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Speech by Michelle Bachelet Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, at the Presentation of the Report on Social Protection in Brazil


Date: 15 December 2011

Speech by Michelle Bachelet Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, at the Presentation of the Report on Social Protection in Brasilia, Brazil, 15 December 2011.

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Your Excellency, Mrs. Dilma Rousseff, President of the Federal Republic of Brazil,

Ministers of State,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

I would like to start my speech with some words expressing my appreciation to President Dilma Rousseff and her government for gathering us for the presentation of the report, Social protection floor for a fair and inclusive globalization here at the Planalto Palace. This gesture shows once again the level of importance that social protection represents for the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and for the government of President Dilma Rousseff.

I have had the privilege of coordinating, at the United Nations, the Advisory Group for Social Protection and its Consultative International Group for Social Protection that produced a report titled: Social protection floor for a fair and inclusive globalization, published by the International Labor Organization, ILO.

Today I am delighted to present to President Rousseff a copy of this report in Portuguese.

In 2010, the world GDP was ten times greater, in absolute terms, than that of 1950—an increase of 260 per cent per capita. However, despite the last six decades of strong economic growth, since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, access to social protection provisions and services for millions of people around the world continues to be, in global terms, a privilege which is only within the reach of a limited number of people.

While it is the case that globalization in the last few years represented an opportunity for those who were in a position to take advantage of this phenomenon, it nonetheless resulted in considerable swathes of unprotected people unable to take advantage of new global transformations, which are having a profound effect at both the national and local levels. The extension of social protection based on social floors is one of the components that is lacking if we are to achieve a kind of globalization that is more just and inclusive.

The considerable number of excluded individuals represents an enormous waste of human potential, especially in a context of accelerated demographic ageing in countries which evidence low levels of health coverage and social protection.

The report demonstrates that social protection can play a fundamental role by liberating people from the fear of poverty and privations and adapting their skills in to social and economic environment that is in flux.

Social protection contributes to stabilizing aggregated demand in times of crisis and increasing the capacity of recovery in the face of economic shocks, helping to accelerate this process and creating paths for development that are more inclusive and sustainable.

In fact, social protection represents an investment by virtue of which all of us win, men and women alike, whether in the short-term, due to the effects of macroeconomic stabilization, or in the long-term.

The social protection floor that has been proposed is not a one-size-fits-all remedy or a universal regulation. It is an adaptable political approach which should be tailored to the countries according national needs, priorities and resources, so as to facilitate an extensive focus on social protection. It is a concept that promotes a “joint government focus, and links social protection with other political objectives.

The focus of the social protection floor, developed by the ILO, is based on the recent experiences of extending protection, especially in developing countries, and includes:

1) Guarantee of a basic income, in the form of social transfers (in cash or in services) such as:

-pensions for the elderly and individuals with disabilities

-benefits for girls and boys

-additional income and/or guarantee of employment for women and men who are unemployed and female and male workers who have low earnings,

2) Guarantee of universal access to basic social services in the areas of health, supply of water and sanitation, education, food safety, housing and others, defined in accordance with national priorities.

In our proposal for having a social protection floor we describe the importance of having a country agenda with regards to decent work. In order to be successful in the fight against poverty, exclusion and inequality, social protection and decent work are both required.

The components of the social protection floor can only be maintained in the long term provided sufficient financial resources are in place, always competing with other pressures on the capacity of government expenditure, which suffers from severe constraints in some cases. In accordance with studies carried out by the ILO, in consultation with the IMF, in countries such as Benin, El Salvador, Mozambique and Vietnam, large-scale social protection floor programmes would cost between 1 and 2 per cent of GDP.

In Brazil this effort and political will to protect those individuals who have the least, have produced good results and the positive outcomes outlined in this report.

-Between 2004 and 2009, 18.3 million people emerged from the situation of poverty as the result of the Family Purse Programme and the policy of revaluing the Minimum Wage, both initiatives recognized nowadays as good practices throughout the world.

-The Family Purse Programme is a good example of the fact that it is possible to achieve large-scale social protection projects that benefit 26 per cent of the population with a cost that is equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the GDP.

-At the same time this programme was successful in achieving spectacular results; it led to a 15 per cent improvement in Brazil's GINI coefficient between 1999 and 2009, as well as to a reduction of the intensity of poverty by 12 per cent between 2001 and 2005.

And you, President Rousseff, expressed this clearly when you gave your opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly last year, which for the first time in history was inaugurated by a woman. You said that you would place a strong emphasis on individuals and the need to protect people in general and especially those who are the most vulnerable. That political decision on the part of your government to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, malnutrition and social marginalization will ensure that Brazil will continue to be a country that remains committed to a path of progress and social justice.

The impact of the economic crisis has been systematic and corrosive. Latin America and especially Brazil have been capable of weathering the storm better than countries in other continents but no country is immune and the crisis weighs much more heavily on most of the segments of society that are the least privileged, especially women, for whom the economic crisis is a daily struggle.

Programmes such as the Family Purse Programme can reduce the economic volatility that is provoked by a crisis given that this kind of programme seeks to maintain the capacity of consumption of those families earning low incomes. In particular, the programme increases the dynamism of local economies given that the money is spent on local markets, thereby generating a greater demand for national goods and services. This in turn translates into an increased creation of the number of jobs, as well as the strengthening of small businesses in rural areas. These positive impacts at the national level also have in their turn a spinoff effect on the world economy.

Brazil is making a great effort to include in its programmes those people who find themselves in positions of great vulnerability. We know that in Brazil social security is being provided to female and male rural workers and indigenous populations by teams that investigate female and male beneficiaries and analyze whether or not they comply with the requirements to qualify for the benefits.

Experience bears out that, as in the case of Brazil, benefits paid directly to women in the form of transfers of income lead to the improvement of conditions and the capacity of these women to exercise increasing control with regard to the manner in which they spend their family budgets.

In other words, this helps to promote the autonomy of women which, as we have seen and indeed mentioned previously, and out of conviction, is a key component of development in every sense of the term.

Dear President Rousseff,

Nowadays the world requires examples that are concrete, measurable and exportable through technical cooperation and solidarity. With its progress in social protection and the improvements that it continues to make, Brazil has blazed the trail.

Thank you so much.