Director's Blog; UNRISD's Work on Gender; Looking at COP21: Issue 26 December 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.


This is the first eBulletin since the September New York Summit that launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, and the first since I joined UNRISD as Director in October. It’s been a busy time!

Putting pen to paper in a short article, which will be the first in a Series of Director's Blogs, I reflect on what it means to work on social development in this new context, and how UNRISD intends to contribute. With the finishing touches now applied to our UNRISD Strategy for 2016–2020 – Transformations to Equity and Sustainability – we are raring to go.

Gender continues to have a high profile within our work. UNRISD’s groundbreaking research on women claiming their rights was presented to a Geneva audience in October, and UNRISD joined the growing network of International Geneva Gender Champions. We wound up the think piece series, Let's Talk about Women's Rights: 20 Years after the Beijing Platform for Action, which reflected on achievements and challenges in the realization of women’s rights over the last two decades. On 25 November, UNRISD did its bit to orange the world to draw attention to the UN Secretary-General’s campaign to tackle gender-based violence.

Work continued apace on our next Flagship report – Policy Innovations for Transformative Social Change – which we hope will make a critical contribution to the thinking on how we make the 2030 Agenda work. We also published a Research and Policy Brief on reforming pensions in developing and transition countries, an Event Brief on a workshop on migrant precarity and a Research Paper on Migration Governance and Migrant Rights in the SADC region.

As we approach the end of COP 21 in Paris this week, Dunja Krause reflects on what could be the first real test of the SDGs: whether governments can agree on more concrete commitments to address climate change. Will the meeting be a landmark, she asks, or a COP-out?

Finally, all of us at UNRISD wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season. We look forward to working with you and keeping you informed about our social development research and activities in 2016.


Event Brief

Multiple Forms of Migrant Precarity: Beyond “Management” of Migration to an Integrated Rights-Based Approach
In recent months, the media have been flooded with stories of migrants and refugees fleeing under great personal risk and hardship from war, conflict and poverty. The initial wave of solidarity and empathy by European citizens has quickly given way to policy approaches and a public attitude of crisis management and unfruitful attempts at burden sharing. The magnitude of what has been termed the “migrant crisis” requires an informed debate and careful analysis of the potential implications of current policy responses. With this mind, researchers, activists and experts from UN organizations met to discuss the outstanding challenges to overcoming migrant precarity and moving a rights-based migration agenda forward.

Research and Policy Brief

A Global Policy Laboratory: Reforming Pensions in Developing and Transition Countries
Pension reform has been something of a global policy laboratory over the last three decades. UNRISD research on the drivers of pension reform and the diversity of models and outcomes provides evidence to undermine three of the most unhelpful myths around pension reform, showing that privatization is not a silver bullet; declared blueprints for reform are not in fact suitable for all country contexts; and policy space can be regained to reform pension systems for the better.


Migration Governance and Migrant Rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC): Attempts at Harmonization in a Disharmonious Region
Belinda Dodson and Jonathan Crush This paper examines prospects for enhanced regional migration governance and protection of migrants’ rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Migrants in this region include those from countries within the region, as well as from across the African continent and even further afield. However, there has been a hardening of anti-migrant attitudes as well as serious violations of migrants’ rights. Attempts at regional coordination and harmonization of migration governance face formidable challenges, although some recent developments may be promising. The paper argues that there can be no robust rights regime, either regionally or in individual countries, without extension of labour and certain other rights to non-citizens, nor a robust regional migration regime unless it is rights-based.

Social Inclusion, Poverty Eradication and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Esuna Dugarova This paper argues that it is unlikely that development will be sustainable unless it is inclusive. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development thus needs to be an inclusive plan of action, pursuing the goal of leaving no one behind in a way that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to participate in the processes that impact their lives. Social policies are more likely to enable social inclusion if they promote practices based on universal rights-based entitlements, equal and meaningful participation, as well as norms of solidarity and reciprocity, while paying due respect to diversity and the environment. It is therefore necessary to move away from the use of social inclusion schemes as remedial action towards making them an intrinsic part of broader and coherent development strategies.


Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa
Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass In this book, the authors explain why poverty has persisted in South Africa since 1994 and demonstrate how public policies both mitigated and reproduced poverty, and how and why these policies were adopted. Their analyses of the South African welfare state, labour market policies and the growth path of the South African economy challenge conventional accounts. The authors show how social democratic policies both reduced and worsened poverty in contexts such as South Africa, reflecting the contradictory nature of social democracy in the global South.

Articles by UNRISD staff

--UNRISD Research Coordinator Valeria Esquivel, "La Economía Feminista desde América Latina: ¿Una vía para enriquecer los debates de la Economía Social y Solidaria?" in Une économie solidaire peut-elle être féministe ? Homo oeconomicus, mulier solidaria, edited by Christine Verschuur, Isabelle Guérin and Isabelle Hillenkamp, Genre et développement – Rencontres, Paris: L’Harmattan; and "O cuidado: de conceito analítico a agenda política", Nueva Sociedad especial em português, October
--Visiting Fellow Prashant Sharma, Ten Years of RTI (Right to Information Act): What Do We Know?, published by Down to Earth in June and republished by Youth ki Awaaz in October.
--Senior Research Associate Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, "It's Time for Companies to Lead the Fight Against Tax Dodging", The Huffington Post, 24 November; and with José Antonio Ocampo, "Tax avoidance by corporations is out of control. The United Nations must step in", The Guardian, 30 September.
--Former Visiting Fellow Tom Lavers, "Land Registration and Gender Equality in Ethiopia: How State–Society Relations Influence the Enforcement of Institutional Change", Journal of Agrarian Change, November. The article is an updated version of an UNRISD working paper, published in 2014.


Peace Week, Conference and TEDx: Knowledge on Gender in Demand

The UNRISD Gender team is proving its versatility with three different types of engagement on three different issues. Research Coordinator for Gender and Development Valeria Esquivel participated in preparations for the UN Habitat III Summit to take place in October 2016. The preparations took the form of a panel discussion on 18 November as part of Geneva Peace Week where Valeria presented on violence against or affecting women in violent cities. Valeria also moderated a roundtable and discussion titled Can Feminist Knowledge Be Codified? Interpretative Power and Conflicting Meanings at the international conference Who Knows? Circulation of Feminist Knowledge on Development and Gender Experts, held at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, on 19-20 November 2015. Finally, UNRISD work on care was skilfully crafted into a presentation for the general public when Valeria gave a highly accessible TEDx talk on Time as the Invisible Dimension of Poverty in Cordoba, Argentina, on 7 November 2015.

Happy 70th Birthday UN! UNRISD Celebrates at Geneva UN Open Day

Record numbers of visitors came to chat at the UNRISD stand at UN Open Day on 24 October to celebrate the 70th birthday of the United Nations at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Friendly and informed UNRISD staff were on hand to explain to people from the Geneva community and from further afield what the Institute does and what impacts its research has.

François Hollande and Paul Ladd Put SSE at the Heart of the SDGs

On 28 September, incoming UNRISD Director Paul Ladd took the podium along with French President François Hollande at a High Level Event of the Leading Group on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) at United Nations Headquarters in New York. UNRISD has played an key role in bringing SSE to a prominent position at the UN and in development debates more generally. President Hollande delivered an engaged speech, noting that the underlying principles of the SDGs are inspired by SSE. Paul Ladd, speaking for the first time on behalf of UNRISD while still representing UNDP, underlined the strong potential of SSE as a means of implementation of the SDGs and called on Member States to support SSE initiatives at the national level and through the UN. Following a ground-breaking inquiry and conference on social and solidarity economy in 2013, the Institute was instrumental in establishing the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE, of which it took on the secretariat for the first year and still remains a leading member.

Finnish Students Visit UNRISD

Students Emma Sokkanen and Olga Ylönen from Finland spent a day shadowing UNRISD communications staff and meeting with researchers. The visit aimed to increase interest among upper secondary students for international organizations and raise awareness about global issues. During the day they got an overview of UNRISD’s working life and wrote an article for the UNRISD website.

Project on Feminist Analysis of Social and Solidarity Economy Practices Under Way

The UNRISD Gender and Development Research Team and the Social and Solidarity Team (SSE) are participating in a project linking gender and social and solidarity economy, coordinated by Christine Verschuur and Felipe Calvão of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva. SSE is receiving growing attention from scholars and public authorities but this interest remains for the most part gender blind, even though women play a major role in SSE activities. This research project aims to address these gaps in SSE research and policies from a feminist perspective. It will contribute to both the empirical evidence base and to theoretical debates on social reproduction.

Channels into Global Policy Processes: Keeping the Social Dimension in Public-Private Partnerships

UNRISD recently contributed to the drafting of a Declaration on Responsible Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) being presented at the 21st session of the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris in early December. UNRISD’s contribution to the Declaration was to add a sentence highlighting the importance of PPPs respecting human rights to foster an economy of human dimensions. The Declaration was developed by participants at a side event at the International Forum on Public Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development, organized by UNITAR, the government of France and the host city, the Annemasse Agglo.


Claiming Their Rights: How Women's Movements Mobilize for Policy Change

21 October, Geneva Women across the global South are increasingly claiming their rights. In this UNRISD Seminar, external project coordinator Nitya Rao looked at how these changes happen, the factors that allow women's movements to trigger change, and how they ensure the issues get onto policy agendas. Discussants included Ismat Jahan, CEDAW Committee member and Ambassador of Bangladesh to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg; and Claire Hobden, Technical Officer for Working Conditions of Domestic Work, ILO.

Watch the video.
Listen to the podcast.

Capacity Building for Global Action to Achieve Agenda 2030

23 November, Geneva In September 2015, heads of state adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious set of goals that will change the global approach to development. However, many countries will need to increase their capacity before they can engage effectively and benefit from the Sustainable Development Goals, At this event organized the the UN Library in Geneva, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd spoke on a panel of UN experts in training and research, and member state representatives, that looked at the capacity needed to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and what the UN is planning to do in terms of research and the design of tools to help countries generate this capacity.


Making the SDGs Transformational: UNRISD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Paul Ladd This is the first in a Series of blogs by UNRISD Director Paul Ladd, called Through the Social Lens. In the Series, Paul will share his reflections on current issues in development and how UNRISD's work ties in to these concerns.

UNRISD's new director Paul Ladd reflects on what it means to work on social development at this point in history and the contribution that UNRISD can make to the Sustainable Development Goals. While the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will clearly not solve all the world’s problems in 15 years, it offers a recommitment to a form of balanced, equitable and sustainable development that has been elusive through our ages of industrialization and globalization. Through its three research programmes—social policy, gender and development, and the social dimensions of sustainable development—UNRISD intends to make a critical contribution to debates on which policies and institutions, in which contexts, will make the most progress towards achieving the SDGs. That is, which policies could have the most transformational benefits for real people, in all parts of the world.

The Paris Agreement: Landmark or COP-out?

Dunja Krause As 2015 draws to an end, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—COP21 in short—this year marks the concluding milestone in a series of potentially game-changing international agreements aimed at transforming our world towards sustainability. UNRISD Associate Expert Dunja Krause looks at why it is critical, its links with social development and how UNRISD work relates to it.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Taking Stock of Progress on Gender Equality since the Beijing Platform for Action

Andrea Kaufmann and Valeria Esquivel This think piece, which concludes the series "Let’s Talk about Women’s Rights: 20 Years after the Beijing Platform for Action", brings together some of the main strands of argument covered by 16 feminist thinkers reflecting on the advancements and challenges in gender equality and women’s rights since 1995. They show that there have been successes: legal frameworks for the defense of women’s rights have been created and improved, and there has been progress in our efforts to combat violence against women—especially in conflict contexts and the world of work. However, we still face rigid gender stereotypes in society and institutions, lack of funding for activism, and conservative forces coupled with a lack of political will to work for further progress. Now more than ever we need to rise to the challenge to realize women’s rights.

Delivering Social Protection Systems for All: Why Taxes Matter

Francesca Bastagli Social protection and taxation feature prominently as key policy instruments available to governments in the pursuit of development goals in both the Financing for Development Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. This renewed interest in social protection and tax presents a vital opportunity to promote the closer consideration of the links between the two and the ways in which they operate jointly to shape development outcomes.

The Invisible Player: Social and Solidarity Finance for Financing for Development

Marie-Adélaïde Matheï The debates at the 2015 International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa focused on macro gaps in development funding, and on the private sector as a provider of solutions. But this approach overlooked two fundamental players: social and solidarity economy and social and solidarity finance. This think piece suggests that involving users in the management of financial resources and targeting funds towards sustainable activities leads the way to more sustainable finance conducive to socially sustainable development.

Shifting Responsibilities without Changing the Balance of Power: What Chance of Equality with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda?

Nicole Bidegain Ponte, Marina Durano and Corina Rodríguez Enríquez The global development financing framework has shifted in emphasis since the 2002 Monterrey Consensus in three ways. First, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) of the Third Conference on Financing for Development moves away from a more balanced sharing of responsibilities between developed and developing countries in the international financial architecture. Second, the document reflects a clear endorsement of the private sector as a privileged development actor. Third, the AAAA takes an instrumentalist view of women’s human rights. As a result, the Conference failed to remove global obstacles to development and to provide the structural conditions and means to move toward sustainable and equitable development patterns and the full realization of human rights, particularly women’s rights. However, the AAAA offers possibilities for continued engagement through the establishment of an FfD follow-up mechanism as a space to redefine the balance of power and negotiate proposals to overcome the regressive trends and reshape the agenda.


Claiming Their Rights: How Women's Movements Mobilize for Policy Change

In this UNRISD Seminar, External Project Coordinator Nitya Rao looked at how women trigger policy change and how they succeed in ensuring their issues get onto policy agendas. She was joined by discussants Ismat Jahan, CEDAW Committee member and Ambassador of Bangladesh to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg; and Claire Hobden, Technical Officer for Working Conditions of Domestic Work, ILO. The seminar was based on the research findings from the UNRISD research project When and Why do States Respond to Women's Claims? Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Asia.

Watch the video.
Listen to the podcast.

Addressing Multiple Forms of Migrant Precarity – Beyond “Management” of Migration to an Integrated Rights-Based Approach

At this workshop, hosted jointly by UNRISD and Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), researchers from an international consortium presented their findings from a recently concluded study of migrant precarity, looking in particular at the linkages between migration and social protection from a rights perspective.

Watch the video of the interactive panel discussion with international policy makers and practitioners from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Listen to the podcast.

Overcoming Exclusion, Promoting Rights: Challenges and Opportunities in Social Protection

The launch of the Social Protection and Human Rights platform took place in September with two events: an official side event at the Human Rights Council, co-organized with the International Labour Organization and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and a full-day workshop, co-organized with the ILO. The first set of videos, based on footage from the Side Event, is now available. Speakers include Katja Hujo, Isabel Ortiz, Christian Courtis, Maya Takagi, Andrés Scagliola, Valeria Esquivel, Facundo Chavez Penillas, Priti Darooka and Christina Behrendt. A second set of videos, based on the full-day workshop, is to follow.

Access the playlist.


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