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Lumelang bo-'m'e le bo-ntate - Greetings to all.
It is with great pleasure that I address you at today's launch of the book titled, 'From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub Saharan Africa'. My heartiest congratulations go to everyone who has been involved in this very meaningful project. As is reflected in the book, the European Union is very proud of our longstanding partnership with the Government of Lesotho, particularly the Ministry of Social Development, as well as UNICEF and FAO in efforts to create safety nets for Lesotho's most vulnerable – particularly orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). In emphasising our strong partnership and shared vision, allow me to quote from a chapter, which one of our EU staff, Ms. Mariam Homayoun, Governance Programme Manager, contributed to - and I quote, "there is no doubt that the excellent collaboration between the EU, UNICEF, the MOSD, and other stakeholders and the move towards a unified assistance scheme and more equitable social protection system have been key in the success of this programme," end of quote.
Since 2008, the European Union has invested comprehensively in the area of Social Protection in Lesotho. A total amount of 30 million Euros (equivalent to about 455 million Maloti) has been committed towards supporting the Government of Lesotho in its efforts on social protection, more specifically towards what we in the EU consider a flagship intervention of the European Development Programme (EDF): the Child Grants Programme (CGP). The CGP is an unconditional social cash transfer. As we have heard earlier this morning, the CGP is designed to improve children's living conditions, particularly to improve access to nutritious food and medical services and to increase school attendance and school retention. Today, about 25,000 households, which include approximately 75,000 vulnerable children, receive regular quarterly cash payments of between 360 Maloti and 750 Maloti, depending on the number of children in the household. The beneficiaries rely on this money to alleviate their situation of vulnerability.
Lesotho's Child Grants Programme has gained international recognition partly because, what started as a fully EU-funded intervention, has transitioned, in a relatively short period of time, to a national programme fully funded, owned and administered by the government of Lesotho. Within the Sub-Saharan African context, this is certainly a unique example of an effective transition and, as others have done previously, I would like to congratulate the government of Lesotho, particularly the Ministry of Social Development, which was established only four years ago as a stand-alone ministry. This great achievement is truly commendable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I already had the opportunity to look through some chapters of the book, which are very rich in lessons and touch on many different experiences. It is our hope that the main findings of the book will build on the existing National Policy on Social Development and the National Social Protection Strategy, so as to support and strengthen the response to challenges of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion.
As discussed during today's panel discussions, the beauty of the CGP as part of the wider social protection programme, is that the impact of the cash transfers transcends beyond the individuals and families that receive the cash; through a ripple effect, and most definitely a multiplier effect, through income being generated for the broader communities.
The EU is very pleased with the Government's commitment to institutionalise NISSA as a single registry to establish a comprehensive and integrated Social Protection System, and to improve equity and coordination between existing social protection interventions. NISSA is one of the major successes of the EU/UNICEF support to Social Protection in Lesotho. NISSA has a great potential to improve governance of social protection interventions in the country. In the future, NISSA will be used not only to target CGP beneficiaries but hopefully also to target beneficiaries of all social safety nets. As we have observed recently, NISSA can be key in emergency relief scenarios - but also for any development programme.
Before I conclude, I am pleased to share with you that, last September in New York at the time of the UN General assembly, and more specifically during the High Level Launch of the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, organised by the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation, the European Commission's Director General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Mr. Stefano Manservisi, drew attention to and highlighted on Lesotho's success as demonstrated by the remarkable evidence of the CGP as one of the most cost-effective social protection programmes in the world.
Once again, the EU commends the commitment shown by Government to this shared vision of ensuring that social protection in Lesotho remains a fundamental development priority. Social protection is a key element of national strategies to promote human development and inclusive growth. Internationally, Lesotho's CGP is considered a champion in the area of social protection and we are confident that the level of engagement will be maintained and strengthened, all in the best interests of ensuring a better future for vulnerable Basotho children and their care givers.
Khotso, Pula, Nala.