explained why social protection is important for the SDC in relation to its strategic objectives and priority themes. The SDC then set out preliminary findings from a light-touch mapping of social protection interventions currently supported by the SDC.

IDS summarised positions taken to social protection by other agencies, ranging from the instrumentalist approaches of the World Bank and World Food Programme to the rights-based approaches of ILO and UNICEF.

A lively discussion followed, focusing on how the SDC should engage with social protection going forward. There was consensus that a more coherent focus was needed, while recognising that the nature of SDC engagement is always context-specific and responsive to needs.

In the afternoon a participatory mapping exercise started to clarify SDC's emerging approach to social protection, including the mandate and objectives, guiding principles, target groups, modes of engagement, funding modalities and partnerships.

The high level of interest in this topic across all domains and levels within the SDC was very encouraging. SDC-QA will start a consultation regarding next steps in March 2016.

For further information please contact Stephanie Guha, SDC-QA.


SDC and Social Protection: where are we now, and where are we going?

Jane Steven​​​​s, Communications Coordinator, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) / December 2015

On the 18-19thFebruary 2016, the SDC will host an Event on Social Protection as part of the SDC-IDS Collaboration on Poverty, Politics and Power.

In the last decade, social protection has become an important component of development policy. While the SDC supports interventions such as cash transfers in humanitarian settings and private/semi-private (agricultural) insurance schemes, it does so without particular guidance or reference to an SDC position on social protection.

This event, a collaboration between the SDC and the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies, will consider the question "should the SDC engage further in this area and if so, how?"  It will include the development of recommendations on social protection followed by consideration and discussion of these by the SDC Directorate.

You are welcome to attend the first morning session and the closing session. The morning session will include an introduction to the collaboration and overall event and will present main frameworks of social protection, the roles and positions of other donors and international organisations and key issues in the future of social protection. It will also include preliminary findings of a light-touch mapping of social protection interventions already supported by the SDC. At the closing session you can find out more about the thinking, learning and outcomes of the event.


For further information please contact Stephanie Guha, SDC-QA.



 'Hot Topics' in Social Protection

Keetie Roelen and Stephen Devereux
This Briefing Note introduces the current topics and thinking in social development, including political leverage, fiscal affordability, targeting, labour market linkages, impact, 'sensitive' social protection, and systemsbuilding.
SDC-IDS BriefingNote 01.pdf (151KB)

Agency Positions on Social Protection

Stephen Devereux and Keetie Roelen
This Briefing Note summarises the position of several key development partners in terms of their thinking and practice on social protection.
SDC - IDS Briefing Note 02.pdf (191KB)

Light-touch mapping of SDC activities in social protection

Keetie Roelen
This note was written in February 2016 by Keetie Roelen (IDS) based on findings from a light-touch mapping exercise as undertaken by Anne Moulin (SDC) in January – February 2016.
SDC - IDS Brieging Note 03.pdf (209KB)