Breaking New Ground in 2018. Issue 38 January 2018
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.


The best way to start the first newsletter of 2018 is to wish a happy new year to all our readers. With the new year come new challenges and achievements and we hope you’ll join us on our journey through both during 2018.

We are very much looking forward to getting more of our projects in the Ideas Incubator off the ground: Beyond Binary: Safeguarding Trans* People’s Rights is in the starting blocks, and we’re kicking off what we hope will be a series of activities on New Technologies and Human Rights in February. This has emerged from consultations on two of the projects in the Incubator (The Gig Economy and Social Security : Towards a (New) Digital Precariat? and Social Policy 2.0 : Responding to New Tech Divides), showing how productive we can be together. Watch this space for updates, and get in touch if you also want to be part of our exciting new research endeavours.

We’re particularly thrilled to be planning our next big international conference for November 2018: a chance to meet many of you and exchange findings and ideas with you in person. It will be centred on a host of research questions around elites and inequalities: Where does elites’ influence really lie? How do institutions perpetuate or curb inequalities? How are class structures shifting and what does that mean for inequality? What are the effects of deepening inequalities on local lifeworlds? And what pathways can we see towards a new social compact?

We hope to bring together interested parties from all of our different stakeholder groups. We want the conference to be a place for exchanges of expertise between people who do research on these issues, those who work in the policy-making arena, and those who advocate for and implement change. We look forward to seeing you all in November!

In the mean time, and so you don’t forget what we were up to in 2017, take a look at our year in review infographic.

Great things are ahead, let’s make progressive social change happen together!


Breaching the Power of Elites: UNRISD To Hold Major International Conference

What did you always want to know about how elites and institutions can perpetuate or curb inequalities? Do you have something to share with policy makers, academics and and practitioners on shifting class structures and the growing divide between the privileged and the rest? Who can work together, and how, to narrow that divide and design a new social compact? These are just some of the questions we think we need answers for, to make sure that social change in these turbulent times leaves no one behind.

That's why they are at the heart of a major international conference that UNRISD will be hosting in November 2018. Make a note in your diary, and watch out for the detailed call for papers coming soon!

Social and Solidarity Economy for the SDGs: Spotlight on Your City Next?

How to get the global goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into action at the local level? This is one of the big questions currently exercising the international development community. Part of UNRISD's contribution is its project Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) for the SDGs: Spotlight on the Social Economy in Seoul, in which the rapid expansion of SSE is coming under the microscope to better understand how it can contribute to achieving the city's "localized" SDGs.
The project is moving forward apace (watch this video to find out more), with the findings to be presented at the High-Level Political Forum in New York in July, where UN member states meet every year to review progress on the SDGS.

UNRISD is already looking ahead: which city is next? If you work on SSE in a major urban area which could be the next installment of Social and Solidarity Economy for the SDGs, please get in touch with Mr. Ilcheong Yi.

Research Incubator Reloaded

For the new year, we've refreshed our Ideas Incubator: our fledgling projects that we are currently developing and seeking partners for to take them to the next level. One of them explores the themes of our international conference planned for later this year. Have a look at the current highlights and get in touch if you are interested in co-constructing these exciting research ideas into funded projects with us!

Year in Review

As 2017 segues into 2018, the time has come to take a look at what stood out at UNRISD in the last 12 months. Here’s our review of what you liked best, based on numbers of downloads, retweets and views our outputs during 2017. Were these your favourites too?

New Year, New Board Members

Last year, UNRISD said farewell to two of its Board Members: Patricia Schultz (Switzerland), and Ping Huang (China). The term of Chair Maureen O'Neil (Canada) also drew to a close. We are grateful to them all for their support and valuable contributions to the oversight of UNRISD's activities. With this set of goodbyes also comes a time of renewal – specifically, the opportunity to welcome a new Board Chair: Joakim Palme (Sweden), Professor of Political Science at Uppsala University, was appointed by the UN Secretary-General to serve as Chair of the UNRISD Board from July 2017 through June 2019. He is a well-known face at UNRISD, already serving as a Board Member since July 2013. And we extend a hearty welcome to new Board Member Sylvie Durrer (Switzerland), who is Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality. We look forward to constructive and stimulating engagement with all the Board Members in person at this year's meeting in April.


World Social Work Day 2018

Following our success in 2017, UNRISD will again be celebrating World Social Work Day this year together with a consortium of local and international partners. The theme in Geneva is “Social Work and Youth. Towards Inclusive Sustainable Development”, and the 2-day event will feature interactive workshops as well as expert panels and a keynote speech. Watch this space for the full agenda, coming soon. For now, watch the introductory video.

UNRISD at Swiss International Career Day in Basel

UNRISD will again be reaching out to young graduates at Swiss International Career Day, being held on 15 March at the Congress Center in Basel this year. Organized by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the event offers 50 international organizations the chance to meet the brightest and best from Swiss universities to share their work and connect with the next generation of development specialists. Over 2,000 visitors are expected to attend.


The Human Right to Social Security: Open Access to Special Edition of the International Social Security Review

We have managed to secure free access to all 6 articles in the Special Edition of the ISSR co-edited by UNRISD Senior Research Coordinator Katja Hujo - for a limited period only. So if you are interested in the human right to social security in connection with combatting discrimination, persons with disabilities, informal workers, care policies, or social policy in South and South-East Asia, take a look at the table of contents before this special offer runs out.

Contestation and Resource Bargaining in Zimbabwe: The Minerals Sector

Richard Saunders In exploring the evolving role of stakeholders and constituencies, this Working Paper weighs the origins and effectiveness of different resource mobilization models in terms of the space they provide for meaningful and effective contestation. If gains have been realized under a model, the study asks which constituencies have gained, proposing which vision of development, and under what circumstances of relational power among stakeholders. Similarly, the question of who may have lost—in rhetoric and in practice—is also considered.

High-Value Minerals and Resource Bargaining in a Time of Crisis: A Case Study on the Diamond Fields of Marange, Zimbabwe

Richard Saunders In 2006, the discovery of world-class deposits of alluvial diamonds in Marange District in eastern Zimbabwe offered important opportunities for the mobilization of significant revenues in a period of severe and worsening economic and social crisis. The new resources quickly became the subject of intense contestation involving the state and a variety of actors including mining communities, civil society, the diamond industry and donors. The paper traces the evolution of these contestations over the course of three successive phases of alluvial exploitation.

Political and Institutional Drivers of Social Security Policy in South Africa

Marianne S. Ulriksen and Sophie Plagerson Building on the power resource and historical institutionalism approaches, this Working Paper explores how different actors seek to assert their policy preferences, and how current institutional arrangements shape actors’ interests and their ability to influence policy reforms. The two case studies reveal interesting differences that can explain the success of social cash transfer expansion and the sluggish progress (to date) on introducing a national health insurance scheme in South Africa.

Publications by UNRISD Senior Research Associates

Magdalena Sepúlveda. 2017. A Contemporary View of "Family" in International Human Rights Law and Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Discussion Paper, UN Women: New York, December.


Resilience and Transformation in Latin America

The final two think pieces in our series Linking Resilience Thinking and Transformative Change focus on policies for resilience that may also be transformative in two forms of food production in Latin America. We hope you have enjoyed the series and found it thought-provoking in showing ways to combine ecological and social outcomes and work towards transformative change.

War, Gender and Economics: Women at the Sharp End of Neo-liberal Reforms in Post-Conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nela Porobić Isaković Although the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina officially ended over 20 years ago, the country is still dealing with the fall-out. Can recent reforms create a firm foundation on which a sustainable and just transition from conflict to peace can be made? The author of this think piece, based on a major new report by WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom), thinks not. Read on to find out why.


Re-live our Special Policy Dialogue!

If you were there, you might want to feel the buzz again. If you weren't, find out what you missed! The footage of our special event with Jeremy Corbyn (leader of the UK Labour Party), Arancha Gonzalez (Executive Director of ITC) and Nikhil Seth (Executive Director of UNITAR) speaking about the need for international cooperation in a changing world is available in its entirety on our Facebook page. Check it out!
Note that you don't need a Facebook account to view the video.

Political Drivers of Transformative and Inclusive Development

In case you weren't able to attend the workshop we held in December together with the Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) Research Centre, based at the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute (GDI), you can follow the presentation and the discussions at the following links:
  • Session 1: Gender-egalitarian reforms
    -The Politics of Negotiating Gender Equity in the Global South: Sohela Nazneen (Institute of Development Studies, UK)
    -Care Policies—Realizing their Transformative Potential: Valeria Esquivel (International Labour Office, Geneva)
    -When and Why Do States Respond to Women’s Claims? Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Asia: Nitya Rao (University of East Anglia, UK)
  • Discussion of Session 1 presentations
  • Session 2: Social policy reforms
    -New Trends and Innovations in Social Policy: Ilcheong Yi (UNRISD, Geneva)
    -Reframing Social Protection within Strategies for Political Survival: Tom Lavers (ESID, UK)
    -Who Should Get What, How and Why? The Transnational Politics of Social Cash Transfers: Sam Hickey (ESID, UK)
  • Discussion of Session 2 presentations


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