Defining the role of the state in these fields is highly contentious, and can only be handled
through political processes. The use of tax funded transfers to assist the poorest requires very
high levels of support within society to be politically sustainable – – these are among the greatest
challenges that systems of democratic government face.
• Social protection policy is also intimately connected to debates on social cohesion and social
exclusion. This reflects a view in the social sciences which emphasises that inclusion in a
collectivity which provides for mutual assistance is central to the definition of social life. To
look at this relationship from a different angle, when a collectivity such as the state loses the
capacity to provide for the needs of its members (citizens) in a crisis, it suffers a crisis of
legitimacy as a consequence, and accordingly finds it harder to govern.
We should also note that processes of globalisation increasingly require that the international
community sets parameters for these issues at a global level. Arguably, initiatives such as the
International Development Targets, the International Social Policy Principles and related processes
in UN Conferences and Conventions such as the World Summit for Social Development constitute
an emergent global approach to the fundamental values that underpin approaches to social
Lessons from the literature on poverty, vulnerability and exclusion
Social protection is an integral component of any strategic effort to reduce the incidence and
severity of poverty. As such, it relates to a large body of literature on the definition, explanation
and identification of the poor; and, conversely, to decades of theoretical and empirical work on
what contributes to sustainable poverty-reduction. Three broad traditions of poverty analysis are
relevant, covering vulnerability and risk, social exclusion and social cohesion, and issues of
political economy and governance. The main lessons for social protection policy are as follows:
• Identification of policy options should begin with understanding the reality of the
vulnerabilities of the poor and the assets and capabilities that they can mobilise as individuals,
households and communities.
• The range of social protection policy instruments should be integrated, striking an appropriate
balance between efforts designed to reduce, mitigate and cope with shocks.
• Without care upon the part of policy-makers means-tested benefits, for example, may foster
stigma and dependency which themselves serve to exclude the recipients from participation as
full members of society. Social protection must be designed so as to provide for basic material
needs while fostering the inclusion of the recipients in the mainstream of society.
• Evidence suggests states that are more dependent upon their citizens for their revenue (rather
than upon industries or donors), are more successful at converting per capita GDP into human
development improvements. Equitable and efficient revenue collection and effective, pro-poor
public services both require institutional capacity, good governance and accountability. When
these qualities are present, they improve the effectiveness of both state and non-state actors in
the management of risk and the provision of a subsistence minimum to all citizens. In many
societies this requires the resolution of deep-rooted, fundamental inequalities between
privileged and marginalised segments of society.