Issue 7 December 2011
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


Welcome to the fifth and final UNRISD eBulletin of 2011. This year, crisis and uncertainty have continued to exert a very real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, and to unsettle basic ideas and assumptions about the meaning and drivers of development. Throughout the year, citizens have taken to the streets—and in some cases, have taken up arms—while others have taken to the halls of international organizations, from the EU to the UN, from Seoul to Durban, to debate—and demand—change.

Calls are being heard for change in the institutions of financial capitalism and in the economic policies and practices that have so sharply deepened inequality. Demands are being made for a just system that creates jobs and contributes to the sustainability of our planet, and for a return to real democracy. We have heard expressions of indignation, and witnessed varying forms of contestation and mobilization in support of transformations in our economies, societies and governance systems. What can we expect from these movements?

In this issue of the eBulletin, we have invited Mariz Tadros to reflect on this question. She suggests that the contemporary citizen uprisings reveal a fundamental shift from conventional locations of social and political mobilization—civil society organizations, political parties—and, as such, will radically challenge how social and political change take place.


Mariz Tadros
Protests across the globe—whether in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Greece, the United Kingdom or the United States—are rupturing the status quo and delegitimizing the mainstream narratives of the state of the world today. Citizens are no longer voicing opposition only against domestic actors, but rather against the very structural dynamics that influence power hierarchies on the ground: what Mariz Tadros calls unruly politics. What does this mean for the future of social and political movements throughout the world? Read more.


Knowledge for Better Health and Better Policies

Shufang Zhang
A joint project carried out by UNRISD and the Sun Yat-sen Center for Migrant Health Policy is building knowledge on health challenges associated with internal migration in China, with the aim of raising political awareness and improving policy responses.


New Chair of UNRISD Board

UNRISD welcomes the appointment of Maureen O’Neil of Canada as Chair of the UNRISD Board. O'Neil has been President of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation since 2008 and was previously President of the International Development Research Centre. In June this year, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for public service, in recognition of her contributions to international development, gender equality and human rights.

Sierra Leone @ 50: Confronting Old Problems and Preparing for New Challenges

Yusuf Bangura
One of the compelling lessons of Sierra Leone’s development in its last 50 years is how strongly its political trajectory tracks its economic development: authoritarian rule and economic development are incompatible in this context. Yusuf Bangura’s keynote speech on the occasion of Sierra Leone’s 50 years of independence looks at the country’s history to draw lessons for the future.

Web User Survey

As part of our continued commitment to improving the way we communicate our research and policy-relevant findings, we regularly seek user feedback. We received an overwhelming response to our survey earlier this year (thank you!). This has driven changes in our communications strategy, and we have taken several steps to improve our current online services. Now, in a period of rapid technological change, we are preparing for a comprehensive redevelopment of our website and a restructuring of the way we deliver content. To prepare for this, we are seeking information on the ways in which our current users access online information.

Thank you for taking a few moments to complete this short survey.


Arab Spring, Islamist Summer … Feminist Fall?

Kristine Goulding
Nine months after the overthrow of its former president, Tunisia has voted in the first open and fair election in the region. The Islamist party al-Nahda has claimed victory by a fairly large margin, assuring the party a strong say in future political processes. Kristine Goulding looks at what this victory will mean for Tunisia’s historical legacy of women’s rights.

World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development—An Opportunity Both Welcome and Missed

Shahra Razavi
The focus of the 2012 World Development Report is on gender equality and development, which Shahra Razavi sees as a welcome opportunity for widening the intellectual space but also as a missed opportunity. By refusing to engage with the gender biases of macroeconomic policy and their adverse outcomes for women’s work—both paid and unpaid—within the context of rising inequalities and extensive labour market informality, and by reducing social policy to a narrow focus on conditional cash transfers, the report fails to provide a credible analysis of the challenges that confront gender equality in the twenty-first century.


These are part of a series of think pieces that reflect on the importance of bringing social dimensions back into discussions about green economy.

The Great Lie: Monoculture Trees as Forests

Winnie Overbeek and Raquel Núñez Mutter
This year is the International Year of the Forest, and it is an opportunity for a shift in how we understand forestry management. Top-down, market-oriented approaches that promote monoculture plantations and uproot the lives of forest peoples are not sustainable. Winnie Overbeek and Raquel Nuñez Mutter stress that sustainable development is not simply compatible with biodiverse plantations or the lives and traditions of forest peoples; it is deeply dependent on them.

Emerging Governance in the Transition to a Green Economy: A Case Study of Public Sector Food Procurement in Brazil

Kei Otsuki
Changes in public sector food procurement in Brazil have improved not just the quality of school meals but have led to a reduced ecological footprint and a more engaged civil society. Using food procurement as a case study, Kei Otsuki explores the processes of decentralization and localization that have taken place in Brazil since 1997. The case demonstrates how an active civil society can lead the way for better, more sustainable and locally supportive practices.

Biofuels and Food Security: Green Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Chizoba Chinweze, Gwen Abiola-Oloke, Chinny Kennedy-Echetebu and Chike Jideani
The inclusion of biofuels as part of the green economy agenda jeopardizes the immediate and long-term food security of many regions in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa, rising food prices, land grabs, and precarious and informal labour conditions are key social threats linked to the emphasis on biofuel production. UNEP defines a green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. Yet, according to the authors, the inclusion of biofuels as part of this green economy agenda ignores ecological realities as well as the social dimensions of food insecurity.

Civil Society Engagement in the Green Economy Debate

Edouard Morena
More than just including the voices of civil society actors and coalitions, Edouard Morena stresses that the green economy debate must take into account the diversity of understandings, interactions and values that characterize the struggle for a unified civil society response.


As 2011 draws to an end, UNRISD has seen a series of events producing challenging debates and innovative ideas on a range of issues: green economy, poverty reduction and employment, care, and development effectiveness.

UNRISD’s conference on Green Economy and Sustainable Development explored ways in which often-neglected social dimensions can be integrated within green economy, to move toward sustainable development and poverty reduction. Conference papers are available online, including Bob Jessop's discussion of green economy and global crises; Laura Rival’s examination of three case studies of grassroots conservation projects in Latin America; and Michael Winer, Helen Murphy and Harold Ludwick’s discussion on how Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes can exclude indigenous landowners. Read UNRISD’s subsequent key messages for the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

This was complemented by an exhibition, In The Bag, that traced the history of the reusable bag movement, and displayed bags crafted from used plastic and other materials by communities worldwide, in response to the need to change production and consumption behaviour to foster sustainable development.

The conference on Making International Development Cooperation Effective, co-hosted by UNRISD and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), examined the development experience of Korea in order to offer insights and extract relevant lessons for policy making in developing countries.

Academics, civil society actors and policy makers met to explore alternative strategies for development at the 2nd Development Forum in Paris, co-hosted by UNRISD and Pax Romana. An outcome of the forum was a Civil Society Declaration Delivered to the G20.

A public policy workshop on the Politics of Poverty and Inequality, co-hosted by UNRISD, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), saw experts in the field come together to discuss how policy agendas for combating poverty and inequality grapple with politics and power—issues raised in UNRISD’s 2010 flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality.

As part of UNRISD’s seminar series, Guy Standing presented his book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, which examines ways of facing new instabilities produced by an increasing number of people worldwide living and working precariously. Also in this series, Xiao-yuan Dong’s seminar on Chinese Women’s Paid Work and Unpaid Care Responsibilities during Economic Transition explored the various social and economic factors that have increased pressure on the care economy in post-reform China, and more specifically, on women engaging in both paid work and unpaid care work.


Transformative Social Policy Contributes to Economic Development and Social Justice

Katja Hujo
Listen to the podcast in Spanish.

Katja Hujo attended a conference in Mexico, organized by the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico, on Thinking of the World through Social Science. She talks about the issues discussed there, including transformative social policy, the challenge of universalism and the importance of civil society participation.

In The Bag Exhibition

Listen to the podcast.

Curators and participants share their thoughts on the exhibition on the reusable bag movement.

The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class

Guy Standing
Listen to the podcast of the complete seminar.

Guy Standing gave a seminar at UNRISD in which he introduces the precariat—a growing number of people across the world living precariously, without recourse to stable occupational careers or stable social protection.

See a video of the seminar highlights.


Development and Change, Special Issue: Seen, Heard and Counted: Rethinking Care in a Development Context, Vol. 42, No. 4

Shahra Razavi (ed.)
This special issue looks at how social policy provision for care has emerged and evolved, and is changing in line with altered political and economic conditions. It focuses on care arrangements in developing countries that have not received the same level of scrutiny as those in advanced industrialized ones.

Social Policies in Seychelles: Social Policies in Small States Series, No. 5

Liam Campling, Hansel Confiance and Marie-Therese Purvis
Seychelles has one of the most extensive social policy programmes in the developing world. However, as a small state, it remains economically vulnerable. This book analyses social policy development in the country from the colonial era onward, and looks at the challenge of maintaining current levels of social policy interventions in the face of severe indebtedness and stagnant economic growth.

Social Policy, Participation and the Transition to a Green Economy

Sarah Cook, Peter Utting and Kiah Smith
In their contribution to the second issue of The Road to Rio+20, published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNRISD researchers suggest the kinds of social policies, public action and accountability that will be needed to make the transition to green economy compatible with goals of social justice, equity and poverty eradication.

China's Response to Crisis: What Role for Social Policy?

Sarah Cook and Wing Lam
Cook and Lam's chapter examines the use of social policies in China to meet the needs of those most affected by crisis, and to help smooth a transition toward more sustainable, consumption-led growth. This chapter is in Social Policy in Challenging Times: Economic Crisis and Welfare Systems, edited by Kevin Farnsworth and Zoë Irving, which brings together expert contributions that demonstrate that the crisis is better understood as a variety of crises, each mediated by its national context.

GSP Forum—Combating Poverty and Inequality through Social Policies: Reflections on the UNRISD Report, Global Social Policy, Vol. 11, No. 2/3

Scholars reflect on key arguments and findings of the UNRISD flagship report, particularly those dealing explicitly with social policy. They cover issues of transformative social policy, universalism and targeting in social protection, gender and the care economy, financing of social policy and the politics of poverty reduction and social policy. Available later in December 2011.


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
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