Social Protection

Building social protection floors
and comprehensive social security systems

Building National Floors of Social Protection in Southern Africa - An ILO/Irish Aid project

ILO - Irish Aid Partnership Programme 2016 - 2021: Inclusive growth, social protection and jobs

Over the two last decades, Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi have registered unprecedented fast economic growth. However, this has not translated into equal progress in poverty reduction and human development. There is a large consensus that social protection is not only a human right recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) but it also contributes to sustainable economic growth by raising labour productivity, empowering people to find decent jobs, stabillizing aggregate demand an stimulating local economies.

Irish Aid and ILO share this vision and agreed on a collaboration on implementing the project  "Building National Floors of Social Protection in Southern Africa". This joint initiative is a 3 years project (2014-2016) which aims to implement basic social protection guarantees in the three pilot countries: Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

Grounded in a regional peer learning process, the Project strategy focuses on learning and building on the successes of different approaches towards the establishment of social protection systems in the region. Identifying an important gap in terms of knowledge development and capacity building tools, the development of a innovative training package - based on country demand and their similar challenges - is one the key milestone of the Project.

The project pursues these objectives notably by providing:

  • practical assistance with specific economic feasibility studies;
  • legal expertises;
  • support to national dialogue processes; and
  • advises on the governance and administrative aspects of implementing SPFs.



The main objective of the project is to achieve a constructive national dialogue on the implementation and extension of social protection in three countries- Malawi, Mozambique, Zambie- to reach long-term, comprehensive and efficient national social protection policies in the Southern African region.


The project benefits from the ILO’s previous work in the region and particularly the approach used in Mozambique to support national stakeholder efforts towards the development of a National Social Protection Floor, in the context of coordinated support by UN and bilateral donors, such as Irish Aid. The project also ensures wider dissemination of findings in particular to other southern African countries, promoting a South-to-South learning approach. The Project pursues these objectives notably by :

  • Establishing or improving national social protection policies and programmes which are in line with R.202, through technical assistance and studies
  • Nurturing and facilitating evidence based national social dialogue processes
  • Transfer of knowledge from countries with good experience and good record in establishing national social protection floors


After the first year of the project implementation, 3 immediate outcomes were on track:

1 - Policies and innovative strategies for the implementation of a Social Protection Floor tailored to national circumstances are developed in the context of evidence based national dialogue in Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.


In Mozambique the Evaluation of the National Basic Social Security (ENSSB) took place in 2014 using the Social Protection Floor as framework and the process of developing a new Strategy was launched. The assessment was financially and technically supported by the ILO. It is expected that a new Strategy will be adopted mid 2015 leading to the expansion of the coverage to new groups  of population currently not covered and a gradual reduction in the SPF coverage gaps.

In Zambia the National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) was adopted and launched in 2014 creating a sound and comprehensive basis for Social Protection. ILO collaborated with UNICEF through the provision of technical comments during the NSPP development . It is expected that in 2015 the NSPP will be complemented by an Integrated Framework for Social Protection that should provide a more comprehensive plan for the expansion of social protection coverage in the country.

In Malawi the review of the National Social Support Program is expected to be done in 2016. However it is expected that the Social Protection Floor Assessment that the Project initiated in 2014 in Malawi in collaboration with the Government will be finalized by mid-2015 and consequently will inform the national dialogue and the policy options to be decided and designed in 2016.

2 - Improved legal, administrative and governance frameworks for the extension of Social protection including budget planning and national monitoring systems are designed in line with international social security standards.


Albeit at different stages, each of the countries is in the process of developing of their operational systems, including elements such as Management and Information Systems; the upgrade of existing payment systems using external service providers and the development of innovative data collection mechanisms. This will lead to more efficient systems, essential to improve the delivery of social protection programmes and more specifically.

 In Mozambique it is expected that the new MIS will be operational before the end of 2015 development of Management and Information Systems that will improve the delivery, transparency  and  monitoring of national systems

In Zambia the Government is working in the development of a Single Registry, that it is expected to incorporate the MIS developed for the Social Cash Transfer.

In Malawi a discussion is currently taking place on the format that a Harmonized/Single Registry to cover the different Social Protection programs should take in the future and the Project is involved.

ILO was directly involved and assisted financially the development of the MIS in Mozambique (with funds from the government of Sweden); in Zambia has been playing the role of adviser to the Government and in Malawi will provide technical assistance in a joint exercise with UNICEF and FAO.

Zambia and Malawi are also initiating legal reforms in the area of Social Protection and ILO support has been requested. 

3 - Improved knowledge base and monitoring capacity on the implementation of Social Protection Floors in the three countries.


Project partially on track. The development of an innovative training package is quite advanced, including the piloting the modules on Management and Information Systems in Zambia in 2014. The first year was dedicated to define the scope of the package in terms of contents and the development of some modules identified as priorities in the countries where the Project was launched. It is expected that this innovative training will be already available and tested in 2015. Additionally, discussions are underway with UNICEF to make this a UN product, as this will increase significantly the potential impact and sustainability of this investment.

In relation to the production of knowledge it is possible to identify delays in some products. However, it was already expected that the outputs related with this outcome would take more prominence starting this year. The Project is nonetheless optimistic that this delay will be addressed in 2015.

The development of partnerships has been at the centre of the Project implementation strategy both to ensure Project impact sustainability and to maximize the impact of the resources available. The establishment of collaborations with other UN Agencies has been central in the Project implementation and will become even more important in the upcoming years.

Strategic partnerships 

Strategic partnerships with already present cooperating partners are present in 3 different levels:

Macro: At the policy level, the ILO has played a key role in supporting the policy design process and costing of policy options, resulting in the development of comprehensive legal and policy framework for social protection.
Meso: At the systems level, UNICEF’s support has been instrumental in enhancing the managerial capacity of government through the development of a new business model, including new standard operating procedures related to targeting, payment, case management, and monitoring and evaluation.
Micro: At the implementation level, WFP has played an important role in piloting alternative


UN Dimension

In April 2009, the High Level Committee on Programmes of the UN CEB adopted the Social Protection Floor (SPF) as one of its Joint Crisis Initiatives. This initiative supports countries to plan and implement sustainable social transfer schemes and essential social services. As this objective transcends the mandate of any single body or agency, the Initiative forms a global coalition of 19 UN bodies, the IMF and the World Bank, as well as 14 development partners including bilateral donors, development banks and international NGOs.

In Mozambique ILO collaborated with UNICEF and WFP under the umbrella of UN Joint Programs funded by Sweden and a One UN Fund that were the main source of funding for the ILO activities in the country. The experience of the UN Joint Program in Mozambique, where a clear division of work lead to better outcomes is a source of inspiration for the region. The support to the development of the Management and Information System was also a shared exercise, with UNICEF funding the developing of the Operational Manuals that are the basis for the new system and ILO funding the ?

In Zambia ILO is working with UNICEF, WFP and IOM in the development of a joint framework for the UN assistance to the government in the implementation of the National Social Protection Policy. In the case of Zambia this collaboration is also extended to other bilateral partners like Irish Aid, DFID, Finland and Sweden that are working jointly with the UN and Government in the development of a Joint Program. Independently of more institutionalized arrangements, the collaboration with other UN Agencies has also been materialized in cost-sharing arrangements to the delivery of concrete activities. For instance, in Zambia the Assessment Based National Dialogue will be a joint exercise between ILO and UNICEF, as well as the assistance to the government in the implementation of the Coordination structures and the development of advocacy/communication activities as is the case of the training for Parliamentarians. 

In Malawi it is also foreseen UNICEF contribution to the ABND and the assistance to the development of the MIS/Single Registry will be a joint activity between ILO, UNICEF and FAO.

Irish Aid and ILO Cooperation 

The vision of Ireland’s development assistance is a sustainable and just world, where people are empowered to overcome poverty and hunger and fully realise their rights and potential. Three priority goals are

  • Reduced hunger, stronger resilience,
  • Inclusive and sustainable economic growth,
  • Better governance, human rights and accountability

Irish Aid recognized the significant role of Social Protection towards the achievement of these goals and signed a Partnership agreement in 2001 that regulates voluntary contributions to the ILO. It provides a coherent, predictable and structured framework for cooperation. The Partnership builds upon the close alignment between the development cooperation priorities of Ireland and the ILO’s objective of securing sustainable livelihoods and decent work for women and men globally.

The Ireland-ILO Partnership Programme 2012-15 provides thematic funding, lightly earmarked at the level of selected Decent Work Outcomes, which are the backbone of the ILO’s Strategic Policy Framework 2010-2015. During Phase II of the Partnership Programme in 2014-15, Ireland’s funding is contributing to results in 17 countries.


The International Labour Conference adopted in June 2012 a new international labour standard, the Recommendation concerning national floors of social protection (referred to as the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)), with support of government, employer and worker delegates of the ILO's 185 member States. The Recommendation provides guidance to countries in establishing and maintaining national social protection floors (SPF) as fundamental element of comprehensive social security systems and in developing extension strategies that progressively ensure higher levels of social security to as many people as possible and as soon as possible, reflecting national objectives, economic and fiscal capacities and guided by other ILO social security standards. This double objective of the Recommendation reflects the International Labour Organization's two-dimensional strategy to the extension of social security coverage, which was adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2011.


ABND (Assessment Based National Dialogue) is a participatory exercise aiming at assessing a country’s situation in relation to the SPF (Social Protection Floors) and how it can be realistically extended to the various members of society. Policy gaps and implementation issues in the social protection system are identified. Recommendations for new or expanded social protection provisions are developed. ABND also estimates the financial commitment required to implement the SPF recommendations. The process entails bilateral consultations, tripartite workshops, and technical seminars. A shared vision of a national social protection floor situation is progressively developed.


This workspace has been developed to share useful information and resources on Building National Floors of Social Protection Floors in Southern Africa to donators, professional teams or individuals in their fieldwork and head offices.

The Resources section contains documents and reports about the project advancement, as well as background information about the three countries involved. You are invited to share through this page under ResourcesNews & Events or Blog additional examples, latest activities, events, meetings, supplementary material and tools, etc. on social protection in the region.

Resources can be downloaded from the Menu on the right.

2889 blog
2922 Mozambique
2923 Malawi
2924 Zambia