This course explores social protection as it applies to sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Social protection is a key element of national strategies to promote human development, political stability, and inclusive growth. Currently, an estimated 53 per cent of the world’s population lives without any form of social protection.

Social protection is more relevant than ever to address social and economic impact during and after the unfolding health emergency. The pandemic has illuminated both the gaps and advantages of access to national health care systems and the implementation of policies to support income security.

The ambitious objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda and the unprecedented social protection requirements related to COVID-19 will involve concerted efforts from across the spectrum of UN and national actors, linking interventions and leveraging new tools to build universal social protection programmes and achieve the 2030 Agenda promise of life in dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.

This course will prepare participants to do just that, by focusing on the “what”, “why”, and “how” of social protection principles in order to prepare them to work among social protection experts, advocates, and beneficiaries. 



By the end of this course, participant will be able to:

  1. Establish the need for universal social protection systems for individuals and societies to advance sustainable development
  2. Recognize the value of social protection as an investment and lever to achieve sustainable development
  3. Identify global trends, practical tools, and good practices in extending social protection, especially related to building up national socio-economic and environmental resilience
  4. Actively advocate for establishing universal, comprehensive, rights-based, and sustainable social protection systems in their context
  5. Promote the culture of social protection among a wider group of learners and beneficiaries
  6. Identify the concrete policy steps necessary to design, finance, and implement national appropriate social protection systems
  7. Utilize tools, instruments, and approaches to practically contribute to building nationally appropriate social protection systems

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

UNSSC online courses are designed to deliver maximum learning outcomes through optimal time investments into carefully chosen high-quality learning materials. Specifically tailored to the needs of the professionals interested in developing the skills to advance their career or deepening their knowledge of a particular subject, our facilitated online courses combine self-paced study modules with applied learning components such as case studies, interactive exercises and collaborative group work.

Participants also benefit from live moderated webinars which feature valuable inputs from renowned subject-matter experts, and allow real-time dialogue with high-level speakers. Webinar recordings are also made available to ensure that participants have a flexible and seamless learning experience.

An expert facilitator guides and assists the participants throughout the course, and provides real-time feedback on activities and exercises. Our user-friendly social online learning platform provides participants with the opportunity to connect with peers from diverse organizational backgrounds, fostering peer-to-peer learning.

While being interactive and participatory, UNSSC online courses give learners the opportunity to complete activities when it best fits their schedule. Participants are largely free to determine their own weekly study plan. Lasting five weeks and demanding five hours of work a week, UNSSC online courses incorporate the same high academic rigor as any UNSSC face-to-face programme.

Course Contents

Course Contents: 

Week 1: Past, present, future: the history of social protection and the 2030 Agenda (the “why”)

  • Definitions of social protection
  • History, characteristics, and structure of the 2030 Agenda
  • Social protection and the SDGs
  • Social protection and the 5Ps
  • Lifecycle risks
  • History of the welfare system and early social protection
  • The human right to social security and the rights-based approach to social protection
  • Introduction to the idea of weekly cross-cutting issues
  • Weekly activity
  • Webinar


Week 2: Components and instruments of social protection (the “what”)

  • International labour standards and social protection regulations
  • Types of social protection
  • Coverage among specific groups: children, the elderly, people with disabilities etc.
  • Coverage of vulnerable groups and areas
  • Social protection floors
  • Myths vs realities
  • Best practices
  • Cross-cutting issue: data
  • Weekly activity
  • Webinar


Week 3: Designing, financing, and implementing social protection systems (the “how”)

  • Designing and reforming social protection systems
  • Needs assessments
  • Financing and fiscal space
  • National social protection strategies
  • Understanding institutional capacity at a national level
  • Universal social protection as it relates to financing
  • Operational cycles of social protection schemes & information management
  • Cross-cutting issue: adaptive social protection
  • Weekly activity
  • Webinar


Week 4: Advocating for universal and comprehensive social protection systems (the “how”)

  • Monitoring and evaluation tools
  • Implementation of social protection schemes
  • Partnerships and stakeholders
  • Advocacy and communication
  • Inter linkages and systems thinking in social protection
  • Creating a participatory approach to building social protection systems
  • Tools for capacity building
  • Cross-cutting issue: culture of social protection
  • Weekly activity
  • Webinar


Week 5: Looking ahead: practical perspectives, global trends, and debates in social protection

  • Identifying global trends like migration, environmental degradation and climate change, digitization, disasters etc.
  • Social protection in times of crisis
  • Universal basic income
  • Weekly activity
  • Webinar

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

Participants will possess varied backgrounds and different levels of experience working on social protection. Their work will span civil society, academia, the private sector, mass media, political parties, governments, NGOs, international organizations, donors, social workers, educators, volunteers, and influencers. We are looking for people who do not necessarily have prior knowledge about social protection but who are motivated to learn.

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

UNSSC fosters collaborative peer-to-peer learning among its course participants. To achieve this, UNSSC adopts a rigorous methodology in its selection process that considers the course's scope, objectives, and expected outcomes. UNSSC utilizes specific selection criteria for its course participants to promote cohort-based learning and increase course impact. Interested individuals are encouraged to sign up for the moderated online course and be ready to complete an additional comprehensive selection survey after the course registration closes.

Selection criteria:

The selection criteria include quality of motivation, professional experience and knowledge, commitment, diversity (gender, geographic region, sector, etc.), and willingness to contribute to the course.

Selection process:

  1. Register for the course by clicking on the sign-up button. Please provide a clear motivation statement and a short explanation of the benefit you can derive from the course as well as your possible contribution to enriching it. Course registrations open from 13 September to 10 October 2021.
  2. After the deadline for registration, you will receive a link to a survey to confirm the conditions for course completion (technical requirements and time availability), as well as to answer course specific questions.

This online course is offered free-of-charge.

Participants will enjoy the following benefits from the free online course:

  • Three-month access to course materials (including exclusive video material and key readings), recording of webinars and speakers’ presentations.
  • Participation in live webinars with renowned subject-matter experts.
  • Exclusive access to the UNSSC online social learning environment with training and supporting background materials, and the opportunity to stay connected with colleagues.

Certificates from the United Nations System Staff College will be awarded to participants upon completion of the course.

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