SPRI Global is currently carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the social sector in Maldives in collaboration with UNICEF Maldives and the Ministry of Gender Family and Social Services (MoGFSS).

The analysis will inform development of a holistic, rights-based Social Sector Master Plan aimed at enhancing social inclusion in Maldives following the principles of, non-discrimination, and equity. The project complements and supports the realization of the national Strategic Action Plan (SAP) 2019-2023 seeking to promote the wellbeing of children, families, and all vulnerable groups.

The Republic of Maldives is a nation of over a thousand islands, spread across 26 atolls. The population resides among approximately 200 of these islands. Given the geographic dispersion of the country across these islands, some of which are very small and have widely varying numbers of inhabitants, public service delivery and coverage have been a challenge. Delivery of social services have also been undermined by shortages and limited capacities of the social service workforce, as well as with systematic monitoring and evaluation, and evidence-based budgeting. The social sector in Maldives encounters bottlenecks in coordination among sectors in the provision of complementary services and in efforts to holistically tackle social exclusion in the country.

Between October and November of 2021, our team travelled to Maldives on the first mission to carry out exploratory consultations with stakeholders in the social sector to gain a deeper understanding of the national context and the functions and challenges within the social sector. Led by SPRI Director Dr. Chris de Neubourg and joined by senior researchers Erëblina Elezaj, Julia Karpati and Patrick Llewellin, our team met with numerous implementing and monitoring institutions based in Male’ including related departments and divisions of the MoGFSS, the National Social Protection Agency, the Family Protection Authority, the Children’s Office of the Ombudsperson, Prosecutor General’s Office, social workers and management of residential care institutions, and with development partners.

To gather perspectives from local-level institutions and frontline service providers in other areas of the country, the research team visited islands of Thimarafushi and Veymandoo in Thaa Atoll in the south of the country, and Eydhafushi and Maalhos in Baa Atoll located North of Male’. The team had insightful conversations with Local Island Councils, Women’s Development Committees, providers of social services, security, education, and health care, and with non-governmental organizations, who reaffirmed the need for additional resources and capacity expansion to improve service delivery for effective social inclusion.

In the following months SPRI and Villa College will carry out research with administrators of social protection programs and providers of social services across Maldives to complete the assessment of the sector. The exercise aims to unravel the gaps, challenges, and bottlenecks with service provision at different levels of administration and localities and shed light into best practices. We will also carry out broad consultations with existing and potential beneficiaries of the social sector to better understand the risks that they face, their needs for social protection, and their experiences with accessing/obtaining services in the social sector.