Social Protection

Rethinking New Strategies For Pacific Communities - Covid-19 And Social Protection

Press release | Suva, Fiji | 02 December 2020
Participants at the FNU Campus, Suva, Fiji.
SUVA (ILO News) – The joint International Labour Organization (ILO) / Fiji National University (FNU)  international workshop on Social Protection and COVID-19: Rethinking new strategies for Pacific communities started on 02 December 2020 at the Nasinu Campus of the Fiji National University in Suva, Fiji. The event brought together, both in face to face and virtual sessions, over fifty representatives from the Government, workers’ and employers’ organisations, international organisations, and academic institutions from the Pacific and Caribbean regions.

Governments and international organizations are today taking rapid steps to mitigate against the economic and social impact of COVID-19. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of well-designed, implemented and coordinated social protection systems in protecting people throughout their lives, including in the Pacific Island countries, where the pandemic only adds to, and compounds, prevailing existential threats to the economy, society, and livelihood. These are threats posed by the unprecedented confluence of effects of climate change and an enduring and hovering threat of severe tropical cyclones. With limited social protection mechanisms, the Pacific households are vulnerable and at risk losing their livelihood as the crisis persists.

FNU recognizes the profound impact of COVID-19 on Fiji communities, households and families as well as the government committed efforts in assisting workers and households through its Social Protection packages including incentives to the business community to sustain the economy. But the COVID effects are deep with impact on Social protection itself as a system of assistance and its reach into the general population. This requires a re-thinking, and critical analysis, of current and programmes with a view to identifying areas in need of strengthening.

“Government does recognize that this is a human crisis and human beings must be at the center of the response and recovery plans. The situation of gender inequalities expanding also demanded that the Ministry, more than ever before, to adopt strategic and bold approaches with focus on areas of highest priority to address the inequalities and place all Fijian women and girls and gender equality front and center of recovery plans if we are to build inclusive resilience to future shocks in line with the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical the role that a well-designed, coordinated and implemented social protection systems play in building resilience and mitigating risks faced by all individuals throughout life and the onus is now on us to ensure that our clientele remains our priority and that our system can still meet their needs”, said Mr. Rupeni Fatiaki, Director Social Welfare, Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been a wake-up call. The ILO considers social protection as an indispensable part of any coordinated policy response to the pandemic. Policymakers need to build on the momentum generated by growing public awareness of the importance of social protection and the urgency of investing in it as a society, to ensure preparedness for future crises”, said Matin Karimli, Director, ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries and introduced the video message by the ILO Regional Director for the Asia and Pacific.

“The ILO has launched a Global Flagship Programme on “Building Social Protection Floors for All ”, partnering with governments, workers’ and employers’ representatives as well as a wide range of other stakeholders. The Flagship Programme will deliver accelerated technical assistance to help countries, including those in the Pacific, expand social protection coverage with the aim of “leaving no one behind””, said Ms. Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, ILO Regional Director for the Asia and Pacific.

The 2-day workshop will address topics such as ‘Poverty, Social Protection and the Covid 19 pandemic in Fiji,’ ‘Re-thinking the Economics of Social Protection’ and ‘Grassroots issues in Social Protection.’ These and other will introduce and provide wide-ranging perspectives to enrich the ongoing conversation on social protection.

About the ILO:
The only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919 the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

About FNU:
The Fiji National University has five colleges all of which provide both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. The colleges are, The College of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, College of Business, Hospitality and Tourism Studies, College of Engineering, Science and Technology, College of Humanities and Education and the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.