UNRISD Work on Gender and Development, New Publications, and Side Events at the UN: Issue 23 April 2015
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.


The Gender and Development Research Programme at UNRISD is moving forward with a dynamic new team, as reflected in much of the news in this issue of the eBulletin.

UNRISD has launched a new Think Pieces Series, "Let’s Talk about Women’s Rights", to mark the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. We asked feminist scholars and activists from around the world to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the past two decades. They have responded with critical views on themes such as poverty, war and peace, international law, gender norms and employment, from different geographical locations and different perspectives. More think pieces are on their way in the coming months. Join the conversation!

The key role of women’s movements in achieving Beijing’s progressive agenda has been highlighted time and again in recent UNRISD work on gender and development. From the challenges young feminist movements face to the diversity of women’s movements in India and the importance of forging alliances among women’s organizations in Indonesia, it is clear that gender-egalitarian change will not take place without strong mobilization by women.

This was precisely the theme of the side event we organized in New York during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, in collaboration with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. Presenting findings from UNRISD’s research project When and Why Do States Respond to Women’s Claims?, speakers focused on the conditions in which women’s movements can effectively make their claims heard. Topics discussed included the tensions between autonomy and coalition-forging, professionalization and (de)politicization, urban and rural feminists, different levels of engagement—local, national and international—and which issues get on policy agendas and which do not. These issues resonated with the audience: we had a full house. For those of you who could not attend, catch up by listening to the podcast. A video will be available soon.

In the same vein, Gita Sen’s Seminar, "Reinventing Social Contracts: Feminists, Rights and Power", held in Geneva in conjunction with the UNOG Library, was a reflection on the last 30 years of women’s mobilization "in a fierce new world" from the perspective of DAWN. Gita stressed that gender-unequal power relations are not independent of other systems of power, and that social development requires that everybody is able to exercise her or his rights. She also insisted on the need to see women’s identities as multiple, and to break down policy silos. The seminar was based on Gita’s new book, co-edited with Marina Durano.

As UNRISD moves ahead in defining its future research agenda, the Gender and Development Research Programme is also making strides. We build on our strong tradition of inquiry into the conditions of rural women as we partner with the University of Bern on the Feminization, Agricultural Transition and Rural Employment (FATE) project, and we continue UNRISD’s path-breaking work on care, contributing to the advancement of feminist care agendas and debates (as in Latin America). We are currently working to raise support for new work on women in violent urban contexts: violence against women is not independent of other forms of violence, and violent urban contexts are also characterized by unequal gender relations more broadly. Last but not least we continue our work on the political economy of feminist macroeconomics: how structural economic conditions hinder (or contribute to) women’s economic empowerment.



Social and Solidarity Economy: Beyond the Fringe
Peter Utting (ed.) As economic crises, growing inequality and climate change prompt a global debate on the direction and meaning of development, more attention is being focused on "social and solidarity economy" as a distinctive approach to sustainable and rights-based development. But can social and solidarity economy move beyond its fringe status? And under what conditions can it expand? Bringing together leading researchers, blending theoretical and empirical analyses, and drawing on experiences and case studies from multiple countries and regions, this volume seeks to address these questions. In so doing, it aims to inform a broad constituency of development actors, including scholars, practitioners, activists and policy makers. UNRISD has published this in partnership with Zed Books in its Just Sustainabilities series.

Project Briefs

Democratic Transition and Women’s Rights: Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Indonesia
In 1998, after three decades of authoritarian rule, women’s organizations re-emerged across Indonesia in the participatory spaces opened up by the democratic transition and process of decentralization. This brief outlines how women’s rights advocates have taken advantage of this renewed participation to influence policy change on the issues of violence against women and domestic work. Progress has been made thanks to the ability to forge broad-based alliances beyond women’s organizations. However, alliance and consensus can also break down along the fault lines of custom and religion.

A Long History of Mobilization: Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in India
India has a long history of mobilization for women’s rights and a very diverse set of women’s movements that, paradoxically, can hamper claims-making processes. This brief outlines the progress, or lack of it, on issues of violence against women and domestic work, highlighting factors that facilitate policy change, such as consensus across different women’s movements and open policy-making processes, and those that militate against it, such as the perception that these claims pose fundamental challenges to state power, and to hegemonic conceptions of community, family and sexuality.

Redistributive, Neoliberal or New Paradigm? New Directions in Social Policy in South Africa
Social policy in South Africa appears to be at a crossroads. Both redistributive social aims and neoliberal economic objectives compete to shape its current trajectory. It remains uncertain whether social policy is moving towards a more redistributive model, whether it serves as a mere complement to primary economic goals, or if it is in fact moving in a new direction. The South Africa case study for the UNRISD project, New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South, aims to assess whether we are seeing a transformative shift in South African social policy.


A Hundred Key Questions for the Post-2015 Development Agenda
This is a critical moment for the international development agenda. A greater understanding of development needs and practices can better sustain a new agenda for change, and a key step in this process is to identify priorities based on both new and long-standing knowledge gaps, to help orient decision-making processes and funding allocation in academia and beyond. The 100 questions in this paper are the result of a collaborative exercise, led by the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID). The questions cover both long-standing problems that have hindered the development agenda for decades, as well as new challenges emerging from socioeconomic, political and environmental change.

Migration and Health: Examining the Linkages through a Gender Lens
Jasmine Gideon Analysing migration through a gender lens involves understanding the norms and social relations that influence women’s and men’s roles and responsibilities, and their differential access to resources and services. Gendered norms around men's and women’s roles and responsibilities also shape migration processes and debates. This paper discusses the tensions between the feminization of migration and the domestic roles women typically assume, including unpaid care work, and examines issues related to health of migrants from a gender perspective.

Diversity in Moving Towards Integrated, Coordinated and Equitable Social Protection Systems: Experiences of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan, Province of China
Ilcheong Yi This paper aims to draw lessons that may help address issues of fragmentation in welfare systems in China and other countries. To do so it reviews how Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan, Province of China, established their welfare systems. In particular, it examines how they dealt with fragmentation in government provision of welfare benefits and social services in the areas of primary health care and medical insurance, compulsory education, social assistance and basic pension programmes. The paper was commissioned by UNDP's China country office for its joint project on "Establishing an Integrated, Equitable and Inclusive Social Welfare System in China" with the Development Research Center of China’s State Council.

Papers: Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies

Constraints on Universal Health Care in the Russian Federation: Inequality, Informality and the Failures of Mandatory Health Insurance Reforms
Linda Cook Health care in Russia has undergone many transformative stages, from a Soviet-era model of public provision to an emphasis on privatization under economic liberalization during the 1990s, and a mix of both public and private health care provision now operates across Russia. Throughout these periods, universalism has been enshrined as a guarantee. The extent to which this right has been upheld varies greatly. Underfinancing presents a persistent obstacle to universal access, and substantial inequalities in health care access and quality exist across different regions and income groups, with some vulnerable and marginalized groups almost entirely excluded. Despite efforts to improve the quality and provision of health care, Russia has a poor record in many health indicators, and its national system is struggling to become more efficient and effective.

Methods of Measuring the Impacts of Social Policy in Political, Economic and Social Dimensions
Michael Samson, Sasha van Katwyk, Maarten Fröling, Rumbidzai Ndoro, with Cara Meintjes, Lien Buts and Bryant Renaud This paper reviews current impact assessment methods to identify elements of a comprehensive framework that enables a systems approach to the analysis of social policy. Discussing how mainstream evaluation methods have assessed the outcomes of social security systems, the paper argues that inclusion of the processes, institutions and actors of social policy interventions that crucially affect programme objectives—along with the actually realized outcomes—should be integrated into a comprehensive approach to better inform social policies.

Papers: Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization

Examining the Catalytic Effect of Aid on Domestic Resource Mobilization for Social Transfers in Low-Income Countries
Cécile Cherrier This paper focuses on six sizable social transfer schemes currently operating in low-income African countries. Findings suggest a catalytic effect of aid on mobilizing additional domestic resources for social transfers. In light of these findings, the paper questions whether, at least in some cases, a narrow focus on social transfer instruments may have diverted public resources (domestic and foreign) away from deeper causes of poverty and marginalization, underming the transformative agenda that development partners claim to defend.

Tax Bargains: Understanding the Role Played by Public and Private Actors in Influencing Tax Policy Reform in Uganda
Jalia Kangave and Mesharch W. Katusiimeh This paper investigates how, and how much, actors such as the international financial institutions, members of parliament, the private sector, civil society organizations and non-institutionalized actors influence tax legislation. Findings reveal that more organized and economically powerful actors have more opportunities for contributing to drafting tax legislation. These actors frequently use institutional channels, often behind closed doors. However, there is another group of institutionalized actors (particularly CSOs) who have not traditionally engaged with tax matters but are now making their voices heard in tax debates.

Research Notes

Research Notes are summaries of UNRISD papers that broaden their reach beyond academic circles to non-academic, policy-oriented audiences. The Notes are widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, students and NGOs and are written in language accessible to and engaging for a nonspecialist audience.
Governance and Women’s Claims-Making: What Do Feminists Want and How Do They Get It?, Anne Marie Goetz and Robert Jenkins
Women Workers and the Politics of Claims-Making in a Globalized Economy, Naila Kabeer

Articles by UNRISD Staff

—UNRISD Director Sarah Cook, Book review on "Social Policy and Change in East Asia", edited by James Lee, James Midgley and Yapeng Zhu, The China Journal, 73:286-288.
—UNRISD Research Analyst Paola Cagna, "The gender analysis of neoliberalism: An introduction" and "Self-help groups and women's empowerment: A case study from South India", Rivista di Studi Orientali (Journal of Oriental Studies), 87, Supplement No. 2.
—UNRISD Visiting Fellow Franklin Obeng-Odoom, "Oil boom, human capital and economic development: Some recent evidence." The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 26:100-116.
—"Understanding land grabs in Africa: Insights from Marxist and Georgist political economics." The Review of Black Political Economy, February.
—"Review of 'Resource Curse or Cure? On the Sustainability of Development in Western Australia', by Martin Brueckner, Angela Durey, Robyn Mayes and Christof Pforr (eds)", Economic Record, 91(292):125–126.


When Women Govern Forests: From a History of Absence to the Impact of Presence

14 April 2015, UNRISD and The Graduate Institute Programme on Gender and Global Change, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, 18:15 What difference does it make if women participate in forest governance institutions? Does it affect decisions on forest use, and outcomes for conservation and subsistence? How many women does it take, and from which class, to make a difference? Bina Agarwal will answer these questions and others drawing on her recent book Gender and Green Governance, based on significant field work undertaken in India and Nepal.

The Power of Knowledge: UNRISD Classics

15 April 2015, Palais des Nations, Geneva, 13.00-14.30 3 volumes, 50 essays from 50 years of UNRISD research. Join us, and a panel of dynamic speakers, for the launch! We will engage with the role of research in development policy and practice, and, more broadly, how ideas have influence. Inspired by the timelessness of many UNRISD insights, we will discuss the continued relevance of our influential and ground-breaking research from the last five decades.

Reforming Pensions in Developing and Transition Countries

12 May 2015, Palais des Nations, Geneva, 12:00-14:00 This UNRISD Seminar with Katja Hujo, Markus Loewe and Fred Hendriks will look at the political economy of pension reform, the relative benefits in terms of social and economic development of various pension models, as well as challenges to managing and reforming pension systems in development and transition contexts.

Workshop on Social and Solidarity Finance: Tensions, Opportunities and Transformative Potential

11-12 May, Geneva Recent financial crises have brought to light the social and environmental harm caused by instability in the financial system. In a search for alternatives, some researchers, policy makers and United Nations agencies are directing their attention to social and solidarity finance. Participants at this workshop will explore whether such arrangements could contribute to a more stable and inclusive financial system that is conducive to sustainable development. The workshop is coorganized by UNRISD, ILO and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.


Social Protection Floors and Human Rights: A Side-Event at the Human Rights Council

This event aimed to raise awareness of social security as a human right and to explain the steps needed to ensure that national implementation of the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202 is consistent with international and domestic human rights obligations. The event brought together various national governments, donor organizations, international agencies and NGOs and high-level speakers for a lively panel discussion.The event was coorganized by UNRISD, ILO, OHCHR, Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, and sponsored by the governments of Chile and Finland.

Our web platform Linking Social Protection and Human Rights is a rich repository of expert legal and development resources. UNRISD and the ILO are pleased to announce that a new partner has joined us in this initiative: the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Women's Mobilization for Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in the 20 Years since Beijing: A Side Event at the Commission on the Status of Women

At this side event, speakers discussed how women’s movements can effectively mobilize for policy change, mechanisms necessary to ensure that issues get on policy agendas, and factors and conditions under which non-state actors can effectively trigger and influence policy change. The event was coorganized by UNRISD and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-New York Office.

Listen to the podcast.

Reducing Inequalities—A Key to Social Development in the Contemporary World: A Side Event at the Commission for Social Development

Inequality is increasingly recognized as a key factor of disempowerment, preventing people from realizing their full potential. At this side event, high-level speakers discussed why tackling inequalities is essential for progress in social development in today’s world, providing findings from social science research as well as policy recommendations. The event was coorganized by UNRISD and UNESCO.

Global Goals as National Goals: Lost in Translation?

The MDGs were important as shared global goals. In this UNRISD seminar, Charles Gore argued that the misunderstood translation of these global goals into national goals shifted responsibilities and national priorities. As a result, the poorest and least powerful countries made the most national effort to achieve the goals. This outcome has been damaging for them. Is there a danger that the SDGs will be misunderstood in the same way?

Reinventing Social Contracts: Feminists, Rights and Power

At this panel discussion, organised in collaboration with the UNOG Library, Gita Sen and her co-panelists spoke about the role of feminist movements in the remaking of social contracts, and helped untangle some of the complex power relationships that need to be addressed if new social contracts are to fulfil the promise of human rights and gender justice.


Recruitment of UNRISD Director

The Director’s position offers an exciting opportunity to initiate global research programmes, influence international policy dialogue, and work with government and civil society organizations to realise shared development goals. For details and to apply, visit the UN Careers website. Closing date: 18 April.

UNRISD Senior Research Fellow is Part of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation

Responding to widespread anger about corporate tax avoidance and its impacts on inequality and poverty, a nonpartisan body—the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT)—has been established to propose reforms from the perspective of the public interest. Its inaugural meeting took place in New York on 18-19 March 2015. The Commission is chaired by former UN Under-Secretary-General José Antonio Ocampo and includes Joseph Stiglitz and UNRISD Senior Research Fellow and former Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda.

UNRISD Videos Part of Youth Education Project in Germany

ECOMOVE International, a non-profit organization promoting environmental media, and the German Ministry of Environment have selected six UNRISD videos on Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension for inclusion in a youth environmental education project.
Watch the videos on UNRISD's YouTube channel.

UNRISD at the Graduate Institute Careers Forum

UNRISD took part in the Graduate Institute annual careers forum, Connexion, on 12 March 2015. This is an opportunity for graduates from the institute to interact with future employers. The UNRISD stand attracted around 80 graduates, who were interested in our work.

Senior Research Fellow Magdalena Sepúlveda at a High Level Seminar on Promoting Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean

The seminar aimed to encourage the sharing of knowledge and experience among Latin American and Norwegian scholars and authorities on the design and implementation of public policies geared towards greater equality. Magdalena Sepúlveda presented on a framework for rights-based social protection systems, and looked at lessons learned in programmes implemented in Latin America with a rights-based approach. The seminar was organized by ECLAC and the Government of Norway in Santiago, Chile. The presentations (in Spanish) are available online.

New Development Communications Team Member

UNRISD is pleased to announce that Doreen Yomoah joined the Communications team this month. Part of her work involves supporting the web platform, Linking Social Protection and Human Rights. Doreen has written for The Atlantic and The Guardian and her main interests are human rights, gender mainstreaming and development.


New Think Piece Series on Women’s Rights: Informing the Beijing+20 Debate through a Critical and Forward-Looking Discussion

Gender Praxis in Emergencies—20 years after Beijing, Anu Pillay
Fighting Violence Against Women: Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing, Marai Larasil
How Feminist Activism Can Make States More Accountable for Women’s Rights, Andrea Cornwall, Jenny Edwards
Achievements and Challenges in Gender Equality in International Human Rights Law: The Last Twenty Years, Fareda Banda
20 Years of Mobilization: The Role of Young Feminists, Ruby Johnson
Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: A View from Switzerland, Flurina Derungs and Ursula Keller
Women, War and Peace in Africa: A Reflection on the Past 20 Years, Meredeth Turshen
Gender Norms: Are they the Enemy of Women’s Rights? , Raewyn Connell and Rebecca Pearse
The ‘Feminization of Poverty’: A Reflection 20 Years After Beijing, Sylvia Chant
Why Does the Security Council Have Few Teeth? A Reflection on Women and Armed Conflict 20 years after Beijing 1995, Donna Pankhurst
Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: An African Perspective, Faiza Jama Mohamed


Teaser Video for New Directions in Social Policy Workshop

Get a taste of the ideas coming out of the methodological workshop on New Directions in Social Policy, in this short teaser video.

The Care Economy: Voices and Perspectives for a Paradigm Change

On the sidelines of this conference organized by Nueva Sociedad in Buenos Aires, UNRISD Research Coordinator Valeria Esquivel provided a brief overview on care in Latin America.

Watch the video (in Spanish).

Banner photo: Sheila Sund (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
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