Welcoming Remarks by Ms. Amakobe Sande at Policy Dialogue on Social Protection at the time of COVID-19 and beyond: Building an inclusive and sustainable social protection system

Dear distinguished partners in the Government of China, Academia,

Colleagues and friends from the UN System,

and other dear guests who are joining us online today,

Let me start with an expression of gratitude to our partners from the Government of China, especially the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, for their active support and participation in this dialogue. I would also like to thank ILO, UNICEF and UNDP for all their superb hard work in organizing this event.

This is the first of a planned series of UN China Policy Dialogues, on the Socioeconomic Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. An inclusive and effective socioeconomic policy response has been a priority of the United Nations in countries across the globe who have been battered by the pandemic. China’s situation is unique, because the virus broke out, and was contained, earlier here, and China is further advanced in its recovery than any other large country in the world. Policy-making and UN support here now are therefore focusing on building back better; not simply recovering, but recovering through creating systems, policies, institutions that are an improvement over what existed on the eve of the Pandemic.

Further upcoming planned dialogues include ones that will focus on 1) low-carbon transition and green recovery, and 2) strengthening food systems.

Our focus in today’s policy dialogue is how to seize the opportunity provided by COVID-19 to accelerate the building of robust universal social protection systems, including social protection floors. Speakers will share and learn from the efforts in China and globally on how to strengthen social protection for the groups hardest hit by the pandemic. With the support of Chinese counterparts, the dialogue also aims to initiate a discussion on innovative approaches to creating a more inclusive social protection system and ensure its sustainable financing.

This is a timely discussion for many reasons that go beyond the immediate challenges posed by COVID-19. As China completes its targeted poverty alleviation campaign and moves ahead with an ambitious new social development agenda, expanded and redesigned social protection systems are needed to provide a reliable and sustainable safety net for people in China who suffer shocks such as loss of employment, serious illness or death, or natural disasters.

Strengthening social protection is a core part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and specifically of SDG 1, “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere”. It is precisely for this reason that the third out of five targets of SDG 1 is to “Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors”. Eradicating poverty is not possible without effective and well financed social protection systems.

Today’s dialogue will be organized along three main themes. First is taking stock of social protection responses to COVID-19 in China and globally. Second is analyzing the emerging or heightened social risks resulting from the pandemic and assessing the gaps in social protection coverage for those hardest hits by the pandemic. Lastly, lessons will be drawn from the Chinese and global experience for a forward-looking discussion on more inclusive social protection policy reform and its sustainable financing.

We hope this Dialogue will open the way for a continuous dialogue between the Government of China and the UN system in China around sustainable social protection system.

Thank you all again, and best wishes for a productive discussion.

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