The APSP Annual Delegates Conference was organized in collaboration with the Rwanda Civil Society Platform and the Government of the Republic of Rwanda on 23rd and 24th October 2015. The annual event brought together government, Civil Society Organisations, National Social Protection Platforms, International Development Partners and intergovernmental organisations to reflect on APSP’s past and future prospects as well as the progress made in promoting Social Protection (SP) in Africa.
The 2015 Delegates conference had the following objectives;
- To explore the opportunities and brainstorm on the role of National Platforms in accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through Social Protection
- To create a forum for sharing lessons and experiences emanating from the projects on Social Accountability in Social Protection in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Zambia
- To examine the role that National Platforms can play to promote the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063
- To explore the role of SP in promoting health outcomes, especially at the community level.
1.2 Opening Remarks – Dr. Tavengwa Nhongo _Executive Director APSP
The Chair of the APSP took the floor to open the session by welcoming the participants to the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC). He underscored the importance of setting the pace for Social Protection in Africa, “…we can be the example in the development agenda”. He urged participants to participate fully during the length of the meeting and interact with one another to build on the networking opportunities afforded by the conference. Each delegate brought their expertise to the ADC which is but one platform of many that delegates can explore to continue engaging with one another.
1.2.2 Peace Murungi_Secretary_Rwanda Civil Society Platform
The Secretary of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP) and the Vice Chairperson of the APSP; welcomed participants to Kigali with open arms. She said that Rwanda offered a most conducive environment for the ADC and welcomed participants to enjoy the offering of Kigali city. She went on to give a brief of the RCSP as the umbrella body of CSOs in Rwanda. The RCSP works on Social Protection as one of its key activities and given that it was the rallying point of the meeting, the subject is well known to both the RCSP and participants. The underlying principle was to make a difference in the work done and the people represented. She then officially declared the meeting open and wished participants fruitful deliberations
1.2.3 Tavengwa Nhongo_Executive_Director_APSP
Dr. Nhongo began by communicating a resolution adopted by the board that sought to change the ADC format to give more time to delegates to deliberate over the salient issues on Social protection that essentially brought the delegates together. This was a departure from previous conferences that got bogged in administrative matters. He then proceeded to walk through the draft agenda item by item.
Delegates Conference 2014 – Ebenezer Adjetey Sorsey
The Chairperson began with a recap and update from the 2014 Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC). The theme from 2014 was “Grassroots Participation in Social Protection” attended by forty (40) delegates from each of the five regions as designated by the Africa Union (AU). He went on to recount the details of the meeting including the presentation by the Guest of Honour, Hon. Esther Murungi, who looked at the role of members of parliament in promoting social protection. In addition he spoke about the organisation of the APSP including key documents such as the rules of affiliation, guidelines for establishing National Platforms and the governance structure of the organisation. He also recounted the launch event of the report on “Privacy of Information in Social Protection programmes”, during the last ADC meeting which attracted both government and development partner agencies. The crowning moment of the previous ADC was the ushering in a new Board of Directors who were tasked with making amendments to the constitution as their maiden duty in office.
The Chair also reported that the Strategic Plan for 2015-2017 had been concluded and sent out to all National Platforms as soft copies, and hard copies handed out during the current meeting. He explained that the change in organisation of the ADC saw the AGM reserved for years when election of board members was scheduled. This was a departure from the previous ADC and provided delegates with more time to engage in contemporary issues on Social Protection. Lastly, he remarked that for the first time, the AGM had attracted the participation of all the regions and led to the election of a board member from Tunisia to represent the Magreb region.
Role of Social Protection in Development – Simon Nhongo
The Board member for Southern Africa began by equivocally stating that the basis for engagement was to overcome poverty. This primary preoccupation gave impetus to Social Protection as a tool and mechanism contributing to the Human Development indicators which among other served to reduce vulnerability stemming for shocks and stresses. Social Protection in development is linked to building resilience especially for vulnerable groups who often bear the brunt of the effects of poverty. He then went through the concept of Social Protection and gave examples of safety nets designed for specific vulnerable groups. He laid emphasis on the fact that not only does Social Protection have a direct impact on the lives of the poor but also has a promotive function that builds assets and regularises incomes for vulnerable households. Social Protection contributes to specific Human Development Indices including health outcomes, education outcomes to name but a few. Other important roles played by SP include psychosocial benefits that improve dignity and self esteem. In conclusion, he stated that a comprehensive Social Protection program brings harmony within society, reduces poverty and enhances productivity.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of Civil Society Organisations – Boniface Deagbo
He started off his presentation with an affirmation from delegates of their participation in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He went on to give the context of the SDGs by going through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the precursor to the SDGs and drew comparison based on the focus areas and the element of continuity. He went on to look at the progress of the MDGs between their inception in the year 2000 and in 2015. Even with the great progress he remarked, a lot more still needs to be done giving the basis for the successor 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
To underpin his presentation he delved into the role of CSOs in their interaction with SDGs, even though these are targeted at governments, CSOs have to accompany government in this strategy. The SDGs speak to human rights which are the mainstay of CSOs, work should and can therefore be linked to the access of entitlements. Specifically, he pointed out to advocacy for the realisation of the SDGs as being keys. CSOs have the tools to put to work the SDGs such as in the awareness creation of the SDGs, and popularising these at the different levels of society. In addition, a comprehensive approach to the engagement with SDGs has to be embodied in the work of CSOs who can link skills, knowledge and expertise in the realisation of specific global goals. Last but not least, CSOs can play a key role in monitoring the implementation of the SDGs to ensure that lessons and progress is well documented and shared. This will inform the path to realisation of the goals and also hold leaders accountable for progress. In conclusion, he said that the onus to realise the SDGs was not squarely placed on government but rather through a concerted effort from government, civil society and the private sector.
The African Union Agenda 2063 – Tavengwa Nhongo
The presentation by Dr. Nhongo looked at the overview of Agenda 2063 which he described as a plan for Africa’s structural transformation agreed upon by the African Union (AU) in May 2013. Coincidentally, the plan was agreed upon during the AU’s commemoration of 100 years of existence. He proceeded to read out and speak to the details of Agenda 2063 including infrastructure development, political unity, social outcomes in sectors like health and education, respect for human rights and the rule of law, Africa at Peace and a cultural renaissance.
The aspirational document underscores the important role to be played by its people including women and youth a key resource of the continent. Additionally, the AU also envisages a more prominent role in international discourse shaping the global agenda. He underscored the importance of CSOs in Agenda 2063 who are explicitly mentioned within the document. He however sounded a caution to CSOs who act as a stumbling block to their engagement with regional bodies and with governments either by being in competition with each other or duplicating work rather than complementing action. He urged participants to keep abreast with technology especially those that are concerned with communication to ensure that they are well informed and can maximise on the different channels of engagement. Lastly, he recommended to CSOs that they needed to ensure that they have the capacity, skills and knowledge to engage with the various processes that exist, in order to capitalise on the numerous avenues to accentuate the voice of the poor and vulnerable.
Social Protection and Health – Edmond Odaba_Project_Manager_APSP
He started off by giving a brief story that looked at the importance of accessibility of medical services, infrastructure and the underlying principle of financing access to healthcare. In his submission, he said the key is a comprehensive approach to ensure that quality healthcare is available as and when it is needed. To give context to his presentation, Mr. Odaba, stated that out of pocket expenditure dominates the financing spectrum of expenditure on healthcare in Africa presenting a key challenge to access. He went on to state that some of the principles underpinning Social Health Policy are based on equity, justice and solidarity to enable access through risk pulling and cost sharing.. He gave a few examples of financing mechanisms giving both pros and cons for each including: Community Health Financing, Private Health Insurance Schemes, Social Health Insurance and Tax Financed Systems. He said that a mixture of different schemes improves access to healthcare and gave the example of Rwanda which leads the way with about 80% coverage. He went on to look at the different Social Protection interventions that build on the access to health care including waivers, cash transfers etc. Examples include free maternal care, universal access for children under 5 years etc. Mr. Odaba then presented an analysis of expenditure from a cash transfer by households which demonstrated clearly that health was one of the prominent expenditures including food, education, savings and investment. There is evidence supporting healthcare investment including reduced infant mortality rates as exemplified by Rwanda which leads in coverage on the continent and also has one of the highest impacts in reduction of infant mortality. In conclusion, Social Protection in Health Promotion leads to improved health status of people, prevents impoverishing healthcare expenditures, substitutes for insufficient coping mechanisms etc. Universal health coverage requires a mixture of health financing tools and strategies. The poorest can be reached by tax financed approaches whereas other segments of the population can take advantage of other existing schemes. The underlying principle is that system has to be holistic in its approach and medical care affordable, a two tier health system emerges when issues of affordability are concerned leading to exclusion and discrimination.
Dr. Abiola Tilley-Gyado from Nigeria was first to speak underscored the importance of research to waylay the sceptics, welcoming advocacy based on data. She reiterated the important role of evidence in advocacy. In addition, she said that citizens have a key role to play in the development discourse especially holding governments to account.
Djermakoye Ide, from Niger, spoke about the importance of a basic minimum package for health that is comprehensive in its reach and approach.
Amacadou Diouf, spoke of the health system in Senegal which he said had a universal approach and drew from global practice linking clearly with social protection objectives. He also underscored the importance of the role being played by the private sector, an untapped resource that can be explored to increase coverage.
Mirana Rakotomalalala inquired on how knowledgeable government was on the interplay between health and social protection. The machinations of the two can be an asset especially if looked at as complimentary to deliver maximum effects for vulnerable groups. She was quick to point out that a clear strategy to engage government has to be drawn to promote health coverage and build on synergy and complementarity between social protection and other sectors.
Dr. Tavengwa M. Nhongo said that it was important to ensure that CSOs share data and information with government to build on learning and evidence. Mr. Odaba, also touched on the role of the private sector saying they are indeed a key partner although the burden still rests with government, the issue would be on how to harness synergies between government and the private sector.
Patrica Sewe, from Kenya, picking up on Mirana’s point underscored the importance of ensuring that human rights are guaranteed by governments even as CSOs continue to push for increased access to healthcare.
Enock Nkurunziza from Rwanda, said that CSOs are also vulnerable and need to be protected and promoted to enhance their participation in increasingly shrinking political space.
Melvin Gotyana explained that South Africa NGO Council (SANGOCO) had taken part in the development of the Agenda 2063 and can attest to the role of the APSP, which was mentioned during some of the consultation sessions. He however urged for more structured avenues to engage both the AU and governments to sustain interaction.
Ebenezer Sorsey-Adjetey said that opportunities to participate exist and it is our responsibility to take up these opportunities. He also underscored the importance of evidence and research to bolster and advance the cause of social protection.
Social Audits Presentations
This segment focused on country presentations on the progress of implementation of the Social Audits in: Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project whose objective was to enhance the participation of grassroots in social protection also served to build transparency and accountability of government run programmes. Cross cutting issues from presentations included training of civil society organisations on social protection and in social accountability. Keziah Mukasa from Uganda reported that they had managed to train 26 CSOs. One issue that stood out is that knowledge and information on social accountability and social protection programmes had been shared with communities and beneficiaries of programmes. In addition, knowledge derived enabled beneficiaries of the programme choose the appropriate social accountability tools and develop relevant indicators, Jeleel Odoom from Ghana reported that 10 indicators were developed. Interestingly the issues of concern for beneficiaries included, timeliness of disbursement, adequacy of the transfer and coverage of social protection in the countries. Patricia Sewe from Kenya in her presentation reported that beneficiaries often had to travel long distances to access pay points but the government of Kenya was in the process of rolling out a biometric payment scheme that brought payments closer to beneficiaries. Esther Yati from Zambia in her submission pointed out that there were lessons to be drawn from the social accountability projects that demonstrated the impact of social protection, the need to expand programmes and the role that can be played by civil society in enhancing the reach of benefits to the most vulnerable. Simon Nhongo on the other hand pointed to the importance of having government as a key partner in programme implementation. Civil society needs to ensure buy-in from government especially in instances where the programmes are being run by government because the value to be offered by citizen participation in programme design and implementation cannot be overlooked or underestimated.
Amacadou Diouf from Senegal pointed out that governments have a primary responsibility to ensure accountability and transparency in accordance with the social contract. He added that given the relative success of the project on social accountability National platforms can sell the idea of the social audit as a mechanism to improve the functionality of service delivery and in fact, the APSP has a great opportunity to promote grassroots participation in Social Protection.
Erastus Maina from Kenya reiterated that fact that CSOs need to look at government as a strategic partner and not as an aggressor in the work that they do. He recounted the initial tension that existed in Kenya during the commencement of the project but attributed it to misunderstandings which were sorted out through consultations and in the end collaboration was the operative word that saw buy in and support ensuring success and value addition to service delivery. He advocated for the escalation of the project to more countries and regions.
Mr. Adjetey-Sorsey in his submission said that the projects demonstrated capacity development and that good “pilot” works. The ADC had provided a forum where colleagues had been presented with an opportunity to share their findings which can be used as evidence in programme proposal development.