The Paths Forward Towards Realizing the Right to Social Protection:  Perspectives from the Arab Region

Simultaneous interpretation from English to Arabic will be only available for online attendees.

To attend in person, please register through this google form before December 10 at 23:59 Beirut time/ 16:59 New York time. This event will take place at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, New York City (address: 320 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017, United States).

You can register to attend online through this link. You will receive a Zoom confirmation email should your registration be successful. Alternatively, you can watch the event live on our Facebook page.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) stipulates the right to social security in Article 22 and so does the Arab Charter for Human Rights in Article 36. While most Arab States have ratified subsequent treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and ILO’s Convention 102, Arab countries continue to grapple with a dearth of social protection – an issue that is common to many countries in the global South. Instead of being viewed as a right that is the primary responsibility of the State, social protection in these countries has often taken the form of humanitarian relief or a “service.” At best, it is limited to small social safety nets that are inadequate, reactive, transient, non-inclusive, and non-integrated. Even more, current social protection schemes are largely reliant on foreign aid, which often comes as debt; and are in large part led by non-State and trans-State actors, thus further weakening already frail social contracts. The importance of refocusing on promoting social security as a right to all has gained traction in light of the recent recurrent socio-economic crises, notably COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, the waves of armed conflict afflicting the Arab region, the rapid digital transformations, and the accelerating environmental degradation, all of which are cumulatively leaving entire segments of societies in the region vulnerable.

The Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) has established in the past three years a program to produce research, convene dialogues, and conduct advocacy campaigns to promote more inclusive, effective, and sustainable social protection systems in the Arab region. The three-year efforts of this program have culminated in the creation of the Arab Region Hub for Social Protection (ARHSP), which brings together the community of practice and knowledge working on the topic in the region to allow for a more coordinated vision and mobilize a critical mass that promises to have a stronger policy impact. The program and Hub’s tagline has been: “Social protection is both a human and socio-economic right, and a fundamental manifestation of the social contracts that tie citizens and residents to their States.” We have been producing a wealth of knowledge on the politics and the political economy of social protection in the region, the legislation of social protection as a right, the possible alternatives to fund more inclusive social protection away from indebtedness and its repercussions, and the process for creating a political will to effectively deliver universal social security despite governance and institutional challenges.

In light of this, on the occasion of the UDHR’s 75th Anniversary, ARI is organizing a panel discussion titled “The Paths Forward Towards Realizing the Right to Social Protection: Perspectives from the Arab Region.” The two-hour panel discussion (which will be a Davos-style moderated conversation) will bring together leading researchers and advocates from the region as well as key international experts to explore recent developments in the Arab region, all while situating the challenges and opportunities in a broader framework of pursuing the right to social protection in the global South.


Panelists Title/Function Focus of Intervention
Nadim Houry Executive Director, ARI Moderation
Rana Jawad Professor of Global Social Policy, University of Birmingham Insights on the genesis and evolution of social protection in the Arab region (a brief historical overview, focusing on concepts and approaches).
Cyrine Ghannouchi Research Consultant, Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES) What are the political and sociological challenges preventing the realization of universal social security? A perspective from Tunisia
Luca Pellerano Senior Social Protection Specialist, ILO Regional Office for Arab States What are Arab governments doing to address the situation? What progress has been made in terms of implementing this UN-led Ministerial Forum Declaration?
Farah Al Shami Senior Fellow and Social Protection Program Director, ARI What is the state of play of the ecosystem of actors fighting for the right to social security to be achieved? What are their strategies to enhance knowledge impact and what advocacy processes are available for them to pursue?
(building on the experience of the ARHSP and its declaration)
Sarah Saadoun Senior Researcher and Advocate, Human Rights Watch How are international human rights organizations increasingly adopting a rights-based approach to push for universal social protection in the Arab region?
Q&A and Discussion