The World Bank has recently published ‘The State of Social Safety Nets 2018 Report’. This third edition of The State of Social Safety Nets examines trends in coverage, spending, and programme performance using the World Bank Atlas of Social Protection Indicators of Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE) updated database.
This edition is distinctive, in that for the first time it describes what happens with Social Safety Nets and Social Assistance programme spending and coverage over time, when the data allow such analysis. The State of Social Safety Nets 2018 also features two special themes – social assistance and aging, focusing on the role of old-age social pensions; and adaptive social protection, focusing on what makes Social Safety Net systems and programmes adaptive to various shocks.
Adaptive social protection is a term used to better understand how social protection can reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and disasters. Climate change and disasters present many challenges to sustainable social and economic development. Adaptive social protection instruments can enhance individual, household, and community resilience; reduce poverty and promote human development; and can be delivered on a large scale in support of disaster risk reduction and management.
The concept of Adaptive Social Protection has emerged in recent years, which places an enhanced focus on better enabling social protection to address the impacts of all manners of shocks on households including natural disasters and climate change, economic and financial crises, conflict and displacement, among others. A nascent area, adaptive social protection has begun to crystalise around two interrelated approaches – building the resilience of the households that are most vulnerable to shocks; increasing the responsiveness of social protection programmes to adapt to and meet changed needs on the ground aftershocks have materialised.
Bangladesh is generally considered to be one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with flooding, droughts and cyclones being the most common annual disaster events. To identify and address the challenges of climate change, the government prepared Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP) in 2009. The Standing Orders on Disaster (SODs) issued in 2010 include various stakeholders’ disaster risk reduction activities. The government enacted the National Disaster Management Act in 2012, which is significant for disaster management in Bangladesh.
The government of Bangladesh has also formulated a number of national policies and plans, and has implemented several programmes that address disaster risk management, preparedness, and response mechanisms in both rural and urban contexts. National Food Policy 2006 aims at providing adequate safe and nutritious foods, increasing the opportunities of access to necessary foods, managing proper nutrition for all specially for women and children. National Agriculture Policy 2013 promotes research and adoption of modern agricultural practices for disaster-prone and climate-vulnerable areas. National Women Development Policy 2011 has proposed the strategies for pre-, during and post-disaster protection of women and children. National Child Policy (2011) has also placed importance to ensure and enable the food distribution programme during disaster emergencies so that the need of children is met, but no explicit follow-up is warranted though specialised programme for children.
The government introduced a National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) in 2015 to strengthen the impacts of public money being spent in various Social Safety Net Programmes (SSNPs) through many different institutions. A number SSNPs of are the measures taken by the government of Bangladesh in order to reduce the portion of its population vulnerability to natural disaster. The government of Bangladesh has developed state-of-the-art warning systems for floods, cyclones and storm surges, and is expanding community based disaster preparedness. Bangladesh bears serious consequences from natural calamities, the poorest segment being the worst victim. During the disaster affected years, the expenditure on safety nets regarding such shocks usually exceeds the initial allocation. Major programmes include Vulnerable Group Development (VGD), Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Test Relief (TR), Immediate Disaster Fund (IDF) and Gratuitous Relief (GR) programmes that are targeted to provide direct and immediate support to disaster victims. In the last few years, the Government of Bangladesh, international institutions and practitioners have been struggling to design and implement effective social safety-net programmes that address both the prevention of and relief for natural disasters. During the years, an increasing amount of resources have been allocated by the Government of Bangladesh to implement these programmes. Among the SSNPs currently in place, the Food for Work (FFW) represents, for instance, a short-term emergency intervention. Conversely, the Employment Generation Programme for the Poor (EGPP) or the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) is a long-term programme aimed at reducing seasonal unemployment and structural poverty related to natural calamities.
According to a World Bank study, social safety-net programmes in Bangladesh have been effective in providing food security and a limited measure of emergency relief. Access to SSNPs significantly increased the likelihood of being food-secure. Consequently, at least in the area of food provision, SSNP beneficiaries are better protected than non-beneficiaries, regardless of shock type. Some safeguards have also been installed to ensure that targeted households are included in aid programmes. Current beneficiary households are also excluded from the next round of distribution to ensure more equal coverage.
The government of Bangladesh has mechanisms for social safety net programmes. There is a need for taking community-based adaptive social protection schemes aiming to address poverty and cope with the aftermath of any disaster. It is time to rethink how the local adaptation can be climate resilient one ensuring the participation of local people. Income generation should be one of the criteria of adaptive social protection. We should go for smart adaptation though there’re some smart adaptation programmes in the country, and we should follow those. However, preparedness measures for safety nets can be advanced even further through additional investments to make programs more flexible and capable of expanding to reach additional households.
Bangladesh can make a positive transformation within a short span of time. All should take the responsibility and help the government implement its programmes to achieve a successive transformation during the period.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University, Dhaka.