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World Bank blog lists top social protection papers of 2019

Multiple UNICEF Innocenti studies featured in World Bank’s top picks
Mothers and their children gather at the Kuntaur Major Health Centre in Kuntaur, The Gambia to receive their cash transfer payments. 


(8 January 2020) A World Bank blog has included eight papers by UNICEF’s Office of Research—Innocenti and the cash transfer research collaborative, the Transfer Project, among its top social protection papers of 2019. The papers cover a wide range of topics, highlighting the variety of research being undertaken in this increasingly important area.  

Health, Nutrition and Education:Tia Palermo and Elsa Valli’s study (also published in BMJ ) finds that combining cash transfers and health measures increased enrolment in Ghana’s national health insurance programme by up to 15 percentage points. (Authors: Tia Palermo, Elsa Valli, Gustavo Ángeles-Tagliaferro, Marlous de Milliano, Clement Adamba, Tayllor Renee Spadafora, and Clare Barrington)

Gender: All bar one of the papers included under the gender theme are authored by UNICEF Innocenti researchers, reflecting the office’s renewed commitment to ground-breaking research in this area.

Crises: The recent UNICEF Innocenti-led special issue Journal of Development Studies on social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement is included in the blog. Papers by UNICEF Innocenti researchers include:

  • Jacob de Hoop’s study on cash transfers and schooling for displaced Syrian children in Lebanon finds that cash increased school attendance by 20%. (Authors: Jacob de Hoop, Mitchell Morey, and David Seidenfeld)
  • Elsa Valli and Amber Peterman find that economic transfers, including cash transfers, improve social cohesion among Colombian refugees in Ecuador. (Authors: Elsa Valli, Amber Peterman, and Melissa Hidrobo)

Universality and targeting: UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation’s Joint Report on Social Protection for Children makes the World Bank list. The report is authored Dominic Richardson and features work by Amber Peterman and Tia Palermo. (Authors: Ian Orton, Dominic Richardson, and David Stewart)

Economic and long-term effects: Transfer Project colleagues from FAO and University of North Carolina explain the economic effects of cash transfers in seven African countries. (Authors: Silvio Daidone, Benjamin Davis, Sudhanshu Handa, and Paul Winters)

The UNICEF Innocenti works sited in the blog are the product of collaboration across teams and across organisations. Social protection is being increasingly recognised as a sustainable method of poverty reduction, both within UNICEF and in the development sector in general. As its use grows, UNICEF Innocenti will continue to carry out research on this important topic.

Read the blog and discover our research on Social Protection.

Related Articles

Special journal issue gives evidence on what works for social protection in fragile contexts
Article Article

Special journal issue gives evidence on what works for social protection in fragile contexts

Children at a UNICEF-supported tented school for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.(Florence, 6 December 2019) As conflict-related crises and the movement of people across the globe continue, there is a growing need to support vulnerable populations who have been uprooted or are on the move. Social protection can help to address this need, through supporting basic needs, addressing poverty, and providing opportunities to improve health and education of children. A newly published special issue of the Journal of Development Studies aims to inform and support the design of social protection programmes in these humanitarian contexts. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE JDS SPECIAL ISSUE“Ongoing and new crises left an estimated 164.2 million people in need of international humanitarian assistance in 2016,” said UNICEF Innocenti’s Manager of Humanitarian Policy Research, Jacobus de Hoop. “The combination of commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals [Goal 1.3] and the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit [increase social protection programmes and strengthen national and local systems and coping mechanisms in order to build resilience in fragile contexts] means now is the time to focus efforts on building resilient and effective social protection systems in fragile contexts.”“Now is the time to focus efforts on building resilient and effective social protection systems in fragile contexts.”Despite the increased use of social protection in fragile settings, there is still a need for thorough research regarding what works and why. Significant challenges arise in conducting research in fragile contexts. The studies in this special edition are helping to close the evidence gaps by exploring:Intended and unintended education and child labor impacts of food assistance in Mali; The nutrition impacts of food and asset transfers in Niger; Productive impacts of in-kind and cash transfers in Yemen;Ways to effectively identify social protection recipients in Niger;The costs of reforming Iraq’s public distribution system;The impact of cash transfers on the school participation of displaced Syrian children in Lebanon;If social protection affects social cohesion among Colombian refugees and poor segments of the Ecuadorian host community.A map showing the seven studies included in the Special Issue Journal of Development Studies on social protection in fragile settings. “We hope that these studies will help support policy design and encourage further research on social protection in challenging humanitarian settings,” de Hoop said. Despite these emerging insights, the authors of the special issue call for more research on social protection in humanitarian settings, the efficiency of which can, ultimately, save lives.The publication, focusing on social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement, follows a call for papers by UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti and a workshop on the topic in June 2018. Revised versions of seven working papers released at the workshop are included in the special issue, which was led and edited by UNICEF Innocenti, in collaboration with colleagues at the International Security and Development Centre and the World Bank. Discover UNICEF Innocenti’s work on Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings plus explore our Research Watch on Social Protection in Emergency Situations,
Social Protection: A Key Component for Achieving Gender Equality
Article Article

Social Protection: A Key Component for Achieving Gender Equality

(3 May 2019) International attention towards social protection has increased enormously as governments adopt and invest in more programmes. In fact, more than 3 billion people around the world today are covered by at least one social protection benefit. Despite the pervasiveness of social protection, and its potential to provide income security and resilience against shocks, one vital component is often missing in its design and implementation—gender dynamics. This has led to gaps in our understanding on how different social protection programmes and features, contribute to foster positive gender outcomes. Adolescent girls and boys who benefit from social protection programmes in the Mbeya region of Tanzania take part in livelihood and life skills training provided by village mentors.As global attention turns towards social protection, there is a concurrent emphasis on adolescence as a critical opportunity to fast-track social change. Adopting a life cycle lens to social protection, with a focus on adolescents in particular, is important for multiple reasons. Firstly, adolescence is a period of rapid biological change, in which young people experience puberty, brains change rapidly, and gender differences emerge. Secondly, adolescents are a growing demographic group, with the global population of adolescents and young people expected to reach 2 billion by 2030.Despite the importance of both gender and age in order to achieve social change, there is little evidence on how social protection systems and programmes can be more gender-responsive, as well as sensitive to different age groups’ specific risks and vulnerabilities. To identify and address these gaps in our knowledge, 35 experts from the fields of academia, practice, and programming will gather at UNICEF’s Office of Research in Florence on the 6th of May for an experts’ workshop on gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection. The event will discuss the evidence base on gender, adolescence and social protection, and create linkages between evidence, policy and programming actors. A series of think pieces by key experts in the fields of gender and social protection, commissioned by UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, will also be presented at the workshop. Bodoor, a 17 year old 12th grade student in Azraq Refugee Camp, with her friends at her UNICEF-supported school. She is preparing for her final exams. She and her family, including two sisters and three brothers, have lived in Azraq since it opened in 2014. A keynote address from Charlotte Watts, the Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK’s Department for International Development, will set the tone for the workshop. Following this, discussions throughout the day will identify where the evidence base is robust and where there are evidence gaps that need investments. Panel discussions will explore: How a life course lens is critical for effective and efficient social protection systems, including for adolescents;How social protection programmes and strategies have – or have not – considered gender dynamics in their design and implementation;Design and implementation considerations in gender-responsive social protection;Social protection in the context of humanitarian, climate change, and complex crises.This experts’ workshop is part of the DFID-funded programme on gender-responsive age-sensitive social protection. The think piece series, which discusses the intersection of these three important areas, will be published on the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti website in the coming weeks.Check out UNICEF Innocenti’s Twitter for live updates throughout the workshop. 

Research Projects

Social protection and cash transfers
Research Project Research Project

Social protection and cash transfers

 Social protection has significant positive impacts for poor and vulnerable children and their families. Cash transfers – regular, predictable payments of cash - are an important social protection modality. Research shows that cash transfers promote economic empowerment, while decreasing poverty and food insecurity. Our research goes beyond this to find out if and how cash transfers can be used more effectively to impact other aspects of people’s lives. Innocenti’s work on cash transfers forms part of an inter-agency research and learning initiative called the Transfer Project.A collaboration between UNICEF, FAO, University of North Carolina, and UNICEF country offices, the Transfer Project provides rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale, typically unconditional national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa and countries in the Middle East. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in over a dozen countries, including Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique and Malawi. The Transfer Project disseminates results to national and international stakeholders and holds a bi-annual workshop to promote cross-country learning and capacity building.The Transfer Project is a thought leader on cash transfers in Africa, with over a decade’s research. Findings indicate that cash transfers can: increase household productive capacity and resilience; create household and local economy spill overs; increase school enrollment and attendance;improve mental health and life satisfaction;delay sexual debut and reduce intimate partner violence, among others. However, numerous evidence gaps exist, including on promising ‘cash-plus’ designs, on long-term impacts and if impacts are transferable to fragile and humanitarian settings. While establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted instability and displaced populations is more complex, it is also increasingly viewed as an essential mechanism to bridge the humanitarian-developmental divide. Our project Social Protection in Humanitarian Settings is contributing to investigate what works, and why in those contexts.