From the Guardian, writer Stephen Devereux from the Institute of Development Studies talks about how cash transfer can participate in social justice. Using the term "social protection" Devereux talks about an open relationship between governments and the citizens receiving the help.
The social protection discourse has been dominated by efforts to demonstrate and measure its poverty-reduction impacts, and to deflect criticisms from the right and left. But social protection is not only about installing safety nets and contributing to the millennium development goals – important though these are – it also has profound implications for governance and social relations in implementing countries. A conference hosted by the Institute of Development Studies in April addressed a perception that insufficient attention has been paid to the politics of social protection, and its relationship to social justice. Several key lessons emerged.
Social protection is much more than a service-delivery sector: the decisions a society makes about how and whether to guarantee basic subsistence for all citizens reveals the vision that society has about itself – is it based on solidarity and interdependence, or individualism and self-reliance? What constitutes a "good society" at a time when neoliberal capitalism prevails and financial austerity offers a convenient excuse to cut back on government spending? These questions resonate in the UK and mainland Europe as much as they do in the poorest countries.
What are the implications of the social protection agenda for the evolving social contract between governments and citizens? If there is no direct line of accountability between the providers and beneficiaries of social protection, the potential for mobilising civil society is limited. This question is particularly pertinent in countries where poverty and aid dependence mean that international donor agencies dominate the design and financing of these interventions.
Social protection must be delivered in ways that do not stigmatise people: social protection programmes need to respect the dignity of claimants and empower them to become active citizens rather than passive beneficiaries. In India, "social audits" are innovative participatory tools that empower marginalised villagers to claim their right to social protection, and to hold local administrations accountable for their delivery.
Social protection should be linked to other dimensions of social policy, such as tackling discrimination and social exclusion, which are often the root causes of poverty: eradicating social injustice can eliminate a need for welfare transfers. For instance, is it better to deny an HIV-positive person work and compel them to depend on social protection, or to outlaw discrimination in the labour market based on HIV status, as South Africa has done?