The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment held a consultative forum on social protection in the Gambia. The purpose of the forum is to provide platform to discuss issues pertaining to the development of social protection in The Gambia.
The Forum also aims at exploring future directions for designing and implementing inclusive and integrated social protection systems in The Gambia. The forum, which was held on 13 November 2012 at the Laico Alantic Hotel in Banjul, brought together government stakeholders and UN agencies.
The Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment, Mr. Kebba Touray, while delivering the opening remarks stated that statistics in The Gambia indicated that poverty head counts reduced from 58% to 48% of our population over the past decade. This, he said,represents more than 815,000 people. "This high figure is partly due to the inter generational transfer of poverty and livelihood shocks that people suffered over prolonged periods of time," he said.
Minister Touray said the majority of these are women in female headed households, widows, orphans, destitute children, internally displaced people, the unemployed youth, persons with disabilities and the elderly.
He maintained that employment and social protection are two critical avenues towards achieving pro-poor growth and the MDGs. Productive employment and decent work, he said, are the main routes out of poverty. "Well functioning labour markets and enabling environment for local entrepreneurship are essential to increase employment opportunities for the poor," he said.
He added that policies that recognize and improve conditions in the informal economy, where most poor women and men earn their livelihoods, are critical to poverty reduction. He said increasing the employability of poor, especially for women and youth, unlocks their potential to contribute to growth, adding that social protection directly reduces poverty and helps make growth more pro-poor.
"It stimulates the involvement of poor women and men in economic growth, protects the poorest and the most vulnerable in a downturn and contributes to social cohesion and stability. It helps build human capital, manage risks, promote investments and entrepreneurship and improve participation in lab our markets. Social protection programmed can be affordable, including for The Gambia, and represent good value for money. Actions in these two areas are mutually reinforcing and promote pro-poor growth. Better and more productive jobs raise incomes, allow social spending by poor workers and help finance social protection" he said.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms Chinwe Dike, who was represented by Abdou Touray from UNDP, said "social protection in my view is the reason we as humans organize ourselves in groups and should remain the motivation for sustaining such organizations. Through social protection programmes we are able to mitigate the risks we face individually and communities, support the vulnerable, and provide families with the resources to secure basic needs during emergencies and times of economic adjustment. Another dimension of social protection helps in reducing poverty and fighting social exclusion especially those arising from vulnerabilities."
She lamented that although much has been achieved by the government and development partners in responding to disaster, the increasing scale of their occurrences presents a risk that is better managed by working together more and by building the capacity of individual and groups on disaster preparedness, responses, mitigation, recovery and resilience.
The UN Rep stressed the need to strengthen their resolve to minimize human suffering in situations of emergencies which disproportionately affect the poor most, increasing inequality and excluding the benefits of growth.