SDGs and the UNRISD Strategy, Upcoming Events, Topical Blog Posts: Issue 27 February 2016
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


As we move into 2016, both the UN and UNRISD are starting new legs of their journeys toward just and inclusive global development. UN member states are committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, organized around a now familiar set of 17 goals and 169 targets which came into force on 1 January. And we launched the UNRISD Strategy 2016-2020, setting out our analysis of the most important trends in the development landscape and consequently, the direction the Institute will take in our research, communications and policy engagement over the next five years.

The two are of course closely linked, as many of the activities reported in this eBulletin demonstrate. UNRISD’s cross-disciplinary approach, for example in connecting resource mobilization with social development, and in highlighting the importance of the social dimensions of COP21, is a perfect match for an SDG architecture that aims to integrate the social, economic and environmental pillars of development.

UNRISD’s commitment to delivering its research to development practitioners and activists is also evident from our current crop of activities. We will host three important side events at major UN meetings in the next few weeks, including at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In addition to our presence at these meetings, we have published a rich selection of think pieces and videos on issues currently of interest to the development community, from inequalities at Davos to inclusiveness in cities. In these pieces, UNRISD authors translate their research into a more accessible format so that decision makers and advocates can make good use of it.

We hope you enjoy browsing through this overview of our recent work and find plenty to interest you. As always, you are welcome to get in touch with any queries or comments you may have at, and to engage with us @UNRISD, on or via the discussions on our blogs and think pieces.



Changing Demands, Emerging Providers: New Directions in Social Policy in China
China is experiencing dual demographic shifts—high levels of internal migration combined with a rapidly aging population—which are weakening traditional family-based social support systems. To meet the growing demand for social services, community-based approaches to service delivery led by social organizations have emerged. This case study, part of the UNRISD project New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South, investigates China’s new approach to social service delivery, with a focus on its governance and outcomes.

Civil Society Steps Up: New Directions in Social Policy in the Russian Federation
New legislation in Russia has opened up a space for civil society organizations (CSOs) to work in partnership with the state. Does this mean that CSOs will emerge as a new force in Russian social policy design and implementation? Might it help overcome obstacles that have hindered Russian social policy performance? This case study, part of the UNRISD research project New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South, explores the current social policy shift in the Russian Federation.

New Alliances for Social Development: Mobilizing Resources in Nicaragua
In the face of dwindling development assistance from traditional donors, Nicaragua has turned to new partnerships with the governments of Venezuela, Brazil and China to finance the adoption of much-needed social programmes. But these relationships can be fragile, and despite frequent tax reforms the Nicaraguan government has not managed to provide a stable domestic resource base to underpin its social contract. So how can sustainable financing for social policies be ensured?


The Family in a New Social Contract: The Case of Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia
Esuna Dugarova This paper examines the evolution of the family in both conceptual and empirical terms, as well as family support policies, in Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It argues that family support is a central element of a transition to a new social contract in these countries. It analyses parental leave policies, childcare services, and family allowances and child benefits to understand the nature of the emerging welfare model in the three cases more deeply.

Extractive Industries and the Financing of Child-Inclusive Social Development in the Philippines
Cielo Magno This paper examines the effectiveness of different government policies in translating the revenues from mining into social and economic programmes that may benefit children in the Philippines. It also describes the macroeconomic contribution of metallic mining and summarizes the existing literature on the environmental and social impacts of mining in the country.

The Political Economy of Financing Children’s Rights through Extractive Industries in the Philippines
Jewellord T. Nem Singh, Jean B. Grugel and Pascale Hatcher This paper provides a detailed analysis of two key aspects of mining governance in the Philippines: the political challenges in realizing a more positive role for extractive industries (EI) in social development, particularly in promoting children’s rights and children’s welfare; and the political economy dynamics that might underpin the creation of a welfare regime able to sustain social investments for children.

Articles by UNRISD Staff

--UNRISD Research Coordinator Valeria Esquivel, "Power and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Feminist Analysis" in Gender and Development
--an UNRISD Working Paper, 100 Key Research Questions for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, co-authored by Research Coordinator Katja Hujo, has been published in Development and Policy Review, 34 (1):55–82.
--UNRISD Senior Research Associate Jane Hodges edited the 34th edition of The International Labour Law Reports.

How Can Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology Play a Role in Building Social and Solidarity Finance?
Brett Scott The decentralized digital currency Bitcoin—and its underlying “blockchain” technology—has created much excitement in the technology community, but its potential for building truly empowering social and solidarity-based finance has yet to be tested. This paper provides a primer on the basics of Bitcoin and discusses the existent narratives about the technology’s potential to facilitate remittances, financial inclusion, cooperative structures and even micro-insurance systems. It also flags up potential points of concern and conflict. It concludes with suggestions for future research.


Partnerships, Power and the SDGs

25 February 2016, Geneva, Switzerland Networks are often established with the goal of enacting the ideals of multistakeholder partnership, which will be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Many studie have been conducted to understand how such partnerships work. However, they often investigate only the formal rules that bring new development actors to the table and assume that inclusion automatically means that existing power inequalities are mitigated. In this seminar, Moira Faul argues that development "partners" may informally depart from these formal rules and relationships. Behind formal partnership lies a dense network of informal governance relationships and practices that require investigation in order to understand how partnership works, and prescribe effective solutions for policy and practice.

WASH, Women and Welfare: Social Protection from a Gender Perspective

7 March 2016, Geneva, Switzerland In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, states committed again to realize the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and related rights to social protection and gender equality. Action is urgently needed: 2.4 billion people worldwide lack access to sanitation, resulting in 700,000 children under five dying each year. Women and girls risk sexual violence due to lack of private toilet facilities. UN and academic panelists at this side event at the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council discuss how to provide equal and non-discriminatory access to water and sanitation through a rights-based approach to ensure an adequate standard of living for all. The side event is co-organized with Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, and the governments of Finland, Germany and Spain.

Economic Inequality, Financial Crises and Human Rights

9 March 2016, Geneva The most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society are the ones who suffer most from economic and financial crises—and the austerity measures often used to counter them. This is because economic inequality goes hand in hand with other inequalities and multiple forms of discrimination, whether by gender, race, age or resident status.The panellists will discuss how policies and institutions that are grounded in a human rights framework can contribute to reducing inequalities and strengthening resilience. This official side event of the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council is co-organized with the the ILO and OHCHR.

Gender and the SDGs: The Outcome, the Processes, and the Prospects

14 March 2016, New York In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) UN member states have agreed to a new development agenda, but how does it stand up as a tool for progress on gender equality and women's rights? At this side event panel discussion, experts from the UN, academia and NGOs come together to review what has been agreed in the SDGs, the role that activists can continue to play, and how Agenda 2030 can contribute to furthering gender equality. The speakers are contributors to a special issue of the open access Oxfam journal Gender & Development devoted to gender and the SDGs, launched at this event. The side event is co-organized with Gender & Development, Oxfam and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.


Research for Social Change–Transformations to Equity and Sustainability: UNRISD Strategy 2016-2020

Developed through consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, UNRISD’s 2016–2020 institutional strategy responds to contemporary development trends, policy concerns and scholarly debates, and aims to fill identified knowledge gaps, while also anticipating social issues that are not yet part of mainstream discourse. An overarching goal for the Institute is to ensure that social development concerns and objectives remain prominent in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. From a social development perspective, three overarching challenges capture many of the most pressing problems of the contemporary era: inequalities, conflict and unsustainable practices. It is to these challenges that UNRISD research most directly responds.

Capacity Building for Students: A Win-Win Proposition

True to its role of mentoring today’s young people for the work they can do both now and in the future, UNRISD is again partnering in several Applied Research Seminars with the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies (IHEID, Geneva). Applied Research Seminars bring together second-year Masters students with partner organizations to carry out research projects such as desk studies, interviews, data collection and analysis on topics relevant to the organization. The UNRISD Gender and Development team has just completed an Applied Research Seminar with Vanessa Sampaio, Adina Segura and Laura Stocker on policies to address violence against women in cities. The UNRISD Sustainable Development team has supervised two comparative studies on "Eco-Social Policy for a Fairer Green Economy" and on "Social and Solidarity Economy and Public Policy."

SSE Team Reaches out to Stakeholders

The UNRISD SSE team has been making the most of opportunities to connect with diverse stakeholders in Europe and in East Asia. On 28 January 2016, Research Analyst Marie-Adélaïde Matheï participated in the first European Forum on Social and Solidarity Economy, "Transforming the Economic and Cultural Paradigms". The forum, which brought together over 250 participants from 14 countries in Europe, Latin America and North America, was hosted by the European Parliament and is part of European United Left/Nordic Green Left’s initiative to make SSE a strategic focus for the current legislature of the European Parliament.

Meanwhile Research Coordinator Pascal van Griethuysen travelled to Seoul for productive discussions with the the city's metropolitan government and with GSEF, a global network of local social economy actors. Both are interested in participating in future collaborative activities by the UN Task Force on SSE (of which UNRISD is a founding member) which will integrate research, advocacy and capacity strengthening. Pascal also followed up on an ongoing research project on Social Economy in East Asia at Yonsei University, and explored new links with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Later this year Pascal will represent UNRISD and the UN Task Force on SSE at the 2016 Social Enterprise Summit and the 4th International Conference on Social Enterprise in Asia.

Call for Papers for the Journal of Australian Political Economy

The Journal of Australian Political Economy has an open call for papers on global economic inequalities and development. Selected papers will be published in a special issue of the journal, co-edited by Franklin Obeng-Odoom, who was a Visiting Fellow at UNRISD last year, and Matt Withers. The deadline for submission is 1 May 2016.


Decisions for Davos

Paul Ladd Over 2,500 people were at Davos for the World Economic Forum. Most were leaders from business, joined also by representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society. In this blog, read three simple suggestions for how business leaders can commit to the SDGs and not only help to make the world better for people now, but also more resilient to respond to future shocks—whether these are driven by technology or not.

The next installment of the Director's Blog will be out in March.

Making Women’s Rights a Reality in Africa

Paola Cagna When men and women leaders came together at the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa they discussed, among other topics, how African countries can realize human rights, especially women’s rights. Fortunately, there is no lack of ideas, and evidence supporting those ideas, on how to make women’s rights a reality in Africa and elsewhere. This blog suggests four ideas, just for a start.

WTO: Missing in Action?

Sophia Murphy Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require balancing social, environmental and economic goals so that the effects of change in one domain do not undermine progress in another. Is the existing multilateral architecture sufficiently coherent for governments to realize their sustainable development objectives? This commentary considers the outcomes of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in last December. It offers a critical look at those outcomes given governments’ parallel commitments to the realization of a complex and interdependent set of SDGs, and to limiting the causes while addressing the consequences of climate change.

Why the SDGs Need Institutional Political Economy for Inclusive, Resilient Cities

Franklin Obeng-Odoom The conventional and mainstream approaches for studying and understanding cities are ill-suited for the post-2015 urban context and the alternatives that the international community seeks. Institutional political economy, or institutionalism, on the other hand, regards the urban as part of, not apart from, wider socioeconomic and political processes. This think piece outlines how this approach can better frame and support the SDGs.

The Paris Agreement (Part II): The First Step on the Long Road Ahead

Dunja Krause Last weekend, the world witnessed a historic success in international diplomacy. Years of international negotiations on a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol culminated in the adoption of a universal climate agreement at COP21 in Paris. Tireless efforts of a diverse range of stakeholders, including member states, the UNFCCC Secretariat, civil society and scientists seem to have finally exorcized the ghost of Copenhagen. This is the second of two think pieces on COP 21 by Dunja Krause.

Eliminating Unacceptable Forms of Work: A Global Challenge

Deirdre McCann An increasing proportion of the world’s labour force is working in conditions of insecurity, low pay and inadequate social protection. In the wake of the global economic crisis, precarious jobs have proliferated in advanced industrialized countries. In settings where informal work has long been widespread, many jobs are of very low quality, and there are signs that formal jobs are increasingly being casualized. With the current economic slowdown, gains made by workers in emerging and developing economies are at risk. Further, certain groups — such as women, migrant workers, young workers and ethnic minorities — are more likely to be found in precarious work. The elimination of unacceptable jobs is therefore a crucial challenge in ensuring human rights for the global community.

Read the commentary at


Putting Human Rights-Based Social Protection into Practice

The interviewees featured in these videos offer a range of perspectives on human rights and social protection, but they all agree on the importance of linking the two fields for better results. The playlist, featuring views from international organizations, civil society and government, serves as an introduction to Social Protection and Human Rights, a web-based resource platform for researchers, policy makers and practitioners. The platform, designed to provide expert legal and development resources on how to better align social protection and human rights, aims to strengthen a human rights approach to social protection across all disciplines.

Watch the playlist.

Capacity Building for Global Action to Achieve Agenda 2030

What kind of research and training is needed to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by heads of state at the UN in September 2015? In this UNOG Library Talk, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd, the Director of UNITAR and government representatives from Fiji and Switzerland discuss how UN research and capacity strengthening can support countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch the video.
Listen to the podcast.

Social and Solidarity Finance: Tensions, Opportunities and Transformative Potential

Development debates have recently been dominated by the search for ways to finance the ambitious post-2015 development agenda, culminating in the 2015 Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa. But one of the topics missing from the discussions was Social and Solidarity Finance (SSF). This video takes a brief look at SSF and how its transformative potential could contribute to both financing social and solidarity economy and to creating a more stable financial system that is conducive to sustainable development. The content and some of the footage is based on an UNRISD Workshop, organized in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the International Labour Office.

Watch the video.

Banner image by (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


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