“Leave no one behind” is the bedrock of any form of social protection and a commitment made in addressing social inequalities, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to essential services and support. It also recognizes the role of social protection in fostering sustainable development and contributing to the overall well-being of the population.
Social protection is a key driver in the achievement of the ECOWAS vision 2050; which aligns with the five pillars of the ECOWAS Community Strategic Framework; Peace, Security, & Stability, Governance, Economic Integration, Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion, declared Prof. Fatou SOW SARR, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affair, at the opening of a three (3) day meeting of ECOWAS Experts on Social Protection Framework and Operational plan, which began on Tuesday November 21st, 2023, in Banjul – The Gambia.
The opening Speech of the Commissioner, Human Development and Social Affairs, delivered by Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, the importance of the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and Operational Plan is a guide to Member States in the development and implementation of comprehensive social protection systems, including inclusive national social protection floors.
She noted that, though there might be many challenges which can be daunting but not insurmountable, and believes that with the necessary political commitment, technical expertise and support from Development Partners, and through a Regional Strategy, the Social Protection Coverage in Africa can be accelerated and ensuring that 40% of the population are covered.
Dr. Abdulaziz S.K. Danladi, Representing Nigeria and Chair of the meeting emphasized the importance of viewing social protection as a critical component of sustainable development, which plays a very vital role in reducing poverty, promoting social justice, and enhancing human dignity.
He highlighted the importance of the development of an ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and Operational Plan that aims to provide policymakers, practitioners, and researchers with the necessary tools and knowledge to design and implement social protection programs specific to the ECOWAS region, which will involve drawing from the latest research, global best practices, and the experiences of ECOWAS Member States to create a comprehensive and practical guide for social protection.
The UNICEF Representative in The Gambia, Ms. Mariavittoria Ballotta, Ms. Bintia Stephen-Tchicaya, the FAO Senior Policy Officer of the sub-regional Office for West Africa, pledged that in its implementation, FAO will continue to provide technical assistance to member states to scale up and enhance social protection in increasing productivity and support small-scale producers to manage risks better for an agrifood systems transformation that is MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.
The representative of the H.E Amb Cessouma Minata Samate AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development- Mr. Lefhoko Kesamang commended ECOWAS for the landmark achievement of elaborating the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework & Operational Plan aligned to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security. He underscored the importance of the social protection framework as an investment in the future and a cornerstone of resilience which centers around strategies that safeguard vulnerable populations from poverty, hunger, and deprivation.
The Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia, H.E. Muhammad B.S. Jallow, in his opening remarks, expressed his profound gratitude on behalf of the Government to the ECOWAS Commission for the trust and confidence bestowed on Banjul as the host of this auspicious meeting. He emphasized the importance of a harmonized and coherent framework in line with ECOWAS mandates. H.E recalled the commitment of ECOWAS member states to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, particularly regarding the right to social security.
He further highlighted the efforts made by The Gambia in advancing international commitments and implementing social protection policies. The government of The Gambia has formulated a National Social Protection Policy (2015-2025) with the goal of establishing, by 2035, an inclusive, integrated, and comprehensive social protection system. This system aims to provide preventive and transformative measures to safeguard the lives of all poor and vulnerable groups. The overarching objective is to contribute to broader human development, greater economic productivity, and inclusive growth.
H.E Jallow, reiterated the importance of social protection as a key strategic priority in the newly formulated Green Recovery-Focused National Development Plan (2023-2027) which indicates the government’s commitment to aligning social protection measures with sustainable and environmentally friendly development goals.
The next (3) three days, representatives of Member states, ECOWAS Commission, Civil societies, development partners and stakeholders in Social Protection will work expeditiously to finalize the ECOWAS Social Protection Framework and Operation Plan which would be presented to the Ministers on Friday, 24th November 2023, for their validation and adoption. The meeting was organized by the ECOWAS Commission’s Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).