Fiji explores the ESCAP Social Protection Toolbox

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rob Griffith

More than 60 high-level government representatives, including the Minister of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Fiji and three Permanent Secretaries, as well as key stakeholders from civil society and academia gathered yesterday in Suva, Fiji to discuss the Social Protection Toolbox, a cutting-edge platform designed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to build consensus toward broader and more robust social protection coverage (www.socialprotection-toolbox.org).

The Stakeholder Meeting on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection in Fiji was co-organized by the Social Development Division (SDD) of ESCAP and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Fiji, in collaboration with the ESCAP Pacific Office (EPO).

Despite many good practices in the Asia-Pacific region, there remains a great need to expand social protection coverage. Only 20 per cent of the population in the region has access to health care, less than one third of older persons receive a pension, only 10 per cent of the jobless receive unemployment benefits and only 30 per cent of those with disabilities earn enough income to support themselves.

“I believe that the Social Protection Toolbox is an excellent instrument that can help us to better understand the need for, and further develop and strengthen social protection schemes in Fiji,” said Her Excellency Dr. Jiko Luveni, Minister, Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Fiji.

Fiji has taken important steps to extend social protection coverage to the entire population, especially to those living below the national poverty line. These strong initiatives, including a reform of the mandatory pension insurance provided by the Fiji National Provident Fund, form part of a dynamic database of currently 75 good practices in social protection from 54 developing countries around the world.

“The Toolbox is an engaging interactive tool that provides a great opportunity to learn about other countries’ experiences on social protection,” added Dr. Josefa Koroivueta, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Fiji.

The Toolbox directly confronts the need to expand coverage and enables users to visually identify gaps at the national level, while providing users with useful examples on how to move forward. Mr. Patrik Andersson, Chief of the Social Integration Section at ESCAP is confident that “the Toolbox will facilitate policy makers to connect in an entirely new way and support their endeavors to build stronger and more robust social protection systems.”

The Stakeholder Meeting was held as part of ESCAP’s social protection programme in support of national and regional efforts to broaden social protection coverage.