Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Guidance Package SPaN

Social protection is a policy instrument with robust, flexible, and widely available delivery mechanisms. In this respect, social protection is generating further political interest as it allows for the rapid channelling of support to people most in need of assistance and mitigates the effects of humanitarian disasters by strengthening targeted beneficiaries coping mechanisms. 

Social protection also holds significant potential to transform short-term humanitarian interventions into development processes to achieve resilience, peace, stabilisation, and economic growth in countries in crises. But while a wealth of knowledge exists on providing social protection in relatively stable environments, research on how to bridge the humanitarian and development interventions in crisis contexts is still relatively new.

In order to fill this gap, the European Commission (EC) created the Guidance Package (GP) on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus (SPaN). It results from an inter-service initiative led by the European Commission’s Directorate-General International Partnerships (INTPA, former DEVCO), Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR).

The GP is considered a ´living tool´ that brings together experts and views from across the nexus with the aim to continually strengthen the value of the package with experiences from the field. 

The GP provides concrete and practical guidance to social protection as an effective short- and long-term response to multivariate shocks, protracted crises and displacement based on the current body of knowledge, including brief definitions, and processes of social protection approaches in most challenging settings. The variety of contexts covered by the GP also includes countries where social protection systems are nationally led and those without any structures in place.

Tools and Methods Series Reference Document

Designed to provide insights and strategies for humanitarian and development staff, the GP is made up of a reference document, thematic notes, country case studies, and think pieces on the latest research and policy development. The GP is considered a ´living tool´ that brings together experts and views from across the nexus with the aim to continually strengthen the value of the package with experiences from the field.

In addition to events organised by SPaN, two online communities on and gather all documented resources of the GP and serve as platforms offering a direct link between learning and performance from experts with different backgrounds working or not for European development agencies. 

While created by the three EC Directorates, the GP has been handed over to UNICEF, who continues to develop it with close coordination from the European Commission. To download all documents from the Guidance Package, click here. To continuously learn and follow what is new in the field of social protection in the humanitarian-development nexus, join the Online Community on and its discussion group.


Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > Guidance Package - SPaN resources

Guidance Package - SPaN resources

The European Commission (EC) created the Guidance Package (GP) on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus (SPaN)  to provide concrete and practical guidance to social protection as an effective short- and long-term response to multivariate shocks, protracted crises and displacement based on the current body of knowledge, including brief definitions, and processes of social protection approaches in most challenging settings. The variety of contexts covered by the GP also includes countries where social protection systems are nationally led and those without any structures in place.

Designed to provide insights and strategies for humanitarian and development staff, the GP is made up of a reference document, thematic notes, country case studies, and think pieces on latest research and policy development.

The GP is considered a ´living tool´ that brings together experts and views from across the nexus with the aim to continually strengthen the value of the package with experiences from the field.


Reference Documents





Case studies





Thematic Notes

Think Pieces


All documents



Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > SPaN E-learning: EU International Partnerships Academy

SPaN E-learning: EU International Partnerships Academy

Designed to provide insights and strategies for humanitarian and development staff, this e-learning course introduces and reflects knowledge from the European Commission´s Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian Development-Nexus. It provides concrete and practical guidance to social protection to bridge humanitarian and development interventions through effective short- and long-term response to multivariate shocks, protracted crises and displacement. 


Register now at:

Target Audience 

The primary target audience are social protection practitioners and interested staff in headquarters and in the field from European Commission, from EU Member States, development partners and from partner countries.

Course participants are invited to join the two specific Communities of Practice (on and on created to offer direct link to the GP´s materials and serve as forums for discussions with a wide range of stakeholders working with the subject.

Learning Objectives

This course:

  • presents main objectives, principles and core instruments of social protection;
  • discusses similarities and differences between social protection as government task in development setting and as part of humanitarian action;
  • introduces the important features of social protection systems and approaches in crisis contexts that reflect currently promising practices;
  • presents a working typology for understanding what working with social protection to respond to a crisis might look like;
  • provides an overview of how different social protection instruments can and have been used in crisis contexts;
  • outlines impacts of social protection programmes and approaches across a range of outcomes.

Course Content

  • Module 1 Social Protection and Humanitarian Action
  • Module 2 Why Work With Social Protection in Crisis Contexts?
  • Module 3 Approaches and benefit modalities
  • Module 4 Targeting 
  • Module 5 Engaging stakeholders and meeting the needs of vulnerable groups

Duration: 4 hours

 Click here to access the materials from the European Commission´s Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus.

Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources

The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis that requires unprecedent efforts from a truly global response. No one yet knows how long it will take and how its impacts will shape the future of our societies, but learning from concrete and practical guidance to social protection bridging humanitarian and development interventions can lead to better informed and effective short- and long-term responses.

Social protection is a policy instrument with robust, flexible and widely available delivery mechanisms.  As such, it holds significant potential to transform the ways countries respond to the pandemic and keep the pace of development processes to achieve resilience, peace, stabilisation and economic growth. Knowledge and effective international cooperation is central to rapid and effective responses, which can be oriented by lessons learned from a range of social protection policies and tools.

In 2017, the European Commission (EC) created the Guidance Package (GP) on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus (SPaN) to outline the current body of knowledge, including brief definitions, and processes of social protection approaches in most challenging settings. The variety of contexts covered by the GP also includes countries where social protection systems are nationally led and those without any structures in place. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GP launched its e-learning course providing insights and strategies for humanitarian and development staff introducing and reflecting knowledge from the GP´s materials

This COVID-19 Resources page is part of the GP knowledge framework. It summarizes main documents and sources guiding discussions and information on social protection efforts in times of COVID-19. Community members will find here a list of links to key online communities, documents and relevant sources providing updates on social protection efforts to make countries more responsive to the crisis. Just as the Guidance Package, this page is a living document that can and will be updated with the collaboration of members of our online community of practice. For that, please provide your comments in the bottom of the page.    

   Online resources of Projects, Discussions and Experts´ Collaboration Spaces

Discussion feeds on and online communities supported by the SPaN Initiative and partners.  

The Social Protection in times of COVID-19 Task Force, an initiative of the UNDP/IPC-IG, GIZ and DFAT, issued weekly newsletters mapping social protection responses to reduce the impacts of the pandemic and ensure support to those in need. The initiative also counts with the organization of news from regions, an Expert Advice Helpline (SPACE) and a Webinar SeriesSPACE is a joint initiative of FCDO’s Better Assistance in Crises (BASIC) and Gender Responsive Social Protection (GSP) programmes (funded by UKAid); GIZ (funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development); and the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 

Documents published by SPACE have been instrumental for social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below a short list of materials relevant to this group: 

      SPACE Informal Workers and Social Protection

      SPACE Useful COVID-19 and Social Protection Materials
      SPACE Understanding the Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Who, Where, How, and When?
      SPACE Social Protection in the COVID-19 Recovery: Opportunities and Challenges
      SPACE Options for rapid delivery (payment) of cash transfers for COVID-19 responses and beyond
      Programming Guidance: Embedding Localisation in the Response to COVID-19
      SPACE Social Protection Approaches to COVID-19: Expert advice helpline
      SPACE Strengthening Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) During the Implementation of Social Protection Responses to COVID-19
      SPACE Social protection for older people during COVID-19 and beyond
      SPACE Preparing for Future Shocks: Priority Actions for Social Protection Practitioners in the Wake of COVID-19
      SPACE Guidance for Framing Case Studies on Social Protection Responses to COVID-19
      SPACE Value for Money of Social Protection and Humanitarian Cash Transfers in the Context of COVID-19
      SPACE Programming Options: ‘Cash Plus’ Approaches in the Response to COVID-19  
      SPACE The Potential Role of Economic Inclusion Programmes to Respond to Those Affected by COVID-19
      SPACE Social Protection and Humanitarian Cash and Food Responses to COVID-19: Needs, Coverage, and Gaps
      SPACE How Targeting Mechanisms Can Identify People With Disabilities for Inclusion in Social Protection Programmes
      SPACE Inclusive Information Systems for Social Protection: Intentionally Integrating Gender and Disability
      COVID-19 and the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) and Conditional Cash Transfers for Education (CCTE) programmes
      SPACE Useful COVID-19 and Social Protection Materials
      SPACE Transfer Values: How Much Is Enough? Balancing social protection and humanitarian considerations
      Drivers of Timely and Large-Scale Cash Responses to COVID-19: what does the data say?

SP-HCT Links - weekly newsletters: a joint initiative between the Grand Bargain´s Cash Sub Group and the online community Social Protection in Crisis Contexts with highlights on relevant events, documents and mapping efforts to interested public. This initiative also counts with an informal hangout for practitioners organized every Wednesday. The link to each of the meetings is shared in the previous week´s newsletter. 

Grand Bargain´s Cash Sub Group initiative to map social protection and humanitarian cash linkages - The purpose of this live, shareable mapping is to support humanitarian actors in the field. It’s light touch. Initial focus is on countries/regions that have Humanitarian Response Plans. It is done in coordination with other mapping initiatives. 

ODI Research Project Social Protection Response to COVID-19 and beyond: lessons learned for adaptive social protection.  This research project examines social protection measures adopted since the onset of the pandemic, with the aims of promoting policy learning and helping ensure countries are better equipped with inclusive, adaptive and sustainable social protection systems moving forward. The project has a working paper series and a podcast addressing emerging evidence and learning for future crises, impact on gender equality, national cash transfer responses and urban cash, and provisions to refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic, among other topics. 


   Key Documents

Communication on the Global EU response to COVID-19

Factsheet: EU global response to coronavirus: supporting our partner countries

Grand Bargain Cash Sub Group on Linking Social Protection and Humanitarian Cash Transfers Statement

A UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19

UN Secretary General Report - Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 (March 2020)

Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) Joint Statement on the Role of Social Protection in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

UN Secretary General Policy Brief: Investing in Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication and a Sustainable Recovery (September 2021) 

Report of the UN Secretary-General Our Common Agenda (2021)

We critically need to increase our efforts to protect and support all people throughout the crisis, both in its health dimension as well as its economic and social repercussions. For this, we can draw on the range of social protection policies and tools at our disposal and on lessons learnt from earlier pandemics and economic and financial crises. - SPIAC-B Joint Statement on the Role of Social Protection in Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic


   Relevant Information Sources

EU Global Response to COVID-19

ILO COVID-19 and the World of Work & ILO Country Policy Responses

ILO Monitor of Social Protection Responses to COVID-19 Crisis around the World

Weekly Social Protection Links - World Bank Ugo Gentili´s newsletter on latest research and practices from the world of social protection . Also see the posts A round up of key cash transfers papers for 2020 and Social Protection in 2021: A compilation of suggested readings for lists of selected publications in the field. 

Social Protection Responses to COVID-19 in the Global South - Online Dashboard Developed by UNDP/IPC-IG and partners using a shock-responsive lens

International Social Security Association (ISSA) - COVID-19 Updates and Webinars

UN COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund (MPTF-O)

Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) - CVA and COVID-19: resources, guidance, events and questions

Key Policy Responses from OECD


Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > SPaN Videos

SPaN Videos


DG ECHO Webinars: 

What is the role of a humanitarian donor in linking with social protection systems?

SPaN Interviews:

How can we operationalise Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus?

Promoting gender equality with shock-responsive social protection programmes



EU Thematic Seminar on Social Protection across the Humanitarian Development Nexus (May 2019):

1 – SPaN in Crises Settings / Henriette Geiger (DEVCO), Sandie Blanchet & Alexandra Yuster (UNICEF)

2 - The EU Guidance Package: SPaN / Juergen Hohmann (DEVCO) & Carina Staibano (ECHO)

3 - Engaging with Stakeholders in Crises Settings / Rachel Slater (CIDT)

4 - Benefit Modalities / Rachel Sabates-Wheeler (IDS)

5 - Shock-Responsive Social Protection in Nepal / Usha Mishra Hayes (UNICEF)

6 - Working through Social Protection Systems in Contexts of Fragility / Georgia Rowe (Consultant)  

7 - Social Protection Systems in Contexts of Forced Displacement / Cécile Cherrier (Consultant)

8 - EU Thematic Seminar on Social Protection across the humanitarian-development Nexus



Voices and Views: Social Protection in Fragile Contexts (UNICEF Conference, 2017)

1 - Social protection and humanitarian actors: Monique Pariat (Director-General of ECHO)

2 - Social Protection in Fragile Contexts: Views on cash transfers as part of an emergency response

3 - Connecting the Dots: Social Protection and Security in Fragile Contexts

4 - Challenges and progress in bringing ECHO and DEVCO closer together

5 - Social Development Fund in Yemen: Lamis Al Iryani

6 - The impact of war on the Social Development Fund in Yemen: Lamis Al Iryani

7 - Making communities more resilient: Maryan Qaasim, Somalia

8 - FAO and social protection in Somalia: Dominique Burgeon

9 - Unicef and cash transfers in Somalia: Pamel Dale

10 - Vertical fragmentation of aid in Somalia: Ric Goodman from DAI

11- DEVCO and ECHO in Somalia: Johan Heffinck

12 - The Emergency Social Safety Net in Turkey: Jonathan Campbell (WFP)

13 - European Commission's ESSN programme in Turkey: Massimo La Rosa (ECHO)

14 - Unicef’s support for refugees in Turkey: Iraz Öykü Soyalp (Unicef Turkey)

15 - Bridging short- and long-term planning for refugees in Turkey: Frederike Wünschmann

16 - Partnership for Prospects: Silvia Morgenroth



Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > Glossary of key terms for SPaN

Glossary of key terms for SPaN

Global experiences of working with social protection systems and approaches to respond to a crisis have recently been organised into a working typology summarized in the Reference Document. This typology has been a useful way of demonstrating what working with social protection systems and approaches in humanitarian contexts might look like, and categorising common features, enablers, constraining factors and risks.


design tweaks logo

Design Tweaks: The design of social protection programmes and systems can be adjusted in a way that takes into consideration the crises that a country typically faces. These are small adjustments to a routine social protection programme. They can introduce flexibility to maintain the regular service in a shock. For example, the Philippines allows compliance with conditionality for its cash transfer programme, Pantawid, to be waived in a calamity. Alternatively, they can improve coverage, timeliness or predictability without requiring any ‘flex’ at the moment of the shock. For example, Mozambique’s cash transfer programme regularly experiences disbursement delays at the start of each new financial year in January; unfortunately, that coincides with the period of greatest risk of climate shocks such as cyclones. A design tweak, such as a double payment in December in place of one in January, might ensure that households were covered at the time of increased vulnerability. The merits of different design tweaks would need to be examined on a case-by-case basis. The risks – if the change is implemented sensitively – are low, provided the adjustment does not divert the programme from its core objective or close off opportunities to achieve greater impact.

piggybacking logo

Piggybacking: A social protection programme’s administrative systems can be used by humanitarian (or other) actors to deliver assistance, but the response programme itself is managed separately from the social protection programme. For example, this could be when a humanitarian response uses a specific programme’s beneficiary list, a country’s national registries or programme databases of households underpinning social protection programmes, a social assistance programme’s particular payment mechanism, or makes use of social protection staff. Similarly, a humanitarian response could use the payment system of a contributory pension scheme (as happened in Lesotho). The essence of this approach is to provide a faster, more effective response through tried-and-tested methods that communities and end-beneficiaries are familiar with. This saves the set-up time and costs associated with establishing a parallel system through emergency response.

vertical expansion logo

Vertical expansion: A social protection programme can temporarily increase the benefit value or duration of a benefit provided through an existing programme, either for all or for some of the existing beneficiaries. This can be done via an adjustment of transfer amounts, or through the introduction of extraordinary payments or transfers, to a regular social assistance programme implemented in non-crisis times. The rationale may be to recognise the increased household costs as a result of the crises, or to temporarily harmonise the size of payments from the social assistance programme with a humanitarian response. Alternatively, if the payments are to be extended in duration, the rationale may be that there has been an extended period of need as a result of market disruption or agricultural production. With this approach, any extra support is provided as an integral part of the existing intervention – that is, it uses the same implementers and delivery channels.


horizontal expansion logo

Horizontal Expansion: Social assistance programmes can temporarily include new, crisis-affected beneficiaries in an existing social protection programme. This option may involve extending the programme to more people in the same geographical area or an extension of the programme’s geographical coverage to areas affected by the crises but not in the footprint of the ‘regular’ programme. The expansion of the regular programme into new territories can be achieved through either a pre-screening of potential beneficiaries before a crisis event and/ or through an extraordinary enrolment campaign to rapidly enrol those who fit programme criteria and who have been affected, or a modification/relaxation of eligibility criteria to allow more people to benefit. While the most effective and rapid scale-ups have agreed a number of parameters ex ante, these are not prerequisites. Ideally, the parameters to be agreed ex ante are where the scale-up should take place, which households are to receive support through the programme, and what the (objective) triggers to authorise a scale-up will be.


alignment logo

Alignment: An emergency response can be deliberately designed to align with another (actual or future) social protection programme or system. Where the country systems are not mature or do not penetrate across the entire country, there have been examples where humanitarian projects have been designed explicitly with the expectation that the projects could evolve and mature over time into fully fledged, national social protection systems (e.g. the Cadre Commun sur les Filets Sociaux in Mali, and the Urban Food Security programme in Kenya). This could be achieved through greater alignment of humanitarian interventions into something more predictable and ‘systemic’, or alignment of a response programme with an existing or future social protection programme, to facilitate potential integration and national ownership in the future.


Below are selected definitions of key terms for SPaN as used and properly referenced in the Reference Document.


Adaptive social protection: A series of measures which aim to build resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable people to climate change by combining elements of social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change. Since this conceptualization, it has come to be understood as entailing the need to better adapt social protection to all types of shocks.

Cash-for-work:  Payments provided on the condition of undertaking designated work. This is generally paid according to time worked (e.g. number of days, daily rate), but may also be quantified in terms of outputs (e.g. number of items produced, cubic metres dug). Cash-for-work interventions are usually in public or community work programmes, but can also include home-based and other forms of work.

Cash Plus: Complementary programming where cash transfers are combined with other modalities or activities. Complementary interventions may be implemented by the same agency/agencies providing cash transfers, or potentially by other agencies working in collaboration. Examples might include provision of training and/or livelihood inputs, or behavioural change communication programmes.

Cash transfers: Direct, regular and predictable transfers that raise and smooth incomes to reduce poverty and vulnerability. How to spend unconditional cash transfers is for the beneficiary to decide. Conditional cash transfers are given with the requirement that the beneficiary meets certain conditions – often related to human capital development, such as visiting a health clinic or ensuring children go to school.

Commodity vouchers:  They are exchanged for a fixed quantity and quality of specified goods or services at participating vendors. Commodity vouchers share some similarities with in-kind aid in that they restrict and specify the assistance received, but it is accessed at local markets through traders.

Conditionality: Prerequisite or qualifying conditions that a beneficiary must fulfil to receive a cash transfer or voucher – that is, activities or obligations that must be fulfilled before receiving assistance. It is distinct from restriction, which pertains only to how transfers are used. Conditionality can in principle be used with any kind of cash, voucher or other type of assistance, depending on its objectives and design.

Conditional transfers: Require beneficiaries to undertake a specific action/activity (e.g. attend school, build a shelter, attend nutrition screenings, undertake work, etc.) to receive assistance – that is, a condition must be fulfilled before the transfer is received. Cash-for-work/assets/training are all forms of conditional transfers.

Delivery mechanism: Means of delivering a cash or voucher transfer (e.g. smart card, mobile money transfers, cash in envelopes, etc.).

Disaster risk reduction: Means, according to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, ‘actions taken to reduce the risk of disasters and the adverse impacts of natural hazards, through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causes of disasters, including through avoidance of hazards, reduced social and economic vulnerability to hazards, and improved preparedness for adverse events’.

Effectiveness: How well outputs are converted to outcomes and impacts (e.g. reduction in poverty gap and inequality, improved nutrition, reduction in school dropout, increased use of health services, asset accumulation by the poor, increased smallholder productivity, social cohesion).

Efficiency: Ability of a programme to achieve its intended objectives at the least cost possible in terms of use of inputs (i.e. capital, labour and other inputs).

Modality: Form of assistance (e.g. cash transfer, vouchers, in-kind, service delivery, or a combination). This can include both direct transfers at household level, and assistance provided at a more general or community level, such as health services or WASH (water supply, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure.

Multi-purpose cash grants (MPG) or Multi-purpose cash assistance (MCA): A transfer (either regular or one-off) corresponding to the amount of money a household needs to cover, fully or partially, a set of basic and/or recovery needs. They are by definition unrestricted cash transfers. The MPG/MCA can contribute to meeting a Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) or other calculation of the amount required to cover basic needs, but can also include other one-off or recovery needs.

Public works programmes: Provide jobs on infrastructure projects for cash or food. They are sometimes classified as labour market interventions, depending on whether their function is primarily poverty alleviation, job creation, or social protection.

Shock-responsive social protection: Term used to bring focus on shocks that affect a large proportion of the population simultaneously (covariate shocks).1 It encompasses the adaptation of routine social protection programmes and systems to cope with changes in context and demand following large-scale shocks. This can be ex ante by building shock-responsive systems, plans and partnerships in advance of a shock to better prepare for emergency response; or ex post, to support households once the shock has occurred. In this way, social protection can complement and support other emergency response interventions.

Social assistance: Direct, regular and predictable transfer of cash or in-kind resources transfers poor and vulnerable individuals or households. It is usually provided by the state and financed by national taxes. Support from donors is also important in lower-income contexts.

Social care services: Non-cash interventions such as family support services to prevent family breakdown, child protection services to respond to abuse and neglect, alternative care for children, and social work support to people with disabilities. The importance of psychosocial support in such circumstances is recognised in some quarters.

Social insurance schemes: Contributory programmes where participants make regular payments to a scheme that will cover costs related to life-course events (e.g. maternity, unemployment or illness). Sometimes costs are matched or subsidised by the scheme provider. Social insurance includes: contributory pensions; health, unemployment, or disaster insurance; and funeral assistance. It can be provided formally through a bank or employer, or informally through a community-based pooled fund. Social insurance is strongly linked to the formal labour market – meaning coverage is often limited to formal workers.

Social protection system: A policy and legislative framework for social protection, including the budget framework, together with the set of specific social protection programmes and their corresponding implementation mechanisms. ‘Systematisation’ represents the idea that social protection instruments can be integrated into a more comprehensive system of policies and programmes that not only tackle poverty and vulnerability over the life cycle, but also strengthen pro-poor and inclusive economic growth and social development.

Safety nets or social safety nets: Target the poor or vulnerable and consist of non-contributory transfers, such as in-kind food, cash or vouchers; they can be provided conditionally or unconditionally. They are a sub-set of broader social protection systems. The term was introduced to refer to a temporary measure to catch those who were transiently made vulnerable through structural adjustment and liberalisation (e.g. transfers to households or subsidy programmes).2 The term ‘(social) safety net’ is now widely used, sometimes with different meanings. There is no commonly agreed definition of this terminology, and actors may use it to refer to protective social transfer projects ensuring a minimum level of income (as per the original definition), or (humanitarian) cash transfer projects, or social transfer schemes developed within a broader social protection system (guaranteeing a long-term institutionalised social protection).

Social transfers: Non-contributory, publicly funded, direct, regular and predictable resource transfers (in cash or in kind) to poor and vulnerable individuals or households, aimed at reducing their deficits in consumption, protecting them from shocks (including economic and climatic shocks), and, in some cases, strengthening their productive capacity.

Unconditional transfers: Provided to beneficiaries without the recipient having to do anything in return to receive the assistance.

Value for Money: Optimal use of resources to achieve the best outcomes for people affected by crisis and disaster.

Value vouchers: Have a denominated cash value and can be exchanged with participating vendors for goods or services of an equivalent monetary cost. Value vouchers tend to provide relatively greater flexibility and choice than commodity vouchers, but are still necessarily restricted as they can only be exchanged with designated vendors.

Vouchers: Paper, token or e-vouchers that can be exchanged for a set quantity or value of goods, denominated either as a cash value (e.g. USD 15) or predetermined commodities or services (e.g. 5 kilos of maize; milling of 5 kilos of maize), or a combination of value and commodities. They are redeemable with preselected vendors or in ‘fairs’ created by the agency. Vouchers are used to provide access to a range of goods or services, at recognised retail outlets or service centres. Vouchers are by default a restricted form of transfer, although there are wide variations in the degree of restriction/flexibility different voucher-based programmes may provide. The terms vouchers, stamps, or coupons are often used interchangeably.

Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > Relevant Policy Commitments

Relevant Policy Commitments

Map of the Central African Republic

In 2018, 68.5 million people worldwide were displaced by war or violent conflict, with little evidence suggesting the number will decrease in 2019. Photo © EU/ECHO/Martin Karimi

Humanitarian interventions are becoming more frequent, severe, complex and protracted. The issue of linking humanitarian assistance and social protection has gained significant importance in the last decade. This has led to a growing consensus that donors and aid organisations must work increasingly together. 

Here we list a few of the global commitments orienting this work and the instruments the European Union has put in place that support this consensus. Since 2020, the current global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the importance of these commitments. A wiki page dedicated to this particular crisis can be found here.

Global Commitments

The Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all include: 

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere, which Target 1.3 is to ‘Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.’ 

The 2016 World Humanitarian Summit Grand Bargain commitments include:

  • Commitment 2: More support and funding tools for local and national responders: Increase and support multi-year investment in the institutional capacities of local and national responders…especially in fragile contexts...Make greater use of funding tools which increase and improve assistance delivered by local and national responders.
  • Commitment 3: Increase the use and coordination of cash-based programming. This includes commitments to use, link or align with local and national mechanisms such as social protection systems.
  • Commitment 10: Enhance engagement between humanitarian and development actors. Working collaboratively across institutional boundaries based on comparative advantage…increase social protection programmes and strengthen national and local systems and coping mechanisms in order to build resilience in fragile contexts. 

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2016, calls to improve the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to those countries most affected and, where appropriate, develop national strategies for the protection of refugees within the framework of national social protection systems, as appropriate. It lays the foundation for the development of a global compact on refugees, which is to be proposed by the High Commissioner for Refugees for consideration by the General Assembly in 2018.

Recommendation 205 concerning employment and decent work for peace and resilience, adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2017, recognises the need to promote decent work, social protection and employment opportunities for refugees and host communities.

Recommendation 202 concerning national floors of social protection, adopted by the International Labour Conference in June 2012, reaffirms the right to social protection for all.

The Joint statement of the members of the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) to the World Humanitarian Summit calls on governments, development and humanitarian actors to:

  • In extreme fragility and protracted crises, invest in the development of ‘nascent’ safety nets or social assistance delivery mechanisms, while further strengthening and developing technical and analytical capacity at national and sub-national levels; and
  • In contexts of forced displacement, strengthen the effective reach and design of social protection systems to mitigate forced displacement due to shocks and crises and ensure that host communities, IDPs and refugees are equitably assisted in the event of crises.

The Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals - USP2030, joins forces of all actors who want to turn this right into reality. Its Call to Action urges countries and international partners to support the global commitment to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors (SDG 1.3) by 2030, through the following actions, centred around the core principles of universal social protection: protection throughout life cycle,universal coverage, national ownership, sustainable and equitable financing, participation and social dialogue. 

European Union´s Commitments

The European Union, with its Member States, is the world’s biggest donor of development assistance and among the first global trading partners and foreign investors. As a Union promoting peace, stability and a rules-based global order, it is faced with many challenges as well as opportunities in an increasingly complex and inter-connected world. Prosperity and peace in the EU’s Neighbourhood and beyond are crucial for the EU’s own stability and security. Below you will find a non-exaustive list of commitments guiding EU´s international cooperation. 

The Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument - Global Europe (NDICI - Global Europe) for the period 2021-2027. This broad instrument will remove artificial barriers between previous instruments, reduce administrative burden and streamline management structure. In line with the close interlinkages between the 17 SDGs, the ambition of the new integrated architecture is that individual actions are not just addressing one separate issue, but respond to several goals at the same time. It is a modern long-term budget that increases effectiveness and visibility of the EU’s external policies, strengthen their coordination with internal policies and give the EU the necessary flexibility to provide a faster response to new crises and challenges. This includes helping EU partners to cope with the health and socio-economic impact of COVID-19. The NDICI-Global Europe earmarks €79.46 billion (in current prices) for cooperation with third countries outside the European Union for 2021-2027 (except for pre-accession beneficiaries and Overseas countries and territories, which are subject to specific instruments), representing a 12% increase compared to the previous long-term budget 2014- 2020. NDICI-Global Europe is organised around three key pillars: Geographical: The geographical component promotes partnerships through cooperation with partner countries in the following regions: the European Neighbourhood, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas and the Caribbean. Thematic: The thematic programmes – for which €6 358 million is allocated – will fund actions linked to the Sustainable Development Goals at global level, including support for civil society organisations. Thematic programmes will therefore focus on human rights and democracy, civil society, stability and peace, as well as on global challenges such as health, education and training, women and children, work, social protection, culture, migration and climate change. Rapid response: The rapid response component, amounting to €3 182 million, is dedicated to financing the quick response capacity for crisis management, conflict prevention and peace building. Actions financed within this component aim to strengthen the resilience of crisis-affected countries, link humanitarian and development actions and address foreign policy needs and priorities.

The New European Consensus on Development (2017/C 210/01) acknowledges the role of social protection in providing a strong foundation for sustainable development and recognises its contribution to addressing inequality, preventing extreme poverty and building resilience. 

The European Agenda on Migration (COM(2015) 240) and the new Partnership Framework with third countries under the Agenda announced a new fund for external investments for leveraging additional funds from Member States and other donors. Investment in social infrastructure, which may include social protection administrative structures and instruments, is mentioned in particular.

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is a comprehensive set of legal and political documents, explained and kept together by the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum (COM (2020) 609 final) of 23 September 2020. In the Communication, it is stressed the importance to develop "mutually beneficial" partnerships with partner countries, to continuing assisting origin and transit countries in managing migration and addressing the root causes of migration, to step up our assistance for persons in need of international protection and their host countries. Migration is indicated as a priority that needs to be "built in" "as a core issue" in the comprehensive partnerships the EU establishes with third countries, "based on an assessment of the interests of the EU and partner countries". Countries of origin, transit and host countries, as well as State and non-State actors, need to work together in a balanced and human rights compliant approach.

The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the EU´s Humanitarian Action: new challenges, same principles - 10 March 2021. The Communication proposes a series of key actions to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid by expanding the resource base, supporting a better enabling environment for humanitarian partners and addressing the root causes of crises through a `Team Europe approach´. Its objective is to ensure that humanitarian, development, peacebuilding and other policies all work together to better link urgent relief and longer-term solutions, aiming at reducing needs and tackling the root causes of conflicts and crises. Key actions include: `EU joint analysis of the risks, needs, vulnerabilities and structural drivers of crisis´ and the `support for cashed-based, shock-responsive social safety nets´.

The Joint Communication on a Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s External Action, (JOIN (2017) 21) and the Council conclusion of 13/11/2017 recognise ‘the need to move away from crisis containment to a more structural, long-term, non-linear approach to vulnerabilities, with an emphasis on anticipation, prevention and preparedness […]. The traditional linear division of labour between humanitarian aid and development cooperation has been changing […] The EU should […] prioritise and enhance close cooperation of EU political, humanitarian and development actors on protracted crises and protracted displacement, while respecting the distinct mandates established by the Treaties, and humanitarian principles.’

The Communication on Forced Displacement and Development (COM(2016) 234), the Council conclusions of 12/05/2016 and the accompanying staff working document call for greater synergies between humanitarian and development actors regarding shared analysis, programming and flexible funding fostering self-reliance. The Communication describes social protection as imperative for empowering the forcibly displaced and giving them long-term, regular and predictable support to address chronic vulnerability. Investments in informationsharing systems and tracking of benefits, as well as contingency and finance planning between EU humanitarian and development actors and public authorities are identified as crucial.

The Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SWD(2016) 205) recommends, within Key Area 4 on the development of a holistic disaster risk management approach, support to ‘the long term development and neighbourhood assistance programmes in prevention, preparedness, early warning system and risk information capacity building activities, including through the support of appropriate social safety net mechanism and social protection systems.’

The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024) is a key tool in addressing the protection of human rights and supporting democracy in EU's external action. It aims to reinforce the implementation of the EU's human rights policy with a special emphasis on strengthening ownership by local institutions, mechanisms and civil society actors, and on offering rapid support to Human Rights Defenders in need. The current Action Plan responds to the new challenges posed by a rapidly evolving environment for global governance, new technologies and climate change. The operational measures will be implemented at country, regional and multilateral level, taking account of local circumstances and specificities. The proposed Action Plan provides strategic focus on:

  1.   Protecting and empowering individuals;
  2.   Building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies;
  3.   Promoting a global system for human rights and democracy;
  4.   New technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges; and
  5.   Delivering by working together.

The Farm to Fork Strategy - for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system points out the EU international cooperation focus on the prevention of and response to food crises, particularly in fragile contexts. The COM (2020) 381 Communication, item 2.2 `Ensuring food security´, states that `the considerations of workers´ social protection, working and housing conditions as well as protection of health and safety will play a major role in building fair, strong and sustainable food systems.´

The Communication on Social Protection in EU Development Cooperation (COM(2012) 446) and the related Council Conclusion advocate, in particular, the development of nationally owned social protection systems requiring the common pursuit of the values and interests of the stakeholders concerned. The Communication also affirms the EU rights-based approach to social protection.

The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid (2008/C 25/01) states that ‘humanitarian aid and development cooperation […] will be used in a coherent and complementary fashion especially in transitional contexts and situations of fragility, in order to use the full potential of short- and long-term aid and cooperation.’ It goes on to state, ‘it is important to ensure that humanitarian, development and other relevant aid instruments work better together, in particular in situations of fragility and where communities are seeking to recover from the effects of crisis.’

Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > European Union Thematic Seminar - Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

European Union Thematic Seminar - Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus


From 22 to 24 January, staff from EU Delegations, ECHO regional offices, European Commission, Member States and partner organisations gathered at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Paris to discuss ways of bridging humanitarian and development interventions in crisis contexts. The 52 participants discussed parts of the content of the new European Commission´s inter-service Guidance Package (GP) on social protection and what the instrument can deliver as an effective short- and long-term response to multivariate shocks, protracted crises and displacement.

Through presentations, panel discussions and group work, the seminar provoked a rich discussion among HQ and field staff and practitioners from the European Commission and from member States of the European Union. Moreover, it provides specific information on methods and tools for policy development to support the operationalisation of SPaN and to foster shock-sensitive social protection in crisis settings.

On this page, community members will find background information, the agenda of the activities, and the respective presentations speaker made available. A summary of the thematic seminar and a film clip highlight the main achievements of the event.




All documents and presentations  





Public Group on Social Protection > Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus > Launch Event (20 May 2019) Supporting People through Crises: Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Launch Event (20 May 2019) Supporting People through Crises: Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Launch event on the occasion of the release of operational notes 

Monday, 20 May 2019, 14:00 – 18:00 at L-L-42 (Rue de la Loi 42, 1000 Brussels) 


Over the last two years, the EU has produced the Guidance Package (GP) on providing Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus (SPaN). At this event the SPaN initiative jointly led by DG International Partnerships (former DEVCO), ECHO and NEAR introduced operational notes to practitioners working at EU Headquarters, EU Delegations, DG ECHO Field offices, EU Member States’ (MS) agencies and international partners and provided: 

  1. EU specific operational guidance linking humanitarian action and developing shock-sensitive social protection systems in specific sectors; 
  2. A synthesis of all Guidance Package documents and key findings included in the respective Reference Document 
  3. A Proposal for Joint Actions with Implementing Partners.

Please find below the agenda with links to presentations´ recordings and slides. Also find all materials from the GP and other sources on Capacity4dev and online communities of practice. 


14:00 – 14:15 

Introduction: Social Protection Systems in Crises Settings

• Henriette GEIGER, European Commission, DG International Cooperation and Development, Director of Directorate B – People and Peace

• Sandie BLANCHET, UNICEF Office for Partnership with the EU in Brussels, Director

• Alexandra YUSTER, UNICEF HQ, Associate Director, Programme Division, Social Policy Chief

14:15 – 14:30 

The EU Guidance Package: Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus. What is it and why is it needed?

• Juergen HOHMANN European Commission, DG DEVCO B3

• Carina STAIBANO, European Commission, DG ECHO C1

          (presentation slides)

14:30 – 16:10

Content-specific Operational Guidance: 

• Engaging with Stakeholders in Crises Settings (Rachel SLATER, CIDT)

          (presentation slides)

• Benefit Modalities (Rachel SABATES-WHEELER, IDS)

          (presentation slides)

• UNICEF country example – Nepal (Usha Mishra HAYES, UNICEF)

          Followed by Fishbowl discussion


16:25 – 17:15

Context-specific Operational Guidance:  Working through Social Protection Systems in Contexts of

  • Fragility (Georgia ROWE, Independent Consultant) 

            (presentation slides)

17:15 – 17:30 

Guidance Package – The Roadmap for Implementation/further Development + resources available to use (Juergen HOHMANN, DG DEVCO B3 – from minute 20)

             (presentation slides)