Piloting a graduation-based social protection programme to support the National Social Protection Policy Framework and scale up nationwide

"The National Social Protection Council has recognized graduation approaches as a strategic tool to graduate rural poor households out of poverty and safeguard their prosperous livelihoods. The graduation programmes transfer assets in addition to cash while building capacity of poor households,said H.E. Chan Narith, Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Secretary General of the National Social Protection Council.

Cambodia has seen exceptional economic growth and poverty reduction over the past two decades. However, although millions have been lifted out of poverty, an increasingly hard to reach group of extreme poor remain. Due to their unique circumstances, economic growth alone is unlikely to succeed in lifting these households out of poverty. The eradication of poverty and hunger, and the ability to reach the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2, will as a result be delayed.  A further challenge is the large population living just above the poverty line. Given the near absence of formal mechanisms of social protection, these people are highly vulnerable to income shocks. The National Social Protection Policy Framework is the Government’s core social protection strategy, which seeks to adopt multi-dimensional responses to address these dual challenges. 

Since 2017, UNDP has been researching and promoting the concept of graduation-based social protection. These are programmes that transfer assets to the poor as opposed to cash alone, enabling households to boost their own incomes and secure a lasting exit from poverty. Furthermore, they are important contributors to the establishment of an effective social protection floor. The overarching goal of the project is to inform national policy choices, in the context of the National Social Protection Policy Framework implementation, and specifically to provide a case for the adoption of graduation-based approaches across Cambodia.


The project has four principal components: 

(1)      The set-up and roll-out of a graduation-based social protection pilot, including the preparation of analytical instruments and institutional arrangements; 

(2)      Delivery of pilot graduation packages to several thousand households in two rural and remotely located districts;

(3)      Delivery of follow-up asset packages to a second group of households informed by the initial pilot; and

(4)      Review and reporting of the pilot results, including analysis and the building of a policy case for graduation-based models of social protection.


(1)      An empirical test of the impacts on poverty reduction and economic wide effects accruing from asset against cash transfers is successfully conducted. The first round involves 2,400 poor households in two localities which are assigned into three groups (graduation, cash and no intervention). The second round  involves 800 households as a follow-on graduation validation.

(2)      Practical deliverability of these programmes through the project’s direct implementation and/or government transfer models is tested. An operational case study, shortcomings, challenges, and lessons learned are documented and disseminated.


Ms. Mao Meas
Program Analyst
UNDP Cambodia
Tel: 012 910 006
Email: mao.meas@undp.org

Mr. Reathmana Leang
Project Management Specialist
UNDP Cambodia
Tel: 012 690 402
Email: reathmana.leang@undp.org