50 Years of Research for Social Change—UNRISD 1963-2013: Issue 13 January 2013
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


A new year marks a time for reflection. When the year is also a 50th anniversary it calls for longer pause – and for celebration.

In August 1963 UNRISD was established through the inspiration of the first Nobel laureate in economics, Jan Tinbergen, and Gunnar Myrdal (1974 Nobel laureate). The vision of these leading economic thinkers of the day was that "development"—at the time largely defined by economic growth through planned capital accumulation, infrastructure investment and industrial modernization—was failing to take adequate account of social issues, and a concern that this failure could compromise the development project itself.

The recognition that social concerns were key to development was new. So too was the view that research—bringing new methodologies, measurement and indicators, as well as new ways of framing debates—mattered and was needed at the heart of the United Nations system to inform the regional planning commissions, specialized agencies and national governments. The new Institute developed a strong emphasis on empirical research, conducted by researchers based in developing countries who were provided with the opportunity not only to work with researchers from other countries concerned with similar issues, but also to channel their findings to an international audience. By granting the Institute autonomous status in the United Nations system, the then Secretary-General, U Thant, ensured that UNRISD could freely conduct critical research, often on politically sensitive issues...

Read more.


Latest Research and Policy Brief

Social Policy and Employment: Rebuilding the Connections
With concerns continuing to mount about the persistently high levels of unemployment and informal/nonstandard employment stemming from the global economic crisis, recent debates on the social protection floor suggest that social policies remain high on the global agenda. But what are the connections between social policy and employment? This brief argues that over the past three decades these links have been weakened in both policy formulation and actual outcomes. It is time that their connections are recognized for policy purposes. The post-2015 development agenda provides an opportune moment to reconnect social policy and employment.

Latest Paper

Work and Welfare: Revisiting the Linkages from a Gender Perspective
Sarah Cook and Shahra Razavi This paper examines the relationship between employment and social policy specifically from a gender perspective. It draws on a range of heterodox economic and feminist analyses to suggest alternative ways of understanding institutions and labour markets as gendered structures. The paper lists some of the policy implications for more gender-egalitarian policy agendas and connects the gendered analysis of welfare and work back to arguments about the difficulties of fully delinking rights to social protection from employment.

Latest Book

Poverty Reduction and Changing Policy Regimes in Botswana
Onalenna Selolwane (ed.) This book examines how Botswana overcame the legacies of exceptional resource deficiency, colonial neglect and a harsh physical environment to transform itself from one of the poorest nations of the world to a middle-income economy. It reviews the interactions of economic, social and institutional policies and how these reinforced one another to significantly reduce the number of people living in poverty. In particular it illustrates how the chosen development strategies consistently tied social and economic policies to achieve, on the one hand, redistribution, protection and reproduction and, on the other, investment in production and human capabilities. The substantive areas covered include economic development strategies and outcomes; social policies and their impacts on poverty and productive capacity; income and wealth distribution; the role of organized interest groups in policy development; and institutional development, state capacity and politics.

Full Collection of Background Papers for the UNRISD Flagship Report Available Online

We are putting online background thematic papers and country case studies that fed into the report, Combating Poverty and Inequality. They are available here. Please see the Unpublished Papers link on the right of the page.


New Directions in Social Policy—A Side Event at the Commission for Social Development

6 February 2013, New York
While the MDGs placed social issues more firmly back on the development agenda, social policy has remained largely residual—principally as protection against severe forms of adversity. However, recent innovations in social policy and practice in the global South offer more universal, participatory and potentially transformative approaches. We see expanding coverage and service provision, enhanced redistribution and inclusion, increased mobilization of domestic resources, and efforts to address structural inequalities and strengthen social rights.

What can we learn from these new approaches? Are we seeing the basis of new solidarity-based social contracts that can generate more inclusive, equitable societies and sustainable development paths?

This side event will consider emerging directions in social policy, particularly in the South, what we can learn from them, and how this should be reflected in a new global development agenda.

This event is open to the public.

Join UNRISD at the Commission for Social Development in New York

UNRISD will be at the New York headquarters of the UN in February to engage in the annual Commission for Social Development. During the Commission, UNRISD is convening a side event, New Directions in Social Policy, and UNRISD Director Sarah Cook will be taking part in a number of sessions.

For a full list, download the flyer.


A Rights-Based, Gender-Equitable Approach to the Regional Governance of Migration: An Elusive or Achievable Prospect?

Watch the videos of presentations by:
-- Christine Verschuur, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies;
-- Karin Pape, Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising (WIEGO);
-- Kristina Touzenis, International Migration Law Unit, International Office for Migration (IOM).

They were speaking at the policy forum on A Rights-Based, Gender-Equitable Approach to the Regional Governance of Migration, held on 13 January in Geneva. The forum brought together a panel of experts from diverse fields to talk about the regional governance of migration and was co-hosted by UNRISD, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Graduate Institute in Geneva with support from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.

Videos of other presentations are coming soon.

Listen to the podcast of the forum (Media Files).

The Resource Curse? Mineral Rents and the Financing of Social Policy

Videos of the three presentations at the UNRISD seminar, The Resource Curse? Mineral Rents and the Financing of Social Policy, are available online. The speakers are:
-- Katja Hujo, Research Coordinator, UNRISD;
-- Samuel Asfaha, Economist, International Training Centre of the ILO;
-- Alfredo Calcagno, Head, Macroeconomic and Development Branch, Division of Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD.

The seminar, held on 6 December 2012 in Geneva, presented findings from an UNRISD inquiry published as Mineral Rents and the Financing of Social Policy: Opportunities and Challenges (Palgrave Macmillan, May 2012).The inquiry systematically analysed the relationship between mineral wealth and revenues, social policy decisions and social development outcomes in developing countries. Through thematic papers and case studies it shed light on the question of why some developing countries are more successful than others in harnessing the development potential of their natural resources.

Listen to the podcast of the seminar (Media Files).

Gender-Related Research within the UN System: Interviews with Participants

UNRISD interviewed some of the participants at the UN Women-UNRISD workshop on Gender-Related Research within the UN System, which took place in Geneva in November 2012. Watch the interviews with:
-- Eva Jespersen, Deputy Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP;
-- Saraswati Menon, Director, Policy Division, UN Women.

Listen to the interviews with:
-- Hania Sholkamy, Associate Professor at the Social Research Center, American University, Cairo;
-- Takyiwaa Manuh, Associate Professor and former Director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana;
-- Marie-Claude Martin, Associate Director in the Office of Research at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

Listen to the podcast of the interviews (Media Files).


"Visions of Change": Call for Submissions of Artwork to Illustrate New Editions of UNRISD Publications

"Visions of Change" encourages creative thinkers from all over the world to submit artwork that illustrates key social development values, themes and issues. A selection of UNRISD’s most forward-looking and influential publications from the last 50 years—UNRISD Classics—will be re-released in 2013, with covers featuring artwork selected from submissions to Visions of Change. Selected artwork will also be exhibited at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2013.

Review of "Growth, Inequality and Social Development in India" in Economic and Political Weekly

"Growth, Inequality and Social Development in India: Is Inclusive Growth Possible?" was reviewed in the Economic and Political Weekly. The review said,"At a time when establishing the highest possible growth rate is seen as the key to eliminating poverty and bringing about rapid and cumulative improvements in social development, this book edited by R Nagaraj, with chapter contributions by other scholars, stands out as an important corrective to this dominant and misleading discourse....Together, the authors offer a historical overview of why India, despite having had positive annual growth rates over the last 65 years, has performed so badly comparatively and absolutely when it comes to social development, as measured by standard indicators of health, education, inequalities, steady wages and other forms of social security and protection."


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: ++41 (0)22 917 3020
E-mail info.unrisd@un.org

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