The University of Agder (UiA) has organized a workshop October 25 to 27 gathering 19 researchers from around the world to address the challenges related to social protection for development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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The workshop aims at critically assessing the origins, challenges and debates around social protection systems and welfare regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
"The discussions in the workshop have revealed the need to build intersectoral and comprehensive social policies that account for the multidimensionality of poverty, inequality and social exclusion," says postdoctoral research fellow Gibran Cruz-Martinez and the organiser of the workshop.
He adds "we must move towards a new generation of inclusive policies that guarantees social rights to everyone in a society, as part of the necessary structural reforms to our current political and economic system. Reducing inequality is essential to achieve a region without poverty.”
The lectures, during the workshop, focused on addressing inclusive-lifecycle social security, new developments in the design of anti-poverty programmes based on gender-sensitive programming and social accountability, advancements in the region during the commodity boom related to universalism, and mutual learnings from the welfare systems in the Nordic countries and the Latin American countries.
"Education, social protection, quality jobs, gender equality: all of these will be crucial to boost resilience, or the ability to absorb shocks such as natural disasters or financial crises, without falling back into poverty,” underscores Cruz-Martinez.
Thirteen PhD fellows based in the UK, Italy, Scotland, Germany, Stavanger, Hungary, Finland, Spain, Brazil, Oslo, Belgium and Sweden participated with original papers. The papers cover a wide range of innovative topics related to social protection. For example, how taxation can help improve the incipient welfare state in Latin America? What is the citizens' role in the design of social protection and social transfer programmes? Can we talk about social protection in the Colombia-EU Free Trade Agreement? What are the welfare provisions in the competing visions of modernity in rural Bolivia? Are conditional cash transfers politically viable? How can Latin America institutionalize poverty reduction strategies?
In addition, two researchers presented results from African case studies allowing participants to make comparisons across the Global South. The cases addressed were the transformative effects of the South African Child Support Grant in times of livelihood change, and the ideational trajectory and foundation of universal social pensions in Kenya.
The workshop’s objectives are to promote the improvement of national policies for social development as well as international, regional and bilateral cooperation between offices and institutions; examine multidimensional poverty and assess other measurements. It also seeks to exchange experiences in the social field and support and provide technical inputs to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and other regional forums.
The Norwegian Latin American Research Network and the Department of Global Development and Planning at UiA funded the international workshop. Gibran Cruz-Martinez from the Department of Global Development and Planning, along with Morten Blekesaune from the Department of Sociology and Social Work are the two representatives from UiA. Alongside the following four established scholars in the social policy field, they were responsible for the master lectures.
Cruz-Martinez submitted a book proposal to a reputable academic publisher with the aim of publishing the results of the workshop.