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CSOs express concern about IMF’s “strongly divergent” social protection approach

6 December 2017


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In October, the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, a network of over 90 civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions, submitted a letter to the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, and its executive board. Following a July report from the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office on the IMF and social protection (see Observer Autumn 2017), the letter expressed concern with the report’s findings that the Fund’s approach contradicts the internationally-agreed objective of universal, rights-based social protection laid-out by Recommendation 202 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. In doing so, the letter argued, the IMF “diverges strongly” from the internationally-agreed agenda on social protection. The letter therefore called on the IMF to, inter alia, change its current policy approach, coordinate much more with the ILO, and actively seek the participation of CSOs and trade unions at country level.

The IMF’s divergence from international standards was further highlighted by a November paper by UK-based NGO Development Pathways. The paper contrasted the ‘citizenship paradigm’, which emanates from an understanding that social security is a right for all, with the ‘charity paradigm’, which conceptualises social protection as handouts to ‘the poor’. The paper called on the IMF to reconsider its ‘charity-based’ approach to social protection and address the harm this is inflicting around the world (see BWP At Issue February 2017).

Evelyn Astor from the International Trade Union Confederation commented that, “adequate, universally-accessible social protection is a fundamental human right, an essential component of decent work and a key ingredient for sustainable economic development. The IMF nevertheless continues to push for scaling back social protection due to short-sighted cost concerns – an approach that needs to be thoroughly reconsidered.”