The first Berlin Global Learning Forum, hosted by German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Program: Global Alliances for Social Protection, jointly with Global Practice Group on Social Protection and Labor of the World Bank Group, took place from 24–26 June 2015 with the objective of encouraging global knowledge sharing by means of peerto-peer learning among social protection practitioners in strong relation to the G7 and G20 agenda. The Berlin Forum complements the “South-South Learning Forum” organized by the “Global Practice on Social Protection and Labor” of the World Bank Group since 2010. The last “South-South Learning Forum” took place 2014 in Rio de Janeiro and the next one will be organized in November this year in Beijing. This “Berlin Forum” therefore serves as a bridge between Rio and Beijing. A subsequent Berlin Forum in 2016 will build the connection to the South-South Learning Forum expected for March 2017.
The Forum was officially opened by Dr. Heike Kuhn, BMZ’s Head of Division of Sectoral and Thematic Policies; Poverty Reduction; Social Protection; Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. Her speech highlighted the importance of social protection for sustainable urbanization and how German Development cooperation is promoting this topic in international fora and bilateral programs. Arup Banerji, Senior Director, Social Protection and Labor Global Practice of the World Bank Group, framed the forum issue of social protection in urban areas. Against the backdrop of an ever more urbanizing world, where soon two third of the population will live in urban areas and given the rising share of extreme poverty in cities, Banerji identified the challenge of providing livelihoods, services, and social protection to those in need.
The first session on “Institutional and Financial Challenges in Delivering Social Protection in Urban Settings” practitioners from Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg, and Beijing offered insights from their respective cities. Two cross-cutting themes were identified that connected all three cases: (1) the importance of accurate and up-todate data; and (2) the importance of right-based systems.
In the second session on “Social Assistance and Productive Inclusion”, case studies from El Salvador, the Philippines, and Germany offered an insight into diverse approaches to reduce dependency on social assistance by supporting people to enter the labor market and hence, help to break the cycle of poverty.
The second forum day started with a field trip to the Berlin borough of Neukölln, where the participants got an impression of area-based social interventions and approachesto social assistance and productive inclusion. A meeting with District Mayor Dr. Franziska Giffey in Neukölln’s Town Hall concluded the field trip. Mayor Giffey provided further insights into the local government’s efforts to fight unemployment in this challenging urban setting, where people from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds live together, focusing on early education.
In the session on “Harnessing Safety Nets to Provide Health Insurance to the Poor”, participants from the Philippines, Peru, and India presented approaches to universal health coverage and identified challenges in targeting, identifying beneficiaries and encouraging them to make use of their rights, as well as in preventing misuse of the system. Afterwards, participants reflected in a Global Café session on different country based topics and experiences of social protection in small working groups.
The forum concluded with a working session, in which participants reflected on what they learned from other countries’ experiences, what challenges their countries face regarding social protection, their priority areas in learning, and on how global initiatives and partnerships could support to strengthen social protection in urban settings.
A need for more space for in-depth, technical discussions was identified, as well as a strong interest in learning how to put certain ideas into practice. Topics that were not covered by the Berlin Global Learning Forum but could be on the agenda for future meetings are for example government structures and accountability, political economy of social protection, respectively effects of political changes on social protection programs, as well as coordination and harmonization between the federal and the local level and how to include civil society.