Critical policy analysis and social protection in the Global South: A view from the MENA region

Part of the Social Policy beyond the West Hilary 2019 seminar series.

This paper combines theoretical insights from social policy and critical discourse analysis to carry out a “deep evaluation” (Bacchi, 2014) of the conceptualisation of social protection (SP) as a policy tool in developing countries. The aim is to highlight the importance of policy framing in shaping policy options and social welfare outcomes. This is important because of the endurance of SP as a global orientation in international development interventions at a time when its operationalisation in policy terms appears to be narrower than its professed goals. In developing its analysis, the paper takes stock of the historical paradigms and major trends in the social policies of the MENA region, focusing in particular on the significance of social assistance and non-contributory programmes, such as cash transfers to query whether the social protection paradigm has facilitated more inclusive or egalitarian social policy discourses in MENA countries. The paper categorises SP according to three orders of discourse: social risk management, social justice/social contracts, (“ex ante”) institutionalisation of social protection (specifically social assistance), in order to address areas of “discourse closure” (Veit-Wilson, 2000) in the conceptualisation of SP. On the basis of this categorisation, the paper proposes a framework for analysing SP that highlights the importance of three elements to aid better policy operationalisation of SP programmes: (1) state-civil society relations in the provision of services; (2) the ethical and not only legal parameters of SP; (3) the enhancement of social cohesion as a final SP goal. Together, these three elements support a process-oriented analysis of SP encompassing policy actors, principles and goals which supports the emphasis on critical policy analysis in this paper.

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