OEA-Chile-Caribbean – Promoting social protection
Department of Social Development and Employment (DSDE), Organization of American States
Provider: Chile Recipients: Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago
The Puente in the Caribbean is a horizontal cooperation initiative which seeks to strengthen social protection strategies in CARICOM countries, by transferring the knowledge and lessons learned on the Chile Puente Program through capacity building activities. It was launched in June 2007 as a pilot program, involving Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago and is in its second phase with four additional countries. It is financed by CIDA and the Government of Chile.
The program contributes to improved quality and coverage of Social Protection systems in beneficiary countries, enhancing capacity to develop social protection strategies by transferring knowledge of the Chile Puente Program.
Studies and country reports on social protection in the Caribbean identify the key weaknesses in the systems as lack of coordination, poor targeting and limited sustainability of impacts (Barrientos 2004, ECLAC 2006). A needs assessment among receiving countries prior to the intervention confirmed these concerns and demonstrated a keen interest in learning new strategies for improving social protections systems.
Initial interest in this activity emerged during a meeting of the Social Network of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2003 in Jamaica. There, a presentation of the Chile Puente Program was made and representatives of several Caribbean countries were extremely impressed with the Chilean approach and requested the support of the Technical Secretariat of the Social Network, the DSDE in facilitating technical cooperation between the Caribbean and Chile. DSDE has several mandates to pursue this type of activity and the program is strongly guided by the resolutions of the Fourth Summit of the Americas of 2004 which call for the need, “To identify and exchange, within the framework of the OAS, practices in the region regarding policies and programs to confront poverty”. Moreover the department has a history of coordinating similar technical cooperation initiatives among member states.
Chile Puente Program has been very successful attending the poorest of the poor and this is done through a rights-based approach. The program is also part of technical cooperation with Latin American and African countries, and has received positive reviews by the World Bank and others. Its integral focus on families was particularly attractive to Caribbean countries which saw the need to address their social problems by focusing on the family, the cornerstone of society. The Puente stands out from other conditional cash transfer programs because of this focus on families and it is this component that all participating countries seek to adapt. The information system was also important a means of addressing the targeting weaknesses.
The strategy involves capacity building on the Chile Puente Program to effect positive, sustainable changes in the social protection strategies in the Caribbean. Two or three technical officers are selected by the respective Ministry of Social Development based on technical and/or policy-based expertise. They are responsible for obtaining local buy-in and implementing the country work plan which outlines the goals and activities designed to adapt the lessons learnt in their country. They are also expected to train local stakeholders to broaden the pool of supporters.
The training workshops involve a multidimensional flow of information. Caribbean teams provide sensitization on their countries social protection needs, political systems, family structures etc., thus highlighting inter-regional similarities and differences. One similarity is the multiplicity of social programs, a challenge also faced by Chile and which the Puente Program had to address through a process of institutional mapping. This is useful to Caribbean countries, encouraging a review of institutions and programs available to the poor to determine the best means of optimizing and rationalizing them. A key difference is the local government structures, nearly absent in cases like St. Lucia but more developed in Trinidad and Tobago. This structure is also key to the functioning of the Puente in Chile. In order to adopt the relevant components of Puente Program, St. Lucia capitalizes on the vibrant community development systems.
Internships are especially important as Caribbean participants observe and experience the theory and practice of the Puente Program. Of critical importance is that they do not present only positive aspects of the Puente Program, rather a balanced perspective. In this way, Caribbean participants are apprised of the shortcomings and challenges of the program, which they may face. For instance, they meet with program counselors who openly share the institutional and other difficulties faced.
Another critical component of the implementation strategy involves the role of Chilean Tutors. These are experts on the Puente Program who are assigned to each Caribbean country team in an effort to perform a mentoring role, providing technical assistance during the workshops and internships. More importantly they maintain continuous contact with their country teams in order to monitor their progress on the implementation of the country work plans and provide relevant feedback on the challenges faced in instituting the Puente Program in Chile and the strategies adopted to overcome these. The Tutors also conduct Monitoring Visits to the Caribbean to observe the progress made, provide feedback and assist in sensitizing stakeholders on the operations of the Puente Program. In phase II the trainees from the pilot phase are enlisted as Caribbean tutors to deepen their knowledge of the Puente and share their implementation experiences.
Another tool in this exchange is the Virtual Forum, established in 2007 to facilitate ongoing communication and technical support between the partners. It was particularly important in guiding Caribbean teams with work plan implementation. For OAS security reasons, the Forum was dismantled. This has had a significant impact on the communication and interaction among partners. However a new Portal has been established.
It is a challenge for countries to find funding to implement the lessons, but they are encouraged to integrate the lessons into strategies rather than develop new programs. Fortunately it does not limit interest but is a means of encouraging ownership. One obvious difficulty is the language differences which hinders free-flowing communication between technical officers in Chile and the Caribbean. The OAS plays a key role in bridging this gap. Some of components promoted by the Chile Puente have the necessary legal structure to support their implementation. This does not exist in all cases in the Caribbean.
The main outcome is enhanced knowledge of the Puente Program, manifested in three national initiatives that incorporate those lessons in the pilot countries:
• St. Lucia: Koudemain Ste. Lucie
• Trinidad and Tobago: STEP-UP
• Jamaica: Bridge Jamaica
A notable feature of these is their relevance to their contexts. While using the core principles of the Puente Program, each Caribbean country developed a unique initiative reflective of its specific needs. In T&T, in addition to the 7 pillars of the Puente Program there is an eighth pillar, safety and security, to attend to this national priority issue.
There is greater interaction among countries and enhanced knowledge of the “other”. Participants from Chile and the Caribbean are learning English and Spanish, respectively. This is a technical cooperation but it also created cultural exchange as it was impossible to improve social protection systems without understanding the distinct cultural contexts within which such systems operated. Chile has also learned new strategies for cooperation and uses this cooperation as incentives in human resource management. There is also cooperation among recipient countries; managers from St. Lucia visited T&T to observe the information system and the cash transfer of the program. Teams from Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will also visit T&T in 2010 as this country has advanced the most.
The sustainability has been undermined by the turnover of trainees. To mitigate these effects, a deliberate effort is made to transfer the knowledge to a broader pool of local stakeholders. However, given the limited funding, only two or three persons participate in the Internships and workshops and with this approach there is the potential for generating envy among colleagues. As such, the program promotes broader ownership and participation through virtual forums.
The program’s success was acknowledged by Ministers of Social Development during the First OAS Ministerial on Social Development in 2008. It was therefore extended to a second phase incorporating 4 new countries. At the Summits of the Americas in 2009 Heads of States urged OAS to continue its cooperation activities in social protection throughout the Americas. The result was the launching of the Inter-American Social Protection Network in September 2009 in New York, endorsed by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, President Uribe of Colombia and former President Bachelet of Chile. This Network serves as a hub for cooperation activities in social protection in the Americas.
Eficacia de la ayuda al desarrollo:
This is an example of triangulation. CIDA provided funding in response to the Caribbean’s need and Chile’s desire to share its experiences. Despite language differences, which were challenging, the will of countries to share and learn was the program’s engine. The role of OAS as facilitator was critical in bridging this cultural gap. The pilot approach involved learning by doing and from the early signs of progress with the pilot, Chile’s role was transformed to a financial and technical donor for the second phase of the program and follow-up funding was provided by CIDA.
National leadership and ownership are encouraged as fundamental ingredients for implementation and success of the cooperation. Commitments were established at the highest levels within the ministries and while technical experts are trained on the Puente Program, the political directorate is constantly involved and informed. As country teams developed their workplans, one of the initial tasks was to obtain buy-in from other ministries, politicians and all stakeholders.
The program is directly aligned to the national priorities. In all cases there were national reports or initiatives to reform the social protection systems hence the program proved timely and relevant. The following highlights the national contexts within which the cooperation activity was framed:
- Trinidad and Tobago: Vision 2020
- Jamaica: World Bank Inner City Basic Services Project
- St. Lucia: Poverty Assessment Report 2007
- Barbados: general strategy of the new Ministry of Social Care
- St. Kitts and Nevis: Poverty Assessment Report; Social Protection Review 2005
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Government’s Plans for Comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy
- Suriname: Social Safety Net Reform Strategy, 2007
The University of the West Indies provided academic support to ensure that the Caribbean reality was adequately reflected in designing and implementing the cooperation activity. Unfortunately the engagement was short-lived; the challenge still remains to find effective ways of evaluating the impact of the program and systematizing the transference process.
The program promotes institutional partnerships and regional collaboration. The needs assessment collects data on similar national programs to encourage synergies. In Jamaica, while the implementing agency is the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, the initiative is conducted together with the PATH, a program whose strategies are similar to those of the Puente.
The cooperation started with a pilot phase, whose lessons directed programming for the future. For example, feedback from evaluations in the pilot phase was considered in planning Phase II.
Desarrollo de Capacidades:
There is increased knowledge on the methodology of the Puente Program and progressive social protection strategies. In particular, there has been enhanced knowledge of psychosocial support and the rights-based approach to social protection. Moreover the enhanced capacity translates into institutional capacity development as new strategies are passed on throughout the Ministry and institutionalized. Other Ministries and agencies are developed with the new paradigm and form part of the country’s social network e.g. in St. Lucia.
A key lesson from this process is the importance of political will to ensure that the cooperation activity has the intended impact and is sustainable. It is also essential that the appropriate persons be selected to receive the training, share lessons and implement the local programs.
Duración: June 2007 to December 2010
Presupuesto (Opcional): CIDA: USD 324, 000 Government of Chile: USD 200, 000 OAS in kind contribution: USD 681,685 (approximate) These totals do not reflect the cash and/or in-kind contributions of the recipient countries.
Nombre del Contacto Primario: Julie Nurse
Título del Contacto Primario: Social Development Specialist
Ciudad: Washington, DC
Download this Case Story: OEA-Chile-Caribbean - Promoting social protection.pdf