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International Conference on Social Protection in the contexts of fragility and forced displacement

Global experts search for innovative solutions to the world’s most complex emergencies
27 Sep 2017

(27 September 2017) Fresh and practical solutions that can meet the long-term needs of people caught up in the world’s most protracted crises will be at the centre of a two-day conference in Brussels, 28-29 September. Over the last two decades, an increasing number of low- and middle-income countries have started implement social protection programmes, including cash transfers and other means of strengthening people’s ability to access basic goods, services and trainings. Social protection is an investment, not a cost.

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Zahira, 36, a refugee from Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic, lives with her husband and her children, Yousef, 15, and Laskin, 9, at the Sinatex - Kavalare refugee camp, a former door and window manufacturing plant that closed during the financial crisis, near Thessaloniki, Greece.


  • In the last 30 years, the number of natural shocks increased threefold and the number of affected people grew from 100 million to 285 million.
  • Between 2008 and 2016, humanitarian aid funding nearly tripled, from US$ 5.2 billion to US$ 13.1 billion (data from UNOCHA), but only 3% of this humanitarian aid is channeled through national governments.
  • The percentage of the world's poor living in fragile situations is expected to grow from 43 percent in 2017 to 64 percent by 2030, according to the International Disaster Database from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Evidence demonstrates that a set of protective policies – known as social protection – can help reduce poverty, inequality, and childhood deprivation and has long-term positive impacts on human capital development. Social protection can unlock the productive potential of the poorest, increase local economic growth and micro-economic activity and even stimulate aggregate growth.

Establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted crises and displaced populations is more complex, but can play an important role both on humanitarian and developmental fronts. Experts and field personnel from UN agencies (UNHCR, WFP, FAO, UNICEF) and representatives of the European Commission will be available for interviews.

Over 65 million individuals were estimated to have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or other human rights violations in 2015, representing an increase of almost six million compared to the previous year. Humanitarian challenges of protracted fragility and conflict-related crises, and the more recent unprecedented refugee movement around the globe underscore the need to break down the barriers between humanitarian and development work. This is essential if the human rights and the wellbeing of children and families everywhere are to be realised.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) collect water as a sandstorm approaches in Abs IDP settlement, Hajjah Governorate, Yemen. Water is heavily rationed and is only available during one-hour windows, which normally take place only three times a day.

Responsive long-term systems are needed to reach affected vulnerable populations consistently. Acute and extended crises have contributed to population flows which also highlight the need for long-term solutions in countries of destination. UNICEF and the European Commission (Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations – DG ECHO, and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development – DG DEVCO), together with key partner UN agencies and governments including: FAO, Finland, Germany, SIDA, UK aid, UNHCR, World Bank and WFP, are organising this conference to shed new light on the prospects of using social protection systems in these contexts.

The intention is to have a clear focus on improving the living conditions, livelihoods and social inclusion of affected populations, including children, refugees, internally displaced populations, which tend to be highly vulnerable and are often denied basic human rights.  With a view to work towards a humanitarian-development continuum, the conference will also aim to highlight the opportunity for humanitarian responses either to build on existing social protection systems or to help create them.