Milestone event at European Parliament builds support for social protection
In Brussels last week, to mark a Day of Action on social protection, I attended a round table debate at the European Parliament.
It was organised by the European Working Group on Social Protection and Decent Work, of which HelpAge International is an active member.
Hosted by Gabriele Zimmer MEP (pictured right), the event brought four leading Development Committee MEPs together with civil society and other partners to consider how to fully integrate social protection into EU development policy.
Charles Goerens MEP, former development minister for Luxembourg, Michael Cashman MEP and Veronique de Keyser MEP also participated.
Demonstrating the impact of social protection
Senior government officials Ansgar Africanus Mushi from Tanzania and Harry Mwamlima from Malawi shared their experiences of the positive impacts that social protection has on peoples' lives.
Examples of success included the KwaWazee pension in Tanzania, which has greatly improved the quality of life for older people and their grandchildren.
"Social protection is the missing piece of the development puzzle", said Professor Giorgia Giovannetti, lead author of the European Report on Development 2010.
"Social protection can and should be a distinctive feature of the EU development agenda."
In their responses, the parliamentarians welcomed the evidence and agreed that social protection is the first crucial step in reversing the vicious cycle of poverty.
Gabriele Zimmer MEP called for a social protection floor to be a first priority in EU development policy.
Further challenges ahead
The level of interest and commitment shown by MEPs at this important event is extremely encouraging.
However, there is still more work to be done. The European Commission is in the process of reviewing EU development policy and there were very few references to social protection in their recent consultation paper.
HelpAge and our civil society partners in the European Working Group must seize the opportunities created by this event and continue to build support amongst MEPs.
We must work together to ensure that social protection is embedded at the heart of EU development policy so that vulnerable groups, such as older people, have access to secure incomes and can participate fully in development programmes.