The Government of Liberia and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have begun holding the second National Dialogue on Social Protection in the country.
The meeting is in line with the second strategic objective policy mechanism that seeks to support poor and vulnerable groups – which include children, the elderly and persons living with disabilities – and to attain an improved minimum standard of living in line with minimum social protection.
The dialogue is being held at a resort in Monrovia and is expected to agree on key minimum guarantees for the establishment of the social protection floor in Liberia.
Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell, who addressed the opening session, described the holding of the Dialogue as an important milestone in the history of the country especially when it seeks to address the needs of less fortunate Liberians.
“Phase one of the implementation of the policy provides that Liberia will continue to develop three primary social assistance instruments to include the social cash transfer for households that are labor constrained, a productive social protection program for those with capacity to work and earn a living to help them graduate from extreme poverty and a school feeding program,” she indicated.
The Gender Minister revealed that the government will also undertake a review of other social protection instruments that will support a move toward a social protection floor.
“Once established, the social protection floor will form part of long-term decisions to upscale and effectively target national social protection programs that will be appropriate in the Liberian context,” she said.
Minister Cassell hoped that the program will help reduce marginalization and attain rights as well as prevent the risk of children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.
She lauded the International Labor Organization (ILO) for its invaluable assistance in helping to build a comprehensive social protection system for Liberia.
ILO’s Social Protection Officer Valeria Nesterenko praised the desire of social security institutions of the Government of Liberia, the UN and foreign partners who are aiming to ensure that every citizen gets the minimum guarantee that will enable them to get a decent living.
She said while gains were being made in the attainment of social protection, areas such as those in the formal and informal sectors are yet to benefit fully from other work-related programs.
The ILO Officer lauded the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for its vigorous awareness initiatives that have made it possible to hold discussions on a way forward to achieve the social protection floor through national dialogue.
The need for social protection is attributed to a shortage of finance, food, and fuel shortage, otherwise referred to as the triple effect, that affected the world.
According to Gabriel N. Fernandez, ILO National Social Protection Coordinator, social protection has its genesis at the point where the UN decided to assist fragile and developing countries to mitigate the impact of the triple effect crisis.
Since then, cash transfer from 15 different organizations, including the Liberia National Red Cross, has revived the lives of thousands of poor and vulnerable Liberians; and by December 2016, the program had reached a total of 166,000.
The program also seeks to improve the dignity of service delivery at public health facilities, raise awareness among communities as well as ensure that healthcare delivery is not donor dependent.