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Speeches & TranscriptsJune 15, 2023

Closing Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director, at the Global Forum for Adaptive Social Protection, Berlin

(As prepared for delivery)

Excellencies, esteemed guests and participants, good afternoon.  It is my pleasure to be here for the Global Forum on Adaptive Social Protection, and I am honored to provide a few closing remarks alongside our distinguished host, Minister Schulze.

Thank you to all of you for the stimulating and thought-provoking conversations. I believe we all agree that Adaptive Social Protection systems are essential to forging a broad-based and durable escape from poverty, resilience against shocks, and the transition to sustainable economies and societies.

Our recent experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the price shocks and disruptions to trade following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have shown that we must develop Social Protection systems that can respond quickly to unexpected events, and that build resilience of household for future crises and challenges.

COVID-19 and the subsequent crises have led to a massive collapse in human capital and incomes losses, amplifying pre-existing gaps and with potentially severe long-term consequences

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic also proved to be a major catalyst for increasing the global focus on social protection, underscoring the need to build and strengthen social protection systems to respond and adapt to shocks as well as to dynamic economic, social, and demographic forces. Globally close to 4,000 social protection measures were introduced; cash transfers alone reached around 1.4 billion people or one out of six people in the world.

In response to the pandemic, the World Bank doubled its social protection portfolio compared to pre-pandemic times and provided more than $14 billion to 61 countries, including 19 countries affected by fragility and conflict, reaching more than one billion people worldwide.

While this response was unprecedented and required many innovations, particularly with regard to digital delivery platforms, the speed, scale and scope of delivering social assistance varied widely across countries.

Many countries also faced a challenge of meeting the needs of the informal sector, where delivery systems were often unable to reach the “missed middle”. Globally nearly two billion informal workers are not registered in social protection systems.


Today, the multiple intertwined crises we are currently facing has shown us that it is more critical than ever to make sure that everyone has access to social protection when they need it.  The World Bank is committed to achieving universal social protection, to ensure that all people have the support they need when they need it, that all are protected in the face of future shocks, and that no individuals or groups are left behind in the transition to a greener and more sustainable economy.

Universal Social Protection is the cornerstone of inclusive social policy.  As stated in the World Bank's Social Protection and Jobs Compass, our support to building Adaptive Social Protection programs rests on three pillars:

  • enhancing equity (reducing poverty and inequality),
  • promoting opportunities (encouraging investments in human capital and capacity, skills and productivity), and
  • ensuring resilience (building household and institutional capacity to manage and overcome shocks, including from climate change

Now more than ever, the challenge is to move beyond the shock-response cycle, and build robust, sustainable, & universal social protection systems that are INCLUSIVE.

Adaptive social protection systems are fundamental to address a myriad of challenges, including that of climate change.  Social protection programs can protect and prepare people for adaptation and decarbonization, and help mitigate the worst impact of shocks, natural as well as man-made. 

Social Protection will also play a key role in the Just Transition to a sustainable future (through temporary income support, upskilling, reskilling, etc), demographic transitions (mobility, migration, aging, care economy etc), as well as technological transitions and rapid changes in the labor market.

Together, we need to advance Adaptive Social Protection systems that enable low-carbon transitions and green jobs in structural transformations.

  • We need to promote targeted & adaptive economic inclusion for resilience & women’s empowerment;
  • we need to enhance service delivery by investing in digital systems, stress-tested programs for crisis response, and ensuring inclusion of women and socially-excluded populations; and
  • we need to extend insurance coverage for informal workers and ensure adequacy and sustainability of pension systems for old-age protection in aging societies.

Shocks are likely to become more prevalent as longer-term global trends like the evolving nature of work, demographic change, climate change, and conflict and fragility reshape economies and societies.

This requires greater and smarter investments in social protection, and broad-based partnerships – all of which is within our collective reach.

To address these concerns effectively requires that we strengthen collaboration among all stakeholders, to take advantage of potential synergies and comparative advantages, including all of you present here, multilateral agencies, the UN system, and civil society. We have built a strong global alliance to collectively tackle multiple development challenges and achieve meaningful results at scale and we look forward to continued engagement

Collaboration and partnership are key elements of the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs Compass – and key parts of our ongoing reform process as captured in the Evolution Roadmap. 

I look forward to using this conversation to harness the best from national, international, private sector and civil society partners, and encourage you all to help us build resilient and adaptive social protection systems to protect and provide opportunities for all.


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