Social safety nets in the MENA: through Covid-19 and beyond

This event, hosted by UK think tank Chatham House will discuss regional countries’ responses to the pandemic and consider the potential for reform.

Social safety nets (SSNs) in countries across the MENA region historically focus on inequitable blanket subsidies which provide affordable access to food and fuel for populations, setting aside citizens’ specific and targeted needs.

For decades, regional governments have addressed political and economic crises through expanding subsidies and/or increasing public sector employment. However, this approach to SSNs has proven unsustainable and failed to reduce inequalities and drivers of conflict and poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the various fiscal challenges across MENA, highlights the weaknesses of existing SSNs and the urgent need for reforming this key element of the social contract.

Panellists will discuss regional countries’ responses to the pandemic through the lens of their own SSNs, considering the potential for SSN reform – including a renewed focus on cash transfers and the use of technology – in light of the challenges faced and the impact this could have on supporting governance reforms and achieving economic and social justice.


Dr Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

Dr Rana Jawad, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath

Dr Luca Pellerano, Senior Social Protection Specialist, International Labour Organization

Moderator: Adel Hamaizia, Associate Fellow, MENA Programme, Chatham House

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