Definitions of social protection (SP) vary, but most focus on efforts to reduce the effect of chronic conditions (e.g. old age) or acute risk (e.g. drought or economic shocks) on vulnerable groups. SP can be through people’s own efforts, such as individual or collective savings, or social action, or be undertaken by government. This paper focuses mainly on the latter, i.e. on public policies and actions immediately protecting and promoting livelihoods (such as employment schemes, old age pensions, disability allowances, nutrition programmes). Investments in human capital through basic services such as health and education lie outside the scope of the paper. Nor is the paper concerned with efforts to extend to the informal sector the types of social protection normally associated with formal sector employment (such as health insurance or contributory pension schemes). These are all major topics in their own right and merit more detailed treatment than can be given here. The paper does not enter he wider discussion of whether SP is the best investment for poverty reduction, as against investment in productive infrastructure.