|Overview : |
The Joint Programme “Universal Adaptive Social Protection to Enhance Resilience and Accelerate the SDGs” is the first UN joint initiative to be implemented in the Eastern Caribbean under the Joint SDG Fund “Leave no one behind and Social Protection” window to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. The Joint Programme (JP) aims to strengthen people’s resilience through predictable access to adaptive and universal social protection in Saint Lucia, Barbados, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) from January 2020 to January 2022. It is being implemented by five UN participating Agencies: UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) as co-leads, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women. Through UN inter-agency collaboration, the Joint Programme addresses existing bottlenecks in social protection at three levels: the community level, the national level with governments and key institutions, and at the regional level with other OECS countries through the OECS Commission. Ultimately, the JP supports vulnerable communities to have increased access to social protection programmes that are gender-sensitive and risk-informed and, at national level, and supports governments to better assess the needs of the population and better use social protection systems to reduce poverty and to minimize the impact of shocks on vulnerable populations.
UNDP’s expertise and experience directly relevant to the Joint Programme includes its support to poverty and inequality reduction and integrating gender equality and climate change considerations into programmes. The agency has led the development of institutional policies for national and sector-level climate change adaptation, through the formulation of National Adaptation Plans in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Guyana and Suriname. Working with International Financial Institutions (IFI), regional institutions such as the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), national and local governments, UNDP has supported the design of preparedness policies and systems, including Early Warning Systems (EWS) in Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and worked directly with communities in Dominica to undertake emergency response training. UNDP as a Participating UN Agency (PUNO) contributes five activities under two outputs in the joint programme for Saint Lucia and Barbados related to strengthening institutional capacities for integrated service delivery and supporting innovative finance for sustainable and adaptive social protection systems and programmes.
Following the design of the JP, the COVID-19 pandemic was identified in the Caribbean in March and, in response, the Saint Lucian Government implemented a state of emergency, closed its borders and instituted a partial evening curfew until April 1st when it implemented a 24-hour curfew for 1 week. This was followed by the reintroduction of a partial curfew. It launched its economic relief programme on April 29th. This quick response, coupled with contact tracing, contained the spread of the virus to just 27 cases, with no fatalities. Prior to the pandemic, tourism directly and indirectly comprised 42 percent of GDP and accounted for 50 percent of employment. As a result of the months long border closure and subdued tourism sector globally, the loss of jobs and economic activity is expected to increase the rate of indigence from 1.3 percent to 18.3 percent. Even after the restart of the crucial tourism sector, it is likely that deep recessions across the island’s main trading partners, consumer uncertainty, and more specifically uncertainty about air travel, will strongly suppress new demand for tourism services. A UNDP/UN Women/UNICEF Human and Economic Impact Assessment (HEAT) of the COVID-19 pandemic projected that in 2020, 2 in every 5 individuals of working age would be unemployed as a result of a double-digit decline in GDP. These impacts will be compounded exponentially in the event of a second wave of the disease, the probability of which has increased since May, with the OECD projecting that this would reduce global output by a further 1.5%. The UN Agency joint report concluded that these factors would lead to a significant increase in the levels of poverty, particularly among women and children.
In addition to the responses of the existing social protection system, the Government of Saint Lucia has responded to the increased social protection needs through a series of policy measures including shoring up the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) and extending benefits to non-contributing workers who have become unemployed to ensure continued basic services for those who are affected, particularly the most vulnerable. Nonetheless, it is unclear whether the scale and scope of these measures were and are enough to cover the needs of the most vulnerable and, more specifically, whether the measures responded to the differential needs of men, women and children who were disproportionality represented among those living in poverty before COVID. This analysis will be crucial in improving the targeting of these social protection interventions and ensuring that the systems do not reinforce existing structural inequalities.
 UNICEF (2020) The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on children and young people in the Eastern Caribbean Area, p.13.