Prescriptions in the form of basic packages of social protection accessible to every human being are among the ways that global social policies can have an impact on national social policy arrangements and on the focus and allocation of official development assistance. Numerous global social policy actors have expressed the need for basic packages linked to expectations for national systems of social protection and argued for within discourses about the focus of aid policies and the allocation of development aid. These packages would provide education, health care and social protection. Furthermore, UN DESA’s Report on the World Social Situation (2013): Inequality Matters calls for universal social policies that include universal access to essential services in health, education and social protection (similar claims with a focus on the very poorest are made in the ODI’s chronic poverty report (ODI Chronic Poverty Advisory Network 2014)). Such ideas are closely connected to the ILO’s R202—Social Protection Floors Recommendation (2012; for background, see Deacon 2013). The development and ratification of this recommendation came with the attempt to define social protection as something that should be available to every human being. Deacon (2013) describes how, at an early stage, the idea was to define a set of specific benefits (for example, universal pensions or family benefits), but it subsequently changed into a set of outcomes to be achieved by governments.
Apart from such prescriptions concerning basic packages and participation, there are also attempts to tackle the issue from two sides, that is, by designing globally-nationally linked insurance mechanisms that would organize risk and redistribution over the life course or in relation to particular risks (see Milanovic 2007). For example, there are mechanisms to provide development aid to health insurance schemes by matching through development aid every dollar people pay (WHO 2001).
Another way to define a basic minimum is through the formulation of global goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By looking at attempts and plans to achieve such goals, one can derive an idea of what matters most, in the eyes of the international community, in terms of social development. Such goals focus on particular priority issues and measures, and define specific benchmarks that should be met nationally as well as globally. The new SDGs agenda, though, is much broader than the MDGs and will most likely generate other kinds of approaches and aims than the more narrow and focused approach of its predecessor. However, given that that there is now a specific goal on inequality (SDG10), and inequality is also an expressed issue with regard to gender and health, strategies to achieve the SDGs may be more directed towards addressing inequalities than merely meeting particular percentage points in improving maternal mortality, for example.
Particularly interesting in the context of SDG10 on reducing inequality within and among countries is the particular focus on income growth among the bottom 40 per cent; empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all; ensuring equal opportunity; reducing inequalities of outcome and adopting equality-achieving policies, including social protection policies. The Third World Network reported a controversial debate on this goal in which the G77 and China were in favour and the richer countries opposed (Third World Network 2014). Other non-governmental organizations are critical of the goal’s implications as it currently stands since ‘it provides neither a measure nor an explicit value for an improved income distribution and may lead to the wrong policy recommendations’ (Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives 2015: 6). Organizations such as the ODI (2014: viii—ix), however, have supported the goal, stating that a ‘specific inequality goal would be a powerful normative signal to encourage countries to tackle intersecting inequalities’.