Issue No. 2 September 2010
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


UNRISD Launches Flagship Report on Poverty Reduction

UNRISD launched its flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics on 3 September in the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

The report highlights the multiple and complex processes involved in sustainably reducing poverty and inequality, and lays out a range of policies and institutional measures that can be adopted by countries to achieve this goal.

“It is our sincere hope that world leaders can take stock of these original insights and fresh policy initiatives to deliver on their commitment to development, and in particular, the Millennium Development Goals,” UNOG’s Director General Sergei Ordzhonikidze said of the publication.

Following introductory remarks by the heads of both UNOG and UNRISD, the report’s lead author, Yusuf Bangura, explained that strategies focusing solely on economic growth neglect other factors that may cause poverty. According to Bangura, “current approaches to poverty tend to focus on things poor people lack rather than why they lack them. But when a large proportion of a country’s population is poor, it doesn’t make sense to detach poverty from the dynamics of economic growth and development.”

Establishing a universal system which would integrate the poor socially, economically and politically within a global civil society—by granting rights, access to employment and political power—was presented as a key objective at the conference. Bangura said that the crucial messages of the report emphasized “the importance of employment-centred growth and structural change, comprehensive social policies that lean towards universalism, the imperative of tackling inequalities, the importance of effective states and politics, and the need to address synergies and complementarities among institutions and policies”.

UNRISD’s present and former directors emphasized the Institute’s vital role in the UN system. “UNRISD was uniquely positioned to undertake such an inquiry, given what are perhaps its two greatest assets: first, its autonomous status as an independent research institute within the UN system, and second, its exceptional capacity to mobilize researchers in universities and other centres around the world in order to collectively focus on such issues of common global concern,” said Sarah Cook, Director of UNRISD.

Thandika Mkandawire—a former director of the Institute and current Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics—said the report showed “the importance of institutions like UNRISD within the UN system, that the UN system does need space for reflection and for long-term thinking about its agenda”.

The UNRISD report on poverty is the result of five years of “cutting edge and forward-looking research”, as Ordzhonikidze describes it, and offers, according to Bangura, alternative perspectives and strategies on reducing poverty and inequality “to accelerate progress in achieving those [Millennium Development] goals and other social development objectives”.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the need to consider whether measures of poverty were adequate. “We should,” he said, “really think about what we have been doing to address poverty, whether these policies and programmes are the best we are capable of. … These are very important questions that I think you have raised in your report.”

Vicente Paolo Yu, head of the South Centre’s Global Governance for Development Programme, and Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, also participated in the event, as did numerous other scholars.

Kyung-wha Kang drew attention to the fact that “development and poverty eradication must be rooted in human rights. … This very important UNRISD report shares this perspective and underscores that poverty is not confined only to economic deprivation but extends to social, cultural and political deprivation as well”.

Meanwhile, Vicente Yu said “the report was a model of clarity in identifying both the failure in current approaches to development and poverty reduction and in identifying elements that need to be addressed in order to achieve a development pattern that is economically sustainable and socially inclusive”.

Other events around the Flagship Report

Ten Years of War Against Poverty: What We Have Learned Since 2000 and What We Should Do 2010–2020
The Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) held an international conference on 9 September in Manchester, United Kingdom, to mark ten years of poverty research by the centre, where UNRISD Director Sarah Cook presented the flagship report. In his OpenDemocracy blog, Michael Edwards said that ideas on poverty reduction that had been ignored over the past few decades have begun to resurface. He said of the report from UNRISD, “Citing the need to re-distribute resources so that poverty and inequality are attacked together, institutionalize human rights in every area of life, and focus on the quality of economic growth and employment and not just the amounts of these things, it’s a report that draws heavily from recent history but that also re-surfaces some deeper questions about what the ‘East Asian Miracle’ left out.”

United Nations Headquarters Presentation of Combating Poverty and Inequality

In New York on 17 September, UNRISD will present the flagship report at an event called Three Recent Reports on Poverty: Presentation and Discussion. Convened by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), UNRISD and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), the event is linked to the MDG Summit and the High-Level Plenary Meeting of the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations.

The event is a forum to disseminate and discuss the findings and key messages of the three most current global reports on poverty: the UNRISD Flagship Report 2010 on Combating Poverty and Inequality; DESA’s report on Rethinking Poverty: Report on the World Social Situation 2010; and the CPRC’s Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09.

The flagship report will also be presented at:
· International Poverty Reduction Center in Beijing, China: 17–18 October
· UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand: 25 October
· UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut, Lebanon: 11–12 November


Reconstituting the global economic regime to protect the poor and promote equitable development

Over the past year, the G20 has become a focal point for global discussion and policy making on the world’s economic architecture. Various recent crises—financial, food and climate change—have shown that the current situation is clearly untenable. But how should the global economic regime be reconstituted to protect the poorest and promote economic and social development to make the world more equitable in the context of today’s multiple crises? To contribute to this discussion, UNRISD and Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration will be holding a conference in the Republic of Korea’s capital on 21–22 October. The Development Forum for the G20 will address policy challenges to economic and social development in the context of today’s global crises. It will explore different policy solutions, in local terms, to provide stakeholders with ideas on how to restructure global economic governance and the development framework. It will also discuss the assorted paths to economic and social development and demonstrate how they respond to multiple crises.

Meeting between the ILO and IMF calls for job creation in response to crisis

UNRISD Director, Sarah Cook, participated in a historic meeting between the International Labour Organization and the International Monetary Fund in Oslo on 13 September. The heads of both agencies called for a jobs-focused policy response to the global economic crisis. According to the ILO, the number of unemployed has increased worldwide by more than 30 million since 2007.

The IMF and ILO agreed to work together on policy development in two specific areas: a social protection floor for people living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, within the context of a medium- to long-term framework of sustainable macroeconomic policies and strategies for development; and policies to promote employment-creating growth. The two agencies also discussed the importance of effective social dialogue to build consensus needed to deal with the challenges from the recent economic crisis and ensure that its social consequences are taken fully into account.

Social development must take issues of care provision into account

Addressing inequalities in care provision in order to support social development is vital, according to UNRISD Research Coordinator Shahra Razavi, who delivered the keynote address, Rethinking Care in a Development Context, at the University of Johannesburg as part of the Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture on 14 September. While women perform the bulk of unpaid care work across all economies and cultures, this work remains undervalued and is unaccounted for in labour force surveys and GDP. Razavi’s talk focused on the importance and impact of care on both the social and economic spheres, drawing on country-specific research.

Razavi said, “Far from being a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ issue around which everyone can rally, the issue of care is deeply contentious, and women’s movements need to play a much more proactive role in bringing care out of the private realm and making it an issue for public debate. They need to advocate…in favour of public support for both paid and unpaid forms of care-giving and ensure that the costs of providing care are more evenly distributed among all members of society.”

Scholars as well as political and social activists took part in the presentation.

Progress in gender equality should be qualified in the light of continuing inequalities

Considerable progress has been achieved in gender equality, according to UNRISD Research Coordinator Shahra Razavi, who spoke at the UNCTAD lecture on Gender in the 21st Century: Looking Backward, Moving Forward that took place on 9 July in Geneva. Razavi warned, however, that progress would have to be qualified by existing gender inequalities. For example, while many more women are in the workforce, many others work in the informal economy and are not covered by social protection programmes. Razavi also challenged the assumption that markets and macroeconomic policies are essentially gender-neutral. She provided examples of successful initiatives that are addressing these issues at the national, regional and international levels. Elisabeth Prügl, professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, shared her ideas on the future direction of the contemporary gender agenda, focusing on the developing world. Razavi’s talk was the first of UNCTAD’s Gender Lecture series, which was supported by UNRISD. UNRISD Director Sarah Cook chaired the session.


Ilcheong Yi, Research Coordinator at UNRISD

Ilcheong Yi, from the Republic of Korea, is a Research Coordinator with UNRISD’s programme on Social Policy and Development. He is organizing the Seoul Development Forum in October.

Can you tell us about your background?
I have a PhD in social policy and administration from Oxford University. My interest is in combining social policy with a development studies perspective. I worked on a project on globalization at the Stein Rokkan Centre in Bergen University, focusing on unemployment in Malaysia and the Republic of Korea. This sparked my interest in welfare programmes and social policy in developing countries. I also worked on various international development projects—where I gained a great deal of field experience—when I was teaching at Malaya University and Kyushu University and working as an external expert at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. I believe that field experience is very important for scholars—it helps combine a micro view of the project on the ground with a macro perspective.

Tell us about the Development Forum for the G20 that will take place in Seoul in October.
The G20 is a group of influential countries and is a key player in shaping international financial and trade regimes. The Development Forum for the G20 aims to place social development issues at the heart of the agenda of the G20 summit in Korea later this year. There are several activities planned around the summit: the conference in October, jointly organized by UNRISD and the Korean National University, which will include a televised debate; a forum organized by the Korean government in which Korean civil society will participate; and Civil Dialogue for G20, organized by Global Call to Action Against Poverty. We also set up an online forum in May this year to stimulate debate on the summit.

It is important to emphasize the role of social development to help recover from the economic crisis. And this is the message we should take to the G20. When we speak of social development, what we really mean is “societal development”: that is, the development of societies based on both economic and social development.

How do you see the Development Forum evolving in the future?
I think it is important to engage with the G20 process and provide stakeholders—civil society and both G20 and non–G20 countries—with the information they need so that they can develop an alternative development strategy in the G20 context. UNRISD research can contribute to this: for example, our work on transformative social policy, universalism, and on reducing poverty and inequality. I see the Development Forum as a first step in a long-term process of engagement with the G20.



Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics
Poverty reduction is a central feature of the international development agenda and contemporary poverty reduction strategies increasingly focus on “targeting the poor”, yet poverty and inequality remain intractable foes.

Combating Poverty and Inequality argues that this is because many current approaches to reducing poverty and inequality fail to consider key institutional, policy and political dimensions that may be both the causes of poverty and inequality, and the obstacles to their reduction. Moreover, when a substantial proportion of a country’s population is poor, it makes little sense to detach poverty from the dynamics of development. For countries that have been successful in increasing the well-being of the majority of their populations over relatively short periods of time, the report shows that progress has occurred principally through state-directed strategies that combine economic development objectives with active social policies and forms of politics that elevate the interests of the poor in public policy.

South-South Migration: Implications for Social Policy and Development
Katja Hujo and Nicola Piper (eds.) In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, migration has emerged as one of the central policy challenges of the future, fomenting debates at national and international levels. This book moves beyond the migration-development nexus by exploring the neglected issue of South-South migration and its implications for social policy and development. It examines the linkages and impact of migration on gender and care regimes, human resource flows, remittances, poverty, and political organizations by or for migrants. South-South Migration provides an in-depth analysis illuminating the social policy perspective on global and regional debates on migration.

Time Use Studies and Unpaid Care Work
Debbie Budlender (ed.) Unpaid care work—which is performed mainly by women—is an area that has generally been neglected by economists as well as many development actors. Yet the issue has important implications for the well-being of individuals and households, as well as for economic dynamism and growth. This book examines the variation across seven (mostly developing) countries in patterns of paid and unpaid care, drawing on data from large-scale time use surveys. The book’s conclusion is that responses need to be grounded in an analysis of specific contexts, which in turn strengthens the need for data collection and analysis.

Publications from UNRISD Researchers
Two publications on social protection in Asia have just come out, both edited by Sarah Cook and Naila Kabeer. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has brought out an issue of the IDS Bulletin on social protection. The contributions report on some of the findings from research undertaken under the Social Protection in Asia programme. The research focuses on examining interventions aimed at extending social protection to those sections of the population who are excluded from formal social security systems, and seeks to identify and address barriers to the establishment of more comprehensive social protection systems that could address such difficult-to-reach groups.

The second publication is Social Protection As Development Policy: Asian Perspectives,an edited volume published by Routledge India. The Asian crisis of the late 1990s severely affected some of the most successful economies in the region, placing the issue of social protection high on the regional and international agenda. Subsequently, growth rates revived, but the fruits of growth have not been evenly distributed and inequality has risen. Behind this trend lie deeply entrenched forms of poverty and social exclusion as well as new forms of vulnerability resulting from the liberalization of markets and growing exposure to the global economy.

This volume deals with issues of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion in the Asian context. The articles deal with different groups of vulnerable people, exploring some of the characteristics of vulnerability in different contexts, and reflecting on appropriate policy responses. Collectively, they emphasize a broad-based systemic approach to the problems of vulnerability and insecurity, where social protection needs to be “rescued” from its dominant current conceptualization as a response to risk and crisis, and instead be integrated into the mainstream of development policy.


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