What and why
As laid out in the ESCAP Action Plan to Strengthen Regional Cooperation on Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific, governments should ensure the right to social protection for all without discrimination, including by adopting necessary legislative, regulatory, administrative, and other measures to this end. As such, governments should enshrine and clearly define social protection in national legal frameworks. Specific legal provisions should ensure the right of all to social protection through clearly defining effective and adequate protection from life cycle risks and contingencies. A comprehensive legal framework is the basis for realizing the right to social protection for all, as articulated in numerous international human rights instruments – most prominently in Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Governments should embed the right to social protection for all in their national constitutions to provide an enabling environment for future expansion of coverage. Constitutional provisions should clearly outline and define the commitment, responsibility and duty by the State to provide social protection to all, as well as the right of all individuals to social protection. By grounding social protection in the constitution, individuals have recourse to legal enforcement. It also provides a clear framework to establish, replace and amend specific schemes.
National legal frameworks should provide a clear institutional structure of the schemes, including governance and obligations of all involved actors. Defining various roles and responsibilities of all actors is particularly important for contributory schemes that require representatives of workers, employers and government organizations to agree on the size of their respective contributions. Commitments to provide adequate resources to social protection that are cemented by law safeguard them from internal and external political whims and changes. Legislation governing social protection schemes should also provide specific provisions on, for example, eligibility, benefit levels, indexation, grievance and redressal mechanisms, as well as on their administration and governance.
National legal frameworks based on human rights considerations ensure more inclusive design and implementation. Legislation should be drafted to ensure equality and non-discrimination of the right to social protection for all, for example, by stipulating communication with the public and including minority languages. Legal provisions should ensure that social protection systems are delivered in a transparent and accountable manner. This can include stipulating the right of individuals and organizations to seek, receive and impart information about the social protection scheme in a simple, accessible and rapid manner. Legislation should also support the establishment of robust and accessible complaints procedures and appeal mechanisms to ensure the accountability of all duty bearers.