Message from Sarah Cook, UNRISD Contributions to Beijing+20, New Papers, Vacancies: Issue no. 22 January 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.


Welcome to the first issue of the UNRISD eBulletin for 2015.

The year at UNRISD has started at a rapid tempo. An intellectually exciting first research workshop was held in mid-January on our project "New Directions in Social Policy". This brought together research partners from around the world, exploring the changing nature of social policies, particularly in large emerging economies and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. A particular focus was on the methodological challenges of analysing the new social policies and their outcomes in these contexts, stimulating constructive debate on how to move beyond current trends for measuring individual programme impacts in order to examine critical interlinkages or complementarities—for example, between health, education and income transfers, or between social protection and labour market interventions.

The coming year will offer many new events and outputs: things to watch out for in 2015 include the launch of the UNRISD Classics in April—a project initiated as part of our 50th Anniversary—as well as the publication and launch of volumes on Social and Solidarity Economy, Universalizing Health, and Developmental Pathways to Poverty Reduction.

This year’s UN calendar is dominated by a line-up of global events linked to the post-2015 global development agenda. Watch out for UNRISD at a range of these, including the Commission for Social Development, Commission on the Status of Women, Human Rights Commission, International Conference on Financing for Development, Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and in the run-up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

For those in Geneva, organizing our regular seminars and events has become more challenging due to the loss of our Reference Centre—the meeting room which served as the heart of so many UNRISD events and a seedbed for many ideas that have shaped progressive social change. We hope nonetheless to see many of you in person—at UNRISD and at our events—during 2015, and that many more of you will remain engaged through various virtual media.

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to announce that I will be stepping down as Director during 2015. I have had a remarkable five years at UNRISD, during which I have come to appreciate profoundly the extraordinary nature of this small institute, and the very large role it plays in generating ideas, where necessary challenging policies and practice, and framing alternatives, to ensure social justice concerns remain prominent in the global development debate. I will remain at UNRISD until June, and the search for a new Director will begin promptly. I look forward to engaging with you during this period of transition and thank you for your continued support to UNRISD.


Turning the Page: Sarah Cook to Step Down as UNRISD Director

After five years in Geneva, Sarah Cook has announced that she will step down as Director of UNRISD with effect from 1 June 2015. Sarah’s stewardship of UNRISD leaves a rich research legacy. An indefatigable networker committed to raising UNRISD’s profile, Sarah also strongly advocated greater emphasis on communications and outreach, with visible and recognized results. The formal recruitment process to fill the director position at UNRISD will be initiated as soon as possible. The position offers an exciting opportunity to initiate global research programmes, influence international policy dialogue, and work with government and civil society organizations to realize shared development goals.

Beijing+20: UNRISD’s Contributions to the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration

The United Nations is marking 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains an ambitious agenda for women’s rights. While there have been improvements in many areas, women’s rights still have a long way to go. Beijing+20 is an opportunity to reflect on the Declaration and its impact in the context of the post-2015 agenda and to reinforce the commitment to fully and universally achieve women’s rights. UNRISD will contribute to the Beijing+20 process with two initiatives: a think piece series and a side event at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York (see article under Upcoming Events below).

Distinguished Group of Advisors for "Linking Social Protection and Human Rights" Platform

An Advisory Group has been appointed to support the interdisciplinary initiative, Linking Social Protection and Human Rights, and met for the first time on 23 January. The Advisory Group comprises 12 experts from around the world and from various disciplines and backgrounds and will provide strategic and substantive guidance to the ongoing development of the platform.



Do Policies for Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Deliver What They Promise? Social Gains and Repercussions in Iran, Indonesia and Ghana
Eirik S. Lindebjerg, Wei Peng and Stephen Yeboah Fossil fuel subsidies reform has been intensively debated and promoted as a concrete step towards sustainable development, with anticipated benefits of reduced carbon emissions, saved public spending and improved social distribution. But does this "triple-win" policy deliver what it promises? This paper focuses on the social "win"—the social and distributional gains of the energy subsidies reform.

Post-Conflict Reconciliation and Development in Nicaragua: The Role of Cooperatives and Collective Action
Peter Utting, Amalia Chamorro and Christopher Bacon This paper examines how cooperatives affected and were affected by the profound political, economic and social transitions in Nicaragua in recent decades. It pays particular attention to the shift from the post-revolutionary Sandinista regime of the 1980s to the neoliberal regime of the 1990s and early 2000s. It analyses the events in Nicaragua to draw wider lessons for post-conflict reconciliation and development.

Papers: Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization

State-Business Relations and the Financing of the Welfare State in Argentina and Chile: Challenges and Prospects
Jamee Moudud, Esteban Pérez Caldentey and Enrique Delamonica This paper examines the ways in which taxation, social and labour policies in Argentina and Chile have been shaped by state-business relations and capital-labour relations in a context where business organizations/associations have different degrees of cohesiveness through time.

From Consensus to Contention: Changing Revenue and Policy Dynamics in Uganda
Anne Mette Kjær and Marianne S. Ulriksen This paper examines the processes and mechanisms that connect the politics of resource mobilization and demands for social provision, and how changes in state-citizen and donor-recipient relations are associated with resource mobilization and allocation. It examines the changing relationships between the government of Uganda and donors, and between the government and its citizens, as taxpayers, electorates and as represented by civil society. The paper explores how these changing relationships have affected the prioritization of social programmes.

Papers: Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies

Political and Institutional Drivers of Social Security Universalization in Brazil
Marcus André Melo This paper discusses the political and institutional factors that shaped the emergence and consolidation of a universal health system (SUS) in Brazil after the transition to democracy in the late 1980s. It argues that a combination of political incentives and political, fiscal and institutional capacities have been at the root of the process of creating such a system.

India’s Fragmented Social Protection System: Three Rights Are in Place; Two Are Still Missing
Santosh Mehrotra, Neha Kumra and Ankita Gandhi In India, 22 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and 93 per cent is employed informally. Although India’s welfare system has increasingly moved towards a rights-based approach, both the country’s social insurance system and its public health system remain limited in coverage and fragmented in character. This paper discusses the key role of civil society mobilization and political support that has led to the implementation of the principles of the Right to Work, the Right to Education and the Right to Food in India, and argues for a universal health care system.

The Drivers of Universal Health Care in South Africa: The Role of Ideas, Institutions and Actors
Rebecca Surender This paper outlines the opportunities and challenges posed by the proposed national health insurance (NHI) reforms in South Africa. It explains the country’s current two-tiered system of health care provision, its deficits and limitations, and discusses what NHI is trying to achieve within this context and how it hopes to address the problems. The paper also examines the political and institutional challenges the reforms will face, and the actors involved.

The Impacts of Universalization: A Case Study on Thailand's Social Protection and Universal Health Coverage
Prapaporn Tivayanond and Piya Hanvoravongchai This paper examines the 30 Baht health policy in Thailand in order to analyse the policy process and identify key drivers for the universalization of health care in the country. It reviews the trends of social security extension and examines the policy and institutional linkages between health care, economic policies and social protection more generally.

Social Policy in Venezuela: Bucking Neoliberalism or Unsustainable Clientelism
Julia Buxton This paper highlights the institutions, actors and processes that have driven social policy provision and health care in Venezuela during distinct political periods.The study reveals the significant challenge of peacefully addressing the political roots of social inequality and the obstacles that can be posed to improving access to health and social development by conservative opponents and vested interests, including in the trade union movement and nominally social democratic parties.

Universal Health Coverage: The Case of China
William Hsiao, Mingqiang Li and Shufang Zhang In less than a decade, China transformed its health care system in order to provide basic universal health coverage (UHC). This paper looks at how this transformation took place and the impacts of the policy changes. It summarizes the impacts of in terms of equitable access to health care, its quality and affordability, health outcomes and financial risk protection from high medical expenses. Although UHC was a great achievement, stark disparities remain between urban and rural residents, along with high health expenditure inflation rates arising from inefficiency and waste in the health care system.

Expanding Social Security in Indonesia: The Processes and Challenges
Asep Yadi Suryahadi, Vita Febriany and Athia Yumna Social security provision in Indonesia has evolved from very little in its early years, to the privilege of formal sector workers during the New Order period, to universal coverage, at least in principle, in the current period. This paper looks at this evolution and the nature of social security provision, and the challenges that still face its implementation.


Side Event on Reducing Inequalities at the Commission for Social Development

6 February 2015, New York UNRISD and UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme are co-organizing a side event, "Reducing Inequalities: A Key to Social Development in the Contemporary World", at the Commission for Social Development. Speakers include Betty Tola, Minister of Economic and Social Inclusion, Ecuador; Lynne Healey, Representative of the International Association of the Schools of Social Work to the UN; and representatives from the International Council on Social Welfare, UNESCO, UN-DESA and UNRISD.

Reinventing Social Contracts: Feminists, Rights and Power

20 February 2015, Geneva The social contracts of the 20th century face myriad challenges today, and civil society, grassroots organizations and social movements are calling for new social contracts, challenging the underlying power relationships and the intersections between them. At this panel discussion, Gita Sen, Roberto Bissio and Valeria Esquivel will speak about the role of feminist movements in the remaking of social contracts. They will help 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. This UNRISD seminar is co-hosted with the UN Library in Geneva.

20 Years of Women’s Mobilization after Beijing: How Can Women’s Movements Effectively Mobilize for Policy Change?

10 March 2015, New York Twenty years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, where the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted, progress on women's rights has been uneven. Some issues are at the forefront of advocates of women's rights and policy makers, while others are ignored. In this context, it is particularly important to understand the process of women's claims making. To contribute to the discussion, UNRISD and the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation are co-organizing a side event at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York.


Engaging with the Global South…in Geneva

8 December 2014, Geneva UNRISD organized a Breakfast Meeting with country representatives from the global South. The 14 participants included Ambassadors, Deputy Ambassadors and senior representatives of the Permanent Missions in Geneva, who devoted two hours to getting to know UNRISD and exploring priorities and potential for future collaboration. The consultation also contributed valuable insights for the design of our new research agenda.

Scope for Further Research on Gender and Climate Change in Chinese Drylands

16 December 2014, Beijing At a recent workshop organized by UNRISD and the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, discussions on the gendered impacts of climate change in Chinese dryland areas covered a range of topics from environmental impacts on livelihoods, land and property rights, food and water security, income and labour, health and education, and climate change adaptation. Participants noted that a lack of both qualitative and quantitative information on gender dimensions of these issues was a particular challenge for influencing policy, and called for further research. The workshop and related scoping study were funded by the Ford Foundation’s Beijing Office.

New Directions in Social Policy Project: Methodology Workshop in Geneva

15-16 January, Geneva In order to understand the nature of changes in social policy in developing countries in the midst of widespread economic crisis and uncertainty, UNRISD is undertaking a three-year research project New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South. Five country and two regional cases have been selected for in-depth research. To build a coherent basis for the diverse teams to work from, a methodological workshop was held in Geneva on 15-16 January 2015. The purpose of the workshop was to support the country and regional research teams as they further develop their research plans. For a more detailed account of the meeting, click here.


A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens

It's been 800 years since the Magna Carta; the time has come for a charter for the precariat, according to Guy Standing. In this seminar, he discussed how rights—political, civil, social, cultural and economic—have been denied to the precariat, and explained how it is moving from “dangerous class” to “class-for-itself”. He then considered the kind of progressive politics that might form the vision of a Good Society in which inequality, and the instability it produces, is reduced.

The video and podcast of the seminar are now available.
Watch the video.
Listen to the podcast.

Pascal van Griethuysen Interviewed on Social and Solidarity Economy

UNRISD Research Coordinator Pascal van Griethuysen was interviewed on Inside Out, a radio programme braodcast in Seoul in November 2014, on social and solidarity economy (SSE). He explained why SSE has become so important, especially in a time of crises, discussed some criticisms against it and cited examples of places where SSE is successfully practiced. He also spoke about UNRISD's work.

Listen to the podcast.

Teaser Video for New Directions in Social Policy

"If we can't say it in five lines, we're not saying it" is how Smita Srinivas, TCLab Director and Faculty member at Columbia University, summarized the importance of effectively communicating policy-relevant research at the methodology workshop for the New Directions in Social Policy project (see Recent Events above). A video explaining what the project is, and how it is engaging with the global South, is now in the making and will be online soon. In the meantime, we've released this teaser video.


Vacancy Announcement: Development Communications Consultant, with a focus on Social Protection and Human Rights

Closing soon! We are looking for a Development Communications Consultant to strengthen our team. The new consultant will support communications of UNRISD research and will manage and coordinate the web-based platform "Linking Social Protection and Human Rights", as it transitions and establishes as a standalone digital property. For details, please consult the vacancy notice. Closing date: 31 January 2015.

Vacancy: Research Analyst: Social Policy for Inclusive Development

We are looking for a Research Analyst to join our team on Social Policy for Inclusive Development. The Research Analyst will bring excellent research and communications skills to her/his work on ongoing projects, including New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South, Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies, as well as to the development and implementation of a new project titled When Security Meets Social Security: Social Policy in Post-Conflict Settings. For details, please consult the vacancy notice. Closing date: 8 March 2015.

Vacancy: Internship: Social Policy for Inclusive Development

We are looking to fill a three-month internship position to assist with the projects New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South, Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies, and with the development and implementation of a new project titled When Security Meets Social Security: Social Policy in Post-Conflict Settings. For details, please consult the vacancy notice. Closing date: 8 March 2015.

Call for Expressions of Interest for Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization in Zimbabwe

We are inviting expressions of interest to write policy-relevant scholarly papers on the political economy of taxation and fiscal governance in Zimbabwe. Researchers should have extensive expertise on Zimbabwe, either on taxation or social policy, and ideally be based in the country. This call is part of the UNRISD project Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization for Social Development. Deadline: 15 February 2015.


All that Glitters...Why Growth and Development Aren't the Same Thing

Esuna Dugarova In this piece, originally published on the Guardian's Global Development Professionals Network pages, UNRISD researcher Esuna Dugarova looks at the importance of social policy in the post-2015 development agenda. Market-centred development strategies don’t necessarily lead to sustainable, equitable outcomes, economic growth doesn’t automatically translate into decent work, and social inclusion can’t be achieved without proper participatory mechanisms.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

Yvonne Theemann The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors was created in the wake of the International Labour Organization’s adoption of Recommendation 202 in June 2012.This network today includes over 80 NGOs and trade unions from all parts of the world, committed to join forces for one single goal: to achieve social protection for everyone.This think piece reviews the forming of the Coalition, its membership and mission.

Banner photo: Les Haines (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)


United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: ++41 (0)22 917 3020

If you no longer wish to receive our UNRISD eBulletin, please click here to update your myUNRISD profile

Follow Us
YouTube Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Scribd