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Access 2 Social Protection

(A2SP) Global Initiative

Towards sustainable & resilient societies

A2SP Initiative advocates access to social protection as the springboard for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Knowledge partners:  


A2SP Initiative advocates and campaigns for the promotion of people’s access to social protection systems towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by exploring and introducing innovative solutions, for instance:


a) The “SDG Temple of Justice” - a blueprint that seeks to promote the progress of the 2030 Agenda by leveraging the human rights foundation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through social protection systems and the empowerment of people. For more information, click on the infographic below or visit


b) The SDG-enabling Law Reform Drive – a global initiative launched by courtesy of a consortium of international law firms to provide a pro-bono consulting service to national legislatures and government institutions of developing countries to undertake law reforms required for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. For more information, visit and Action 4 Digital Inclusion (A4DI) -


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What is social protection?

Social protection, or social security, is a set of policies and programs designed to reduce and prevent poverty and vulnerability across the life cycle. (ILO, 2017. World Social Protection Report 2017–19, p.2).


Social protection is a universal human right which is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22) and several international human rights treaties including:

  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - ICESCR (Article 9 and 10.2),

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination – ICERD (Article 5),

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women -CEDAW (Article 11), and

  • Convention on the Rights of the Child – CRC (Articles 26, 18.2, and 20). 

What is access to social protection?

The fact that social protection has been recognized as a human right by key international human rights treaties does not guarantee its implementation by all state parties. It is by improving the access to social protection for all people that its full benefits can be universally realized.


A2SP Initiative adopts the working definition for “access to social protection” as the ability of people to seek and obtain a remedy through social protection systems in the nine main areas identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO): child and family benefits, maternity protection, unemployment support, employment injury benefits, sickness benefits, health protection, old-age benefits, disability benefits and survivors’ benefits.


Social protection systems address all these nine areas by a mix of contributory schemes (social insurance) and non-contributory tax-financed benefits, including social assistance.


What are Social Protection Floors?

The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation (No. 202) of 2012 calls for reducing the gaps in social protection practices at national, regional and global levels through nationally defined floors (to suit national circumstances and levels of development) that are based on a set of human rights standards (ILO, 2012).

What is the role of social protection in "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"?

As noted in the 2030 Agenda’s preamble “Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development ...”.


The Agenda further states that the Agenda itself and the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, including the means of implementation, are universal, indivisible and interlinked (paragraph 71), and that “no one will be left behind” when Member States embark on their great collective journey towards achieving the SDGs.


Social protection policies and practices play a key role in meeting this “greatest global challenge of eradicating poverty” and "leaving no one behind" by addressing the nine key areas mentioned above (under What is access to social protection?) and thereby contributing to realize the universal human right to social security for all. Social protection policies are vital elements of national development strategies that support inclusive and sustainable growth by raising household incomes, fostering productivity and human development, boosting domestic demand, facilitating structural transformation of the economy and promoting decent work.


The 2030 Agenda recognizes social protection systems as a key enabler of SDGs, and states that “All people must enjoy a basic standard of living, including through social protection systems” (paragraph 24).  This recognition is affirmed by the inclusion of the following Goals, targets and indicators in the 2030 Agenda. In such a context, social protection systems including the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation (No. 202) substantially contribute to the universal means of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and also act as the springboard for achieving the Goals.


Goal 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere) Target 3: Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.       


Indicator 1.3.1: Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems, by sex, distinguishing children, unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, newborns, work-injury victims and the poor and the vulnerable.


Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) Target 8: Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.  


Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) Target 4: Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.


Goal 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) Target 4: Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality.

Indicator 10.4.1: Labour share of GDP, comprising wages and social protection transfers

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[Photo credit: Garment factory workers of Sri Lanka.]

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