EU Social Protection Systems Programme (EU-SPS)

EU Social Protection Systems Programme (EU-SPS)

EU Social Protection Systems Programme (EU-SPS)


What we do

Why Social Protection

Contact details



The EU Social Protection Systems Programme (EU-SPS) is a 4-year programme supporting low- and middle-income partner country governments and national expert institutions in their efforts to develop inclusive and sustainable social protection systems. The ten partner countries are: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Togo, Vietnam and Zambia.

Launched on 1 January 2015, the EU-SPS Programme’s support is focused on strengthening the partner countries' domestic analytic and management capacities in social protection.  The country specific activities are designed in cooperation with the national focal agency appointed by the partner government to work with the EU-SPS. The activities have been determined by the partner government as preferred areas for cooperation.

The programme aims:

  • To develop appropriate methodologies and tools with which to assess OR for assessing? the social protection policies, programmes and capacities in the partner countries.
  • To enhance administrative and technical capacity in the partner countries to support the development of affordable, sustainable and inclusive social protection systems.
  • To generate evidence-based knowledge for future EU co-operation and for use by other development partners on the effectiveness of social protection in reducing poverty and vulnerability, addressing inequality and promoting social cohesion.

The EU-SPS Programme is an EU Action co-financed by the European Commission, the OECD and the Government of Finland. The OECD’s Development Centre and the Government of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) manage its implementation. The EU-SPS Programme works in close co-ordination with other international partners and complements ongoing reform prosesses as requested by the partner governments.

The EU-SPS Programme coordinates its activities with the SPIAC-B partners and contributes to the work of the joint ISPA process.


Country ownership and participatory approach are the core principles for the EU-SPS’s work. The EU-SPS works in close cooperation with the partner country stakeholders such as national social protection policy makers and policy implementation planners, research institutes, universities, think tanks, civil society organisations, service and care providers, and their national and international partners.

The EU-SPS provides support for the development of social protection systems through a combination of:

  • country-driven technical assessments, eg. systemic capacity assessment and development,
  • development of country-specific analytical tools to assess the current status and potential pathways for the social protection system and
  • capacity strengthening for policy makers and practitioners.

The EU-SPS will also generate cross-country knowledge on social protection with wider applicability across developing countries.

EU-SPS’s work is closely coordinated both with inter-ministerial and inter-agency social protection co-operation groups at the country level, and with the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) at the global level.


In the EU-SPS programme, social protection is understood in its comprehensive meaning covering social assistance, social insurance, active labour market measures and equalization of access to essential social services and care. The reduction of inequalities through social protection and through promoting equality within other societal policies is an essential part of such a broad and developmental approach to social protection.

The functions of social protection instruments are prevention, protection, promotion, and transformation. Social protection helps people in their efforts to reduce life course risks, protects them from adverse catastrophic effects of life cycle events and promotes their capability to manage their lives better. Social protection is a necessary, but when used by itself, not sufficient instrument for equalising the life chances of people: social protection alone cannot ensure equality if at the same time other policies continue to create inequalities. Hence a comprehensive social protection strategy should also adopt a transformative function and advocate for equity. 

Access to basic income security and equal access to essential services are basic rights of all people, and not issues of charity or 'good will'. These rights have been endorsed in universal human rights instruments. Governments are duty-bearers who have the responsibility to ensure that all people, the rights-holders, can claim and realise these rights.

Social protection systems are also investments in people, cohesive societies and inclusive economic development that taps into all human talents of the nation. Building social protection systems is also an essential element in nation-building, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. Social protection is central element on the new global sustainable development agenda 2030.


OECD Development Centre:

Ji-Yeun Rim, Co-Director, Research, Assessments and Management

National Institute for Health and Welfare THL

Timo Voipio, Co-Director, Capacity Development and Partnerships