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Ensuring coherence for more inclusive policies

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UNONE-977Throughout 2015, UN Social Protection Joint Programming Group (JPG) worked tirelessly to establish a stronger platform for joint advocacy and dialogue. This strategic repositioning was timely given Viet Nam's high-level commitment towards the SDGs which establish a specific target on social protection, major national social protection reform processes as well as the formulation of the Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2021.

Equity is a growing concern in Viet Nam as it continues to transition rapidly as a lower middle-income country. Most of the population is vulnerable. During the course of 2015, the Social Protection JPG engaged widely with strategic partners in technical dialogues as well as at high-level policy dialogue and partnership, enabling deeper synergies in line with the principles of equity.

The Social Protection JPG made a substantive contribution to the UN's joint advocacy on people-centred development by consolidating UN's inputs to the Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2021, building on the inputs from seven other JPGs. With national partners, the Social Protection JPG also brokered broad-based partnership with the Party, National Assembly, line ministries, mass organizations, academic institutions and think tanks and the private sector. Sustained joint advocacy and technical support culminated in major policies such as the draft Master Plan on Social Assistance Reform, Child Law, Law on Social Work Profession, Draft Plan of Action for the implementation of CRPD, National Programme on Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour, National Plan on Action on Anti-Human Trafficking (2016-2020), and decrees on compulsory and voluntary social insurance.

The Social Protection JPG also maximized its convening role to broker cross-country exchange of experience with national partners in joint areas of work such as social protection reform, including with Sweden, UK and Oman as well as global experts. Despite the varying country contexts, the exchanges guided the design and key guiding principles of the Master Plan on Social Protection Reform to address the evolving vulnerabilities in the rapidly changing socio-economic contexts and institutional challenges such as coverage, coordination, community-based services, interface between the supply and demand-side.

The Social Protection JPG played an instrumental role within the current and forthcoming One Plan framework. Firstly, a consensus was reached around a joint concept for and definition of social protection, drawing on the Social Protection Floor framework.

Secondly, joint advocacy priorities were agreed and presented to the UN Country Team, which helped to guide initiatives in a common direction. For example, one priority is to support the development of a transformative, rights-based and life-cycle based social protection system that will ensure that the most vulnerable are included. Most at risk groups include the 'missing middle (largely comprised of informal sector workers and women)', children, pregnant women, elderly and people with disabilities. Their needs are now well-positioned in the draft Master Plan on Social Assistance Reform.

Thirdly, emanating from concerns over accelerated expansion of socialization policy (commercialization of public services), a joint discussion note on socialization policy developed by the Social Protection JPG was a key deliverable. This has since informed the priorities of One Plan 2017-2021 and the direction of joint advocacy. It has elucidated the potential adverse consequences on disadvantaged people through rising out-of-pocket spending on basic services. The One Plan Evaluation also identified the Social Protection JPG's development of a joint discussion paper on socialization as a key learning. In this the Social Protection JPG proved to be an effective mechanism for aligning the UN's work towards a unified policy position that identifies common risks, priorities and key messages and ensures alignment and coherence across the different UN agencies, in line with the One Plan and Delivering as One.

This discussion paper helped the UN in Viet Nam develop a clear and common understanding of what socialization means, as well as the risks and benefits that stem from it. A common policy position strengthens the UN's ability to advocate for more inclusive policies as well as for additional resources. The Social Protection JPG nurtured a strategic alliance and a more conducive environment for advocacy by drawing on extensive evidence from its member agencies as well as that of the other partners such as World Bank on Public Expenditure Review.

Finally, the Social Protection JPG served as an avenue and reference point for knowledge, experience, and networks on social protection in Viet Nam, including for major partner such as the European Union and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This in turn evolved into strategic opportunities for the UN to position advocacy priorities within nationally appropriate social protection system that addresses the unfinished agenda.

- UNICEF, FAO, ILO, IOM, UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNDP, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UNODC and UN Women.

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