The Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202): Can a six-page document change the course of social history?


  • Michael Cichon

    Corresponding author
    1. International Council on Social Welfare, Entebbe, Uganda
    • Address for correspondence: Michael Cichon, International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), c/o ICSW, Ploit 4, Berkeley Lane, Entebbe, Uganda; Email:

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  • Michael Cichon was Director of the ILO Social Security Department from 2005 to 2012. He served as the representative of the UN Secretary-General in the social protection committee of the 101th International Labour Conference that adopted Recommendation No. 202 in June 2012. He is President of the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW). The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect official positions of the ILO or the ICSW. The author explicitly wishes to recognize the many ideas that were developed by the staff of the ILO's Social Security Department who as a team created the momentum and shaped the content of the first standard setting procedure in social security for about two and a half decades and that are reflected in this article.


In June 2012, the global community made an important step to firmly establish social protection as part of national and global development strategies. The International Labour Conference unanimously adopted the Recommendation concerning national floors of social protection, 2012 (No. 202), providing concrete content to the human right to social security. This article puts the Recommendation into its historical standard setting and development policy context, reviews the emergence of the social protection floor concept, and analyses the contents of the new Recommendation and some of its political hotspots. It then explores whether the new instrument has the potential to change the social reality in the 185 ILO member States. It concludes that its adoption is an unprecedented demonstration of good will and far-reaching global social policy consensus. However, in order to help create space for national policy change, the campaign to achieve at least a minimum of social security for all needs to continue and has to be kept on the international agenda. In closing, the article lists strategies that the global coalition behind this campaign needs to pursue for social security to remain or become an inalienable objective in national and international development strategies.