Shifting Landscapes, Gathering Evidence. Issue 47 August 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


Over the years UNRISD built a reputation for excellence in gender studies, and was particularly highly regarded for its pioneering work on political and social economy of care in a development context. This was part of the global body of work that made the topic not just a serious area of research, but one which required the attention of, and action by, policy makers. Uptake of this work continues, such as being selected for inclusion in a new university publication (see below), informing the thinking of advocates and activists, policy makers and researchers.

In order to make sure we still have our finger on the pulse as we rebuild our gender programme following a brief hiatus, a team of consultants will be spending the next few months surveying the landscape in gender and development. Consultations with our network will be part of their brief. With their findings we will be able to identify current and emerging topics most relevant to our own efforts to make development sustainable and socially just. These topics will then shape UNRISD’s new Gender and Development Programme, to be relaunched in 2020.

We are looking forward to the results of this exciting work, which will help UNRISD continue its cutting-edge, policy-relevant approach to gender and development research. Meanwhile, work on our other programmes is continuing apace as you can see in this edition of the eBulletin. Take your pick of events and publications on inequalities, climate justice, and social and solidarity economy, and we’ll keep you updated again on our work in about two months’ time.


SSE Knowledge Hub for the SDGs Launched!

Do you need to know more about how the social and solidarity economy is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals? Then the SSE Knowledge Hub for the SDGs is the place to start. You can find research on topics as varied as renewable energy in Bangladesh, agriculture in Nigeria and waste picking in Brazil, searchable by SDG, by keyword, by language or by country. The Knowledge Hub has a wealth of research-based evidence on how social and solidarity entities are making a difference and contributing to achieving the SDGs.

The Knowledge Hub is an initiative of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE), implemented by UNRISD. It was launched at the UNTFSSE Conference Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?, held in June 2019.

Research Uptake: UNRISD's Contribution to UN SDG:Learn

UNRISD is pleased to contribute to the latest UN learning activity on the Sustainable Development Goals, making sure the evidence and knowledge generated by its research inform decision makers and practitioners working to create a more sustainable world. UN SDG:Learn is a valuable resource for everyone looking for the right learning product on implementing the SDGs. Take a look at the Microlearning Resources to find out what UNRISD and other partners have for you!

New Research: Universities and Social Inequalities in the Global South

UNRISD has commissioned a series of six papers to feed into the development of a research proposal that will focus on the role of universities in lessening—or, indeed, reinforcing—social inequalities in low- and middle-income countries. Researchers in Ghana, Chile, Senegal, Brazil and United Arab Emirates, as well as the UK and Germany, will explore higher education as a policy area with potential to increase social mobility, reduce inequality and contribute to the advancement of society. But are universities currently contributing to inequality rather than equality, and if so, through what specific actions and mechanisms? How can the transformative potential of such institutions be fully harnessed for overcoming inequality?
This is part of UNRISD's research inquiry Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

New Research: Promoting SSE through Public Policies--Guidelines for Local Governments

Based on case studies of six cities which have developed policies, programmes and institutions for the social and solidarity economy (SSE), the project will identify the key elements and good practices of such “SSE ecosystems”, and, on that basis, propose guidelines that policy makers can use in their own cities to design, implement and assess public policies and institutional frameworks that support SSE organizations and enterprises.
The guidelines will be publicly launched at the Global Social Economy Forum in Mexico City in 2020 to an audience of local government officials from around the world and a broad cross-section of SSE practitioners.

Calls for Papers Currently Open


Save the Date! From Science to Practice: Strengthening Research Uptake to Achieve the SDGs

In the context of increasingly complex policy challenges and eroding trust in science and public institutions, how can we support effective, evidence-based policies to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? UNRISD is proud to be co-hosting a 2-day conference addressing this question, taking place in Geneva on 11-12 December 2019. Find out more here, and even register already to secure your place!

Into the SDG Mix: UNRISD Research Mingles with Policy Makers and Activists at the 2019 HLPF

UNRISD was represented at no less than five events at this year's High-Level Political Forum, the UN's body reviewing progress on the SDGs. Find out what we did to ensure that evidence from UNRISD’s research on transformative policies that help leave no one behind informs debates and leads to a better implementation of the SDGs.
Check out Global Policy Watch's blog summarizing the discussions at the event launching the civil society shadow report Reshaping Governance for Sustainability, where UNRISD was a co-host.

ICYMI* (1): Social and Solidarity Economy Events in June

  • Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy? UNTFSSE International Conference
    Part of a series of events resulting from a Call for Papers launched by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE) in 2018, this two-day conference provided a space for researchers, practitioners and policy decision makers to share and exchange evidence and ideas about the connections between SSE and people, planet, prosperity, participation and partnerships in different local contexts; and to demonstrate, through evidence-based analysis, concrete ways in which SSE contributes to sustainable development, and to the implementation and achievement of the SDGs.
  • Leaving No One Behind: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?
    What is the role of social and solidarity economy (SSE) in fostering the social inclusion of those left behind by declining social aid, and creating solidarity for the most vulnerable? This roundtable discussion provided insights into these questions based on ongoing research in Geneva (Switzerland), Bergamo (Italy) and Heraklion (Greece), as well as more broadly.
  • Measuring and Reporting Sustainability Performance: Are Corporations and SSE Organizations Meeting the SDG Challenge?
    Sustainability measurement and reporting has much improved in recent decades, but is it fit for purpose for 21st century challenges and for the SDGs? This international conference provided an opportunity for key stakeholders from UN agencies, national policy making bodies and practitioners in the measurement and reporting fields to discuss best practices, key concerns, and ways forward that take better account of the social dimensions of sustainable development.
* ICYMI - In Case You Missed It

ICYMI (2): Climate Justice Events in June

  • Transforming Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities: Based on examples from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Jakarta, Indonesia, the speakers at this public seminar discussed issues of land rights and informality that shape uneven vulnerability to climate change in coastal zones, and highlighted the need for more integrated and transformative approaches to adaptation. [UNRISD Seminar Series in collaboration with the Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung and the Bonn University Center for Development Research (ZEF)]
  • Barriers and Opportunities for Transformative Adaptation in Coastal Cities A group of 10 selected adaptation experts from Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta met in order to discuss limits, barriers and opportunities for transformative change in the two cities and foster mutual learning and understanding of the challenges of transformative adaptation in these specific contexts. [Project Workshop; complemented by the public seminar above]
  • Cities in Transition—Urban Struggles for Just Transition(s): Building on the existing Just Transition Research Collaborative (JTRC) network, the workshop brought together a group of 14 experts on just transition and cities/urban sustainability research to discuss the potential and limitations of cities driving the just transition to low-carbon development. It also served to organize the JTRC’s work on more in-depth case studies. [Project Workshop]


Overcoming Inequalities in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Katja Hujo and Maggie Carter Drawing on the 41 research papers presented at our major international conference Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization in November 2018, this Brief presents innovative analysis of how to reduce the damaging inequalities which stand in the way of sustainable development. It adjusts the focus to include not just the bottom of the pyramid, but also the top: elite power and all its ramifications, as well as the sources of these power imbalances, the fractures they have wrought, and the drivers of policy change to level out social stratification and devolve power and resources from elites to non-elites. The Brief closes with a series of recommendations for policy makers and practitioners, derived from the research findings, in two related areas: how to build and sustain fair institutions, and how to design and implement equality-enhancing policies.

Occasional Paper Series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization

Persistence of Poverty in an Indigenous Community in Southern India: Bringing Agrarian Environment to the Centre of Poverty Analysis
Sudheesh Ramapurath Through an ethnographic enquiry into the persistence of poverty among a landless indigenous community in the southern Indian state of Kerala, this paper tries to understand the community’s negotiations with changes in the agrarian environment. The community is losing out on livelihood strategies and adaptation measures on multiple fronts simultaneously. The multi-directionality and simultaneity of the exclusions produced by changes in the agrarian environment warrant attention in poverty analysis, the paper argues. I follow members of this community in their quest to find alternative livelihoods in the wake of rapid deagrarianization in Kerala and show how they are systematically losing out on each of these livelihood pathways. I also follow them in sites of migration in the villages of the neighbouring state of Karnataka, where they are fast being replaced by cheaper labour. Fieldwork in sites of state-sponsored land distribution shows that receiving land does not necessarily work towards lifting them out of precarity. From these observations, the paper concludes that the stealthy ways in which changes in the agrarian environment further the exclusions of marginalized communities need to be paid greater attention.

Intergenerational Mobility in Education: Estimates of the Worldwide Variation

Tharcisio Leone This paper applies the recently published “Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility” to present a detailed picture of the chances of mobility around the world. The empirical results obtained from transition matrices and linear regression models, and based on harmonized data for education attainments of children and their parents from 148 countries, point to three main conclusions: first, the likelihood of attaining intergenerational mobility differs widely across countries and word regions; second, intergenerational persistence in education is particularly strong in the least-developed countries; and, finally – and perhaps most importantly – the mobility gap between poor and rich countries has increased over time.

Briefs on Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities

Transforming Coastal City Adaptation: From Idea to Practice
Dunja Krause This Research and Policy Brief introduces three key considerations for transformative policy change that builds resilience in highly exposed coastal cities in developing countries. These cities face the combined challenge of dealing with the impacts of climate change as well as urban development, poverty and sharp inequalities. Find out how they could move away from adaptation measures that focus exclusively on large infrastructural measures such as coastal defenses, to those which favour integrated and inclusive solutions that tackle not only people’s exposure to hazards, but also social vulnerabilities and their root causes.

Transforming Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities: Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta

Tue Minh Tran This Brief presents the initial findings of case studies on adaptation strategies in the two coastal cities discussed at the project workshop held in Bonn, Germany, this summer. Find out more about how Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta, where people living in slums and informal settlements along waterfronts and canals are especially vulnerable to increased flooding, are responding to climate change in a context where urban development challenges like inequalities and informality compound the impacts of climate change.


Travail social, genre et sexualité comme thème de la Journée internationale du travail social 2019
This brief report summarizes the animated discussions at this year's Geneva celebrations of World Social Work Day, co-organized by UNRISD and a number of local and international social work partners. Find out more about the keynote presentations by Mavis Dako-Gyeke, professor of social work at the University of Ghana, and Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the workshops covering topics from street harrassment to domestic violence to discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community. [In French only]

Paper by UNRISD Senior Research Associate

Birkenkötter, Hannah, Gabriele Köhler, Anke Stock. 2019. A Tale of Multiple Disconnects: Why the 2030 Agenda does not (yet?) contribute to moving German gender equality struggles forward. Discussion paper. UN Women, New York.
Gabriele Köhler is an UNRISD Senior Research Associate.

UNRISD Articles in Reader Published by the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru

Two UNRISD papers were included in La economía del cuidado, mujeres y desarrollo: perspectivas desde el mundo y América Latina, a reader on care work published in June 2019 by the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru:


We Cannot Take on Inequality Without Tax Justice

Fariya Mohiuddin At the heart of inequality is uneven access to key human rights such as health, housing and adequate living standards. Effective taxation is fundamental to addressing inequality in this form: by funding access, it creates a pathway for the progressive realization of human rights. Yet the links between inequality, rights provision and taxation have not always been clearly made in policy or in activism. This think piece is a contribution to filling this gap.

Citizenship and Equality in Latin America: A Troubled Link

Luciano Enrique Andrenacci As the 20th century drew to a close, Latin America witnessed an unexpectedly virtuous alignment of factors favouring “inclusive” citizenship. A combination of global economic and political change weakened long-standing power arrangements, providing a window of opportunity in the region to strengthen the otherwise troubled link between citizenship and equality. So how did this come about? This think piece traces the historical genesis of the connection between modern notions of citizenship and equality, and the highs (few) and lows (many!) of how it has played out in Latin America up to the present day.


Inequalities and the 1% in the Context of Sustainable Development

Current UNRISD research on reducing inequalities is looking not just at the bottom of the pyramid, but also the top: elite power and all its ramifications, as well as the sources of these power imbalances, the fractures they have wrought, and the drivers of policy change to level out social stratification and devolve power and resources from elites to non-elites. Find out why this is necessary in this short trailer video.

Video Highlights from the UNTFSSE Conference

The team at the ILO's Cooperatives Unit put together this video compilation of key speakers at the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE)  Conference Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?, held in June this year. Check it out to get a feel for what the conference was about.

From the Archive: 3 minutes, 3 messages--Realizing Care Policies' Transformative Potential

Transformative care policies can be a game changer. In this short video, Valeria Esquivel presents three reasons why: they help achieve greater gender equality, they promote policy complementarity and coordination, and they improve the situation of both care workers and care receivers. These and more ideas can be found in Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report.


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