New York, SEPT 18: Today, in New York, while taking a lead on universal social protection, Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations convened the first meeting of Group of Friends on Social Protection alongwith Turkey, Nigeria and Costa Rica. The meeting was attended by a large number of UN member states.

In her keynote address, Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar, SAPM highlighted Pakistan’s efforts to disburse cash payments of $1.25bn to more than 160 million of its citizens who were in dire need of financial support to meet the challenges posed by global economic slowdown caused by Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Nishtar expressed her satisfaction over global recognition of Pakistan’s Ehsaas programme.

In her remarks, Dr. Nishtar mentioned that Covid-19 had deeply imprinted the lives of the people across the globe, but its deepest weight falls disproportionately on the poor. Dr. Nishtar highlighted that there was no formal mechanism of experience sharing between ministries of poverty alleviation and social assistance adding that multilateral system social protection was almost an orphan area in terms of government-to-government exchanges. And therefore, the intention was to launch a global government-to-government social protection platform as a starting point to achieve universal social protection.

Dr. Nishtar further added, “The Global Social Protection Platform would be a new initiative currently filling an important knowledge gap in the global social protection landscape. Countries can get direct exposure to global knowledge on a regular basis through this channel. A light Secretariat will support agenda-setting, demand detection and content formulation, logistics and planning, and communication”.

Earlier, Permanent Representative of Pakistan Ambassador Munir Akram, in his welcome remarks highlighted the need for universal social protection. He referred social protection measures as economic imperative and not mere moral obligation. Ambassador Akram also pointed out that almost 4 billion people around the world were without any form of social protection adding that the world must need to redouble efforts to achieve social protection for all by 2030. He emphasized that a new era for social protection systems would be a foundation for inclusive and sustainable societies and for the achieving our overarching objectives of “leaving no one behind” and “eradicating extreme poverty”.

The World Bank as technical partner of the Group highlighted the significance of social protection instruments all over the world. The representative of the World Bank, Ugo Gentilini praised Pakistan’s Ehssas programme being among the top four social protection programmes around the world. Gentilini also mentioned that the pandemic has laid the foundation for the need of universal social protection as today more and more countries are enhancing their social protection efforts.

During the event, several countries supported Pakistan for taking a leadership position on universal social protection. They also emphasized that Covid-19 crisis has provided an inflection point in the history to pursue social protection for all and this momentum must not be lost. Many countries indicated their readiness to join the declaration to establish a “Global Social Protection Knowledge Platform”.

In coming months, Pakistan alongwith partner countries would work on adoption of the declaration to establish a “Global Social Protection Knowledge Platform”, to share best practices around the world and to create a global hub of knowledge.