ILO, WHO, P4H and SPARKS Network Workshop

Universal social protection needed for prevention, preparedness and response to the next pandemic

ILO and WHO experts reviewed the impact social protection had in reducing the socio-economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News | 12 October 2023
GENEVA (ILO News) - The key role of social protection in supporting pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR), as well as overall health, has been highlighted at a high-level meeting organized jointly by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The workshop, Epidemics and pandemic prevention preparedness and response: How to maximize the health impact of social protection systems, reviewed the impact social protection had in reducing the socio-economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated public health and social measures, such as lockdowns and business closures. It also considered evidence gathered from the global responses to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The meeting was held as United Nations Member States consider the development of a new Pandemic Treaty, following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Delegates agreed that robust social protection systems are a core component of PPR and should play a prominent role in a new global architecture for PPR legal frameworks, financing and implementation. Their recommendations – which will be put out for broader consultation before approval later this year – emphasize the interconnectedness and interdependence of universal health coverage (UHC) and universal social protection (USP).

Mia Seppo, ILO Assistant Director-General for Jobs and Social Protection, highlighted the complexity of the issues involved. “We see the discussions on a strengthened framework for prevention, preparedness and response as an opportunity to drive the point home that to build resilience we need equitable response mechanisms that protect everyone’s health, jobs and incomes, putting human rights and equity at the centre of the health security agenda,” she said.

The meeting took place in Geneva, 4–5 October 2023 and was attended by ILO and WHO experts and members of specialist health networks, including the Providing for Health Network (P4H), Health and Social Protection Action Research and Knowledge Sharing Network (SPARKS), Universal Social Protection Partnership 2030 (USP2030), and the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B).

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