Ambition, Opportunities, and the Ongoing Work of Social Justice. Issue 49 December 2019
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out interdisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


This year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25), held on 2-13 December in Madrid, Spain, under the presidency of Chile, was supposed to be the “ambition” COP, the one that made significant progress ahead of countries updating their domestic plans to reduce emissions (NDCs) next year, so that we can get closer to the globally agreed target of 2°, or better yet 1.5°, of global warming.

What it has delivered instead gives climate policy a bad name and perpetuates the injustices of climate change. There was little agreement on any of the main issues, and the reaction to its outcomes from stakeholders as diverse as the UN Secretary-General, international financial institutions, civil society and the mass media is loud and clear, with the tenor surprisingly similar: the conference missed its chance to shift the world onto a different path and to signal that it is hearing both the science and the people who have been taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers, around the world, to protest against climate inaction.

At the end of a tumultuous year, it is the people power that leaves us with a bit of hope and optimism. Social mobilizations in Chile, France and Haiti (among others) are highlighting how closely knit issues of inequality and climate change are, and how important it is to formulate integrated, eco-social policies to tackle today’s complex problems. Much of the research brought to you in this eBulletin serves to understand and support such efforts. Take a look at our three recent climate justice publications, and browse through to find our work on social mobilization in response to rising inequalities, in particular in the capstone think piece to our series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization. In this spirit, we’d like to wish you a holiday season filled with solidarity, peace and joy to sustain us into the new year, which will see us continue working towards an equitable, liveable future.


Launch of UNRISD's Bonn Office In Sight

Following a successful recruitment exercise and initial work over the past two months on-site, the new UNRISD office in Bonn, Germany, is taking shape. The appointment of the Head of the new office will be announced soon, and plans for a launch event in early February 2020 are moving forward. We are very excited about the range of new opportunities offered by the office to engage with the UN sustainability hub in Bonn, and with NGOs, academic and government partners, and to accelerate our contribution to evidence-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

New Research: Strengthening LGBTQI+ Voices in Politics – VoiceIt

Together with NGOs from Greece, Italy and Cyprus, UNRISD is pleased to be contributing a global perspective to a new EU-funded project that combines a research component with operational activities aiming to increase the voice and participation of LGBTQI+ people in political decision-making in these three countries (and ultimately beyond). The project also seeks to raise awareness about misconceptions surrounding LGBTQI+ rights, their experiences of discrimination, and the importance of including minorities in political decision-making processes. More information to follow soon!

UNRISD and International Geneva in St. Gallen for International Career Day

UNRISD participated in the International Career Day on 11 December 2019 organized by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, alongside colleagues from 56 other international organizations. All present were able to connect with young professionals and students at Swiss universities, and share information about career opportunities and activities in the multilateral environment.

Work With UNRISD!

We currently have two job openings for which we are accepting applications:

Open Consultation on Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities

Do you have expertise on adaptation decision-making processes and barriers to transformative solutions in coastal cities? Then you might be interested in contributing to our consultation on some of our upcoming project outputs on this topic. Download the three documents below (two city case studies and one synthesis report) and share your comments with us by 17 January 2020 by sending an email to Dunja Krause.

Call for Applications for GDI's Managing Global Governance Academy!

Are you a young professional working in a governmental organization, policy-oriented think tank, research institution, civil society or private sector entity in an MGG partner country: Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa? Do you want to join a global network of young leaders committed to solving interconnected governance challenges and addressing the Sustainable Development Goals? If so, the MGG Academy, run by the German Development Institute, is for you. To apply for this unique training and dialogue opportunity, which consists of academic modules, leadership modules, study visits to international organizations, diplomatic training and a practice-oriented team project, click here. All participants receive a scholarship which covers the current costs of living, all MGG-related costs and travel expenses in Germany and Europe as well as health, personal liability and accident insurances during the training.
Deadline for applications: 1 March 2020.



From Science to Practice: Strengthening Research Uptake to Achieve the SDGs
11-12 December 2019: World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Geneva, Switzerland

UNRISD was co-host at this fascinating conference looking at how we can support effective, evidence-based policies to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the face of intensifying policy challenges coinciding with eroding trust in science and public institutions. Welcoming remarks were made by Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and Valentin Zellweger, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations and the other International Organisations in Geneva.
On 12 December there were opportunities to further investigate the gaps and needs obstructing the science-policy interface identified in the breakout sessions, and to consider fresh and innovative solutions through exchange with bright young minds, speakers and other practitioners.

2019 Social Policy in Africa International Conference. Governance of Africa’s Social Policy: Subverting Development and Democracy?

28-27 November 2019: University of South Africa, City of Tshwane, South Africa

Co-hosted by UNRISD, the South African Research Chair in Social Policy and CODESRIA, this conference addressed the question: In a context where social policy making is dominated by external donor agencies and international financial institutions, is the version of social policy being offered in Africa degrading development and undermining the building of democratic culture on the continent? UNRISD staff made several substantive contributions to the discussions around this question and had the privilege of discussing with some of the sharpest upcoming social policy scholars on the African continent.

UNRISD-FES Series Insights into Inequalities

Plunder of the Commons: A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth
5 December 2019: Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

How much public wealth has been redirected to the 1% in recent decades, and what can we do to get it back? Based on analysis from his recent book Plunder of the Commons, Guy Standing introduced a new appraisal of the commons and how much of it has been privatized, from land and state housing, health and benefit systems, to justice systems, schools, newspapers and even the air we breathe. He proposes a charter for a new form of commoning, of remembering, guarding and sharing that which belongs to us all, to slash inequality and soothe our current political instability.


Exploring the Feasibility of International Financing for Social Protection Systems
28 November 2019: International Labour Office (ILO), Geneva, Switzerland

As part of the the ILO's Global Social Protection Week, UNRISD co-hosted a technical session, together with the ILO and the Ruhr Universität Bochum, bringing together leading thinkers from research institutions, governments, civil society and the private sector in order to discuss the feasibility of international financing for social protection floors.

Public Lecture

When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance In An Age Of Productive Incoherence
19 November 2019: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

Challenging the dominant view that the 2007-8 global financial crisis had little effect on global financial governance and developmental finance, the lecture by Ilene Grabel from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver explored the significant, though gradual and uneven, innovations in global financial governance and developmental finance induced by the crisis.
UNRISD was proud to co-host this lecture in partnership with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy

Seminar Series

The Politics of Social Inclusion: From Knowledge to Action
15 November 2019: Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

At this book launch for The Politics of Social Inclusion: Bridging Knowledge and Policies Towards Social Change, co-edited by UNRISD Senior Research Associate Gabriele Koehler and to be published in February 2020, the speakers described concrete examples of social exclusion, the processes and politics behind them, as well as popular mobilization and public policies to combat them and foster more inclusive societies. Combining these examples with critical reflections on the politics and rhetoric of social inclusion, the speakers shared insights into why combating exclusion and fostering inclusion—realizing the promise of leaving no one behind—is such an enormous analytical and policy puzzle, and what actions need to be taken to begin to solve it. The event was hosted in partnership with the UN Library Geneva.


Climate Justice Publications

[Report] Climate Justice from Below—Local Struggles for Just Transition(s)
This report by the Just Transition Research Collaborative discusses a selection of urban and local-level transitions to a lower carbon economy. By exploring these examples from both developed and developing countries, it aims to kick-start a conversation on the potential of local just transition policies and frameworks to influence higher level policy change. It calls for safeguarding just transition’s original objective of reorganizing the political economy to protect both the environment and workers as a way to mobilize broad-based support for a transformative shift towards sustainability and climate justice.
The report was launched at this year's UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25) held on 2-13 December in Madrid, Spain, under the Presidency of the Government of Chile.

[Event Brief] Cities in Transition: Local Struggles for a Just Transition and Their Potential to Advance Climate Justice

Shannon Johnson, Dunja Krause This UNRISD Event Brief presents some of the discussions which took place at a workshop organized by the Just Transition Research Collaborative on the social dimensions of concrete actions being taken in cities to respond to climate change. To what extent do approaches to climate change mitigation at the local level—and in cities in particular—incorporate social justice and equity concerns alongside the environmental agenda? Where they do so, is there potential for city-level just transitions to influence higher level policy change and climate justice?

[Edited Volume] Just Transitions: Social Justice in the Shift Towards a Low-Carbon World

UNRISD Research Officer Dunja Krause is co-editor of this volume published by Pluto Press, which draws on a range of perspectives from the global North and South to interrogate the overlaps, synergies and tensions between various understandings of the Just Transition approach. Written by academics and activists from around the globe, this unique edited collection is the first book entirely devoted to Just Transition.

Occasional Paper

Movilización social en Colombia para la protección de la salud en el trabajo en un contexto de inequidad
Mauricio Torres Tovar Esta investigación de carácter cualitativo, con un enfoque de acción colectiva, hace una aproximación a la problemática de inequidades en el campo de la salud en el trabajo en Colombia, a través del acercamiento a un conjunto de asociaciones de trabajadores y extrabajadores enfermos por el trabajo, y quienes se han organizado para demandar la protección de sus derechos laborales, de salud y seguridad social. La acción colectiva de los trabajadores viene proponiendo elementos para que se configuren políticas empresariales y estatales que protejan el derecho a la salud en el trabajo, desde una visión integral y universal que contribuya a superar las inequidades e injusticias en estos aspectos.
This paper is part of the Occasional Paper Series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

Working Papers

The Politics of Poverty Alleviation Strategies in India
M. Vijayabaskar, Gayarthi Balagopal This paper examines the performance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the National Food Security Act (NFSA), considered by the authors to be an improvement of the pre-existing public distribution system (PDS) in India. Women, Dalits and Adivasis, who generally constitute the poorest inhabitants of rural India, have benefited most from the MGNREGA, weakening traditional relations of power. The paper highlights the need for a more local-sensitive approach to policy design and greater political mobilization of intended beneficiaries for rights-based welfare programmes to be effective in addressing the social and economic insecurities of the poor.
This paper is part of the New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives From and For the Global South project.

Community Currency Programmes as a Tool for Sustainable Development: The Cases of Mombasa and Nairobi Counties, Kenya

Daan Sillen, Pui-Hang Wong, Serdar Türkeli In a century characterized by rapid urbanization, the population living in informal settlements continues to grow. Grassroots Economics Foundation (GEF) has developed community currency (CC) programmes to boost employment in informal settlements with community currencies. This paper demonstrates a positive and significant impact of CCs on participants' propensity to help the environment and gift in professional services and goods. It provides quantitative evidence of the impact of CCs and shows how they can have a more holistic impact than conventional development paradigms.
This paper is a UNTFSSE Knowledge Hub Working Paper.

Making Materiality Determinations: A Context-Based Approach

Mark McElroy Arguably the most important step in the measurement and reporting of an organization’s performance is completion of a materiality determination beforehand, or deciding what to measure. This paper presents and advocates for a specific approach to context-based materiality determinations. The method proposed is normative and triple bottom line in scope, in that it holds organizations accountable for their impacts on all vital capitals and with the well-being of all stakeholders in mind.
This paper is part of the Sustainable Development Performance Indicators project.

UNDP Report

The Eastern Partnership and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development: Pathways Towards Transformation
UNRISD was contracted by UNDP to conduct this research assessing the status of SDG implementation in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The report explores some long-term challenges around economic growth, demography and the environment, and offers strategic insights about the political framing of the SDGs in those countries.


Politiques de la reconnaissance et justice sociale en Afrique: Les stratégies d’inclusion politique par l’identité ethnique contribuent-elles à la réduction des inégalités ?

Anatole Fogou Depuis le milieu du XXe siècle, la revendication de droits collectifs et sociaux prend de plus en plus de l’ampleur au détriment ou concurremment aux droits individuels. Ceci a donné lieu dans certains pays à composition multiethnique, à des politiques publiques qui prennent pour fondement la reconnaissance d’identités particulières et notamment ethniques sans forcément résoudre les problèmes d’inégalités et d’injustice sociale. Cette réflexion assume l’idée que la solution pour ces sociétés multiethniques réside dans le façonnage d’un imaginaire national où les individus se pensent d’avantage comme citoyens égaux que comme membres d’une communauté particulière.
This think piece is part of the series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

The Shifting Landscape of Inequalities—What Have We Learned?

Maggie Carter, Katja Hujo This think piece rounds out the series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization, launched as a way of continuing the conversations that began during the UNRISD conference of the same name. The piece gives an overview of the highly diverse contributions to the series and shows how they explore drivers and impacts of inequalities, and, beyond that, reveal ways that people, communities, social relationships and institutions are shifting, adapting and innovating in response to them.

Filling the Right Knowledge Gaps: What Tools do Policy Makers Really Need to Promote SSE Through Public Policies?

Samuel Brülisauer, Gabriel Salathé-Beaulieu UNRISD’s project Promoting SSE through Public Policies: Guidelines for Local Governments aims, on the basis of original empirical evidence from six cities, to develop guidelines that local governments can use to design and implement public policies that support SSE entities and organizations. What type of information do policy makers want to see in these guidelines? To find out, the research team interviewed policy makers at different levels of governance (city/regional/national) active in Catalonia, Cyprus, Mali, Mexico City and South Africa.This think piece summarizes what they told us about their needs and expectations, and can guide the research team as they move ahead with the project.

Why We Need Better Migration Governance for Achieving the SDGs

In a world that is becoming increasingly polarized and shaped by national or private interests, working together politically on issues like migration and development is no easy task. Yet it is more necessary than ever before, requiring a strengthened multilateral system and commitment to global agendas grounded in principles of human rights, development, peace and justice.
This blog by UNRISD's Katja Hujo for MIDEQ, the South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub in which UNRISD is a partner, explores three shifts in global governance needed to help realize the potential of migration as a driver of development and deliver on the SDGs.


In Case You Missed It: Event Videos on Demand

UNRISD is committed to sharing the knowledge it convenes with an audience far beyond the physical space it inhabits to empower scholars, activists and policy makers in the global South and North. Making video and audio recordings of our events available to you as and when you want to access them is a way of meeting that commitment. You can view videos, or listen to podcasts, of these three recent events at your convenience:

Banner: Warming stripes, Berkeley Earth (world), licensed Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)


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