Building and Delivering Southern Knowledge, Strengthening Sustainable Development. Issue 46 May 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.


The term “knowledge economy” has been used since the 1960s, but the digital age, rapid technological development and the now ubiquitous access to information have accelerated its relevance. Low- and middle-income countries risk being left behind in the drive for sustainable development if they are not able to participate fully in the global knowledge economy.

UNRISD is playing a role in averting this risk. We place support for scholars and knowledge exchange in the global South at the very heart of what we do, because those who are closest to development challenges have a rich supply of knowledge to bring to their solutions. For example, UNRISD is helping to build the capacity of African scholars and fostering knowledge exchange across the continent as a co-host of the Social Policy in Africa Conference, together with CODESRIA and the South African Research Chair in Social Policy at the University of South Africa. UNRISD is also facilitating the exchange of expertise on climate justice through our work with partners from policy and practice in Indonesia and Viet Nam. And we are bringing Southern knowledge to the global stage by convening speakers from Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal and Uganda, among others, at two major international conferences on social and solidarity economy taking place in June.

There’s more in this eBulletin of course, including our participation in the UN’s High-Level Political Forum in New York, where the international community convenes to assess progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, now four years into their term. We hope you enjoy finding out more about that and our other activities until we’re back with our next update in about two months’ time.


Call for Papers. Governance of Africa’s Social Policy: Subverting Development and Democracy?

The 2019 edition of the Social Policy in Africa Conference, of which UNRISD is a co-organizer, is seeking abstracts on a wide range of issues in the sphere of inclusive development in Africa—from the different national and regional modes of governance of the African social policy space, to the drivers of policy preferences and the dynamics of social policy making, to the nature of politics and the public sphere necessary for economic transformation, human flourishing, and new forms of social compact in 21st century Africa. Access the full call for papers here, and submit your abstract by 30 August 2019.

New Climate Justice Research: Phase II of the Just Transition Research Collaborative

Thanks to the success of Phase I, the Just Transition Research Collaborative is going from strength to strength, having garnered additional funding from the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. In Phase II of the project researchers will be focusing on urban approaches to just transition, exploring the role of cities in implementing progressive and transformative just transition strategies and plans. Building on the theoretical framework and assessment from Phase I, the project collects new empirical evidence and stories from several cities, and fosters exchange of experience and mutual learning on the role of cities in just transition. The research contributes a better understanding of the potential of city-level just transition policies and frameworks to influence higher level policy change and climate justice.

More New Climate Justice Research: Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities

Building on initial work on transformative adaptation carried out in 2018, this project delves deeper into adaptation decision-making processes and barriers to transformative solutions in the case studies of Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, and Jakarta, Indonesia, in order to inform more progressive policy making in the context of Southeast Asian coastal cities. The project will convene an expert workshop and produce two case study papers as well as a synthesis report in time for the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference, COP25. A second phase is envisaged for 2020 in order to expand the case study research and organize local stakeholder workshops to discuss findings and policy recommendations. We'll keep you informed as this project develops.

UNRISD Research Strengthening the Capacity of African Governments to Achieve the SDGs

Ilcheong Yi, a Senior Research Coordinator at UNRISD, was invited back as a resource person to the UN Office for Sustainable Development’s annual Executive Training Course for Policymakers on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on 20 to 24 May 2019. The course brought together high- and middle-ranked civil servants from 54 low- and middle-income countries mandated with leading their governments’ implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. As a contributor to this capacity building measure, UNRISD is ensuring that quality research results are informing efforts at the national level to leave no one behind.


Inequality and The 1%: Is a Transformative Fiscal Policy Possible?

UNRISD is proud to announce that it will co-host, with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a parallel event at the High-Level Political Forum, the UN's follow-up mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing research and agenda-setting capacity to the heart of international policy making. Taking place on 10 July in New York, the event will allow HLPF participants to gain a better understanding of the key drivers and consequences of inequitable and ineffective tax systems, from global to local levels. They will be exposed to new empirical evidence and concrete experiences of different actors and countries that have implemented and funded equality-enhancing policies (policies to combat both vertical and horizontal inequality), and will come away with insights into the political strategies that can be mobilized to move towards a new fiscal compact for sustainable development.

Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy? International Conference

A focus on combining social, environmental and economic aims is common to both the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So what do we know about how well SSE is contributing to the SDGs? This exciting, multi-stakeholder conference will explore this question with a plethora of evidence- and experience-rich contributions from SSE practitioners, researchers, civil society organizations and UN agencies.

This event, organized by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (UNTFSSE), is part of a series of conferences resulting from the Call for Papers "Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?" which was launched by the UNTFSSE in 2018 and organized by UNRISD.

Leaving No One Behind: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?

How can the social and solidarity economy (SSE) effectively contribute to the integration of those left behind by declining social assistance and create solidarity for vulnerable groups, such as unemployed native-born people, migrants and refugees? This roundtable discussion, taking place in Geneva on 24 June, will provide insights into these questions based on ongoing research in the specific cases of Geneva (Switzerland), Bergamo (Italy) and Heraklion (Greece), as well as more broadly. Speakers include researchers from the project Protecting Vulnerable Urban Groups in Contentious Times: The Role of SSE, experts from the ILO and from academia.

This is the opening event for the UNTFSSE Conference Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Social and Solidarity Economy?

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 was 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. You can still catch any sessions you missed on Facebook Live! (just scroll down to "All Videos").

The conference is the first international gathering convened under a new UNRISD project, Sustainable Development Performance Indicators. This four-year project aims to contribute to the measurement and evaluation of the performance of a broad range of economic entities—both in the for-profit sector and in the social and solidarity economy—in relation to the vision and goals of the 2030 Agenda, by ensuring that contextual factors and social dimensions receive appropriate consideration.

Social Dimensions of Climate Change: Two Workshops Ahead

With two new projects under way, our Social Dimensions of Climate Change team is going on tour with two kick-off workshops in June:
  • Cities in Transition—Urban Struggles for Just Transition(s): 14-15 June, Berlin
    Building on the existing Just Transition Research Collaborative network, the workshop will bring together a select group of experts of just transition and cities/urban sustainability research to discuss the potential and limitations of cities driving the just transition to low-carbon development. It will also serve to organize the JTRC’s upcoming in-depth case studies.
  • Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities: 23-24 June, Bonn
    A group of 8-10 selected adaptation experts from Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, and Jakarta, Indonesia, will come together at the workshop in order to discuss limits, barriers and opportunities for transformative change in the two cities and foster mutual learning and understanding of the challenges and possibilities for transformative adaptation in these specific contexts.

Transforming Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities

In conjunction with the project workshop in Bonn (mentioned above), a public seminar will be held on 24 June at which speakers will discuss issues of land rights and informality that shape uneven vulnerability to climate change in coastal zones, and highlight the need for more integrated and transformative approaches to adaptation, based on examples from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Jakarta, Indonesia. Register to attend by emailing dunja [dot] krause [at] un [dot] org. The seminar is held in conjunction with Bonn University's Center for Development Research (ZEF) and the Rosa-Luxemburg Stiftung.


L’Economie Sociale et Solidaire pour les Objectifs de développement durable: Panorama de l'économie sociale à Séoul

Ce rapport étudie l’économie sociale (ES) à Séoul, en République de Corée, et sa contribution à la mise en œuvre et, en définitive, à la réalisation « localisée » des Objectifs de développement durable (ODD) de la ville. Caractérisée par un développement rapide de politiques proactives en faveur de l’ES, une croissance spectaculaire des organisations et des entreprises de l’ES, et le ferme engagement du gouvernement métropolitain de Séoul envers les ODD, l'expérience de cette ville offre une occasion précieuse d'enrichir la compréhension de l'économie sociale et solidaire comme moyen de mise en œuvre des ODD. Il s'agit de la première étude de cas d'une série de projets de recherche sur l'ESS et les objectifs de développement durable que l'UNRISD envisage d'entreprendre. 

This is the French version of Social and Solidarity Economy for the Sustainable Development Goals: Spotlight on the Social Economy in Seoul.

The Political Economy of Domestic Resource Mobilization in Nicaragua. Changing State-Citizen Relations and Social Development

Gloria Carrión
Although Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America, it is possible to identify distinct political periods associated with different strategies and outcomes regarding both social spending and mobilization of fiscal revenues. This paper is the final synthesis of research carried out in Nicaragua for the project Political of Domestic Resource Mobilization for Social Development. According to the research, increased and expanded social policy spending has occured when there has been effective bargaining and inclusive participation of civil society in social policy making and spending; the state has managed to prevent elite capture of resources; and civil society has successfully mobilized and negotiated with the state regarding the distribution of revenues from extractive industries.

Articles by UNRISD staff

Katja Hujo. 2019. A global social contract: New steps towards a rights-based approach to migration governance? Global Social Policy, published online 16 May 2019.

Katja Hujo. 2019. "Response to Martin Seeleib-Kaiser: Migration, social policy and power in historical perspective." Global Social Policy, published online 13 March 2019.

Based on an UNRISD Research and Policy Brief

Nicola Yeates. 2019. Mobilising regional social governance and policy for the SDGs. Global Social Policy, published online 19 May 2019.

Article by UNRISD Senior Research Associate

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona. 2019. Data Protection is Social Protection. Project Syndicate, 16 April 2019.


Acciones para enfrentar la crisis global de aprendizajes en México: El caso de la Medición Independiente de Aprendizajes (MIA)

Felipe J. Hevia and Samana Vergara-Lope En zonas rurales y urbanas marginales del sureste de México se están desarrollando innovaciones educativas por parte de una alianza de organizaciones civiles y académicas denominada Medición Independiente de Aprendizajes—MIA. Su objetivo es mejorar los aprendizajes básicos y reducir las brechas de desigualdad educativa a través de la participación comunitaria. Los resultados obtenidos sugieren efectos positivos en Lectura y Matemáticas, y alta motivación de voluntarios, tutores y de los propios niños y niñas. Este modelo permite que la participación comunitaria genere cambios significativos en las desigualdades educativas. La simpleza y sistematicidad de sus procesos permiten su reproducción en diversas regiones de América Latina y el Caribe.

Part of the think piece series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.

Shrinking Opportunities: Social Mobility and Widening Inequality in Viet Nam

Andrew Wells-Dang and Vu Thi Quynh Hoa Rising inequality is threatening Viet Nam’s continued socio-economic development. Young people have fewer opportunities for higher earnings and improved social status than a decade ago. These trends make it harder for Vietnam to meet its commitments to achieve the SDGs and stand in contrast with its past experiences of inclusive growth. Our research shows how social mobility can provide a window into understanding mechanisms of inequality, especially among youth and disadvantaged social groups such as ethnic minorities. For many young people, industrial-led development is not delivering on expectations of greater social mobility.

Part of the think piece series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization.


Global Inequalities and Unsustainability - A Conversation with Lucas Chancel

We were honoured to welcome Lucas Chancel, Co-Director of the World Inequality Lab and of at the Paris Scool of Economics, to present new empirical research findings on global economic and environmental inequalities. Watch the Facebook live video to find out more about the close link between social and environmental (in)justice, and policy options that can address the unsustainability of economic inequality.

ICYMI: Quality Inequality Viewing

Lucas Chancel's presentation was the beginning of a series of conversations picking up where our conference Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization, held in Geneva in November, left off. In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are two of the highlights from that conference:


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