Powering through the Research Cycle. Issue 43 December 2018
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.


It was Albert Einstein who said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving”, and UNRISD has put that advice into practice recently. Over the last two months we have hosted an unprecedented number of events. These opportunities show the best that UNRISD has to offer, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to our mission as well as our convening power.

The events reflected all stages of UNRISD’s policy-engaged research cycle. There were exploratory “horizon-scanning” events on emerging topics of urgent interest to the development community, like blockchain, and on the interlinkages between new technologies and human rights. We had events to kick off new research endeavours and build new networks of scholars and stakeholders from around the world, such as those on inequalities and elites, and on transformative adaptation to climate change. Completing the cycle, we had events designed to bring research results, and sometimes controversial findings, to different communities of practice: our Just Transition(s) report arguing in favour of a socially just, transformative shift to a low-carbon world rubbed shoulders with stakeholders from coal-producing regions at COP24 in Katowice, Poland; and the findings from the Valueworks project provided the basis for thought-provoking discussions between industry representatives, local politicians, campaigners and researchers here in Geneva.

Ending the year on a forward-looking note, for 2019 we are already at work on a series of outputs for scholars, policy makers and practitioners based on the research convened at our major conference, Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization, as well as an exciting range of new research projects, including work on climate change and on sustainable development indicators. As always, we value the opportunities these will provide to engage with you. In the meantime, from all of us at UNRISD: very best wishes for a peaceful and energizing holiday season, and for 2019!


UNRISD at Science-Policy Dialogue on Just Transitions to a Low-Carbon World at UN Climate Conference

UNRISD launched the state-of-the-art report Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World, written by the Just Transition Research Collaborative, at the UN Climate Conference, COP24, which took place in December in Katowice, Poland. The report was presented at three side events that UNRISD was involved in, bringing the social dimension firmly onto the radar of talks - and action - on climate change.

“Inequality is a result of policy choices, it's not an economic inevitability.” Conference Round-Up

Loyal followers of UNRISD will know that all this year we have been building up to a major international conference titled Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization. It finally happened on 7-9 November 2018, and can be considered a resounding success. Find out more here, including links to videos of our high-level speakers Naila Kabeer, Saskia Sassen, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, François Bourguignon and Vandana Shiva, and access the papers here. The next step is to use the insights and network leveraged by the conference to launch a major research project - watch this space!

UNRISD Celebrates 70 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On 10 December 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly. This year the United Nations is celebrating the 70th anniversary of this foundational document for freedom, justice and peace in the world, with among other things a microsite of multimedia contributions from across the UN family. UNRISD participated in this adventure by contributing three videos by an activist, a policy maker and a platform initiator on the right to social security, celebrating Article 22 of the Declaration. Have a look here.

UNRISD Expertise to Strengthen UN Capacity on SDGs at Country Level

UNRISD is officially, through its newly appointed role in the Learning Advisory Council for the 2030 Agenda, part of UN Secretary-General Guterres' strategy to improve the UN's delivery at country level by reinvigorating the Resident Coordinator system. Find out how in this article.

ILO Call for Proposals: Consultant to Write Green Paper on Social Economy in South Africa

Are you an expert in the social economy, particularly in emerging market contexts? Do you have policy drafting experience? Then this consultancy may be for you. The International Labour Office (ILO) and the South Afican Economic Development Department (EDD) are looking for the right individual to draft a Green Paper which will serve as the foundation for extensive consultations and a White Paper on how to enable the ecosystem for the social economy in South Africa. More details can be found here. The deadline for proposals is 4 January 2019.



How does the global (financialized) commodity trade impact on local lifeworlds along the copper value chain? This is the question behind two events that UNRISD organized on behalf of the international research consortium which carried out the joint research project Valueworks: Effects of Financialization along the Copper Value Chain to discuss the findings with stakeholders from the United Nations, civil society and the private sector.

1) Life Along the Copper Value Chain: The Swiss Commodity Trading Hub and its Impact in the Global South
Public roundtable featuring speakers from the research project, commodities trading, civil society and the Geneva parliament.

2) Valueworks: Effects of Financialization along the Copper Value Chain
Research symposium held in the UN's Palais des Nations in Geneva to discuss the project findings in more detail.

Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World

UNRISD's major research undertaking this year: an international conference based on a hugely successful Call for Papers which opened with a very stimulating exchange between some of the sharpest minds in the field.

1) Opening Roundtable: Engines of Inequality? Elites, Power and Politics

2) Conference and Papers: Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization

Transformative Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Cities

Our new research stream on "transformative adaptation" approaches as a means of integrating the social dimension into climate adaptation measures took off with two events bringing together researchers, practitioners and experts from Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta, and international specialists based in Europe.

1) Expert Group Meeting: Transformative Adaptation: Tackling the Root Causes of Vulnerability to Climate Change in South East Asian Coastal Cities

2) Seminar: Climate Change in Coastal Cities: From Vulnerability to Transformative Adaptation

Blockchain for Inclusive and Sustainable Development

As part of UNRISD's horizon scanning function, we held two events exploring how blockchain could work for sustainable development.

1) Seminar: Blockchain for Inclusive and Sustainable Development: Fact or Fantasy?

2) Research Symposium: Monetary Innovation and Complementary Currencies Researcher Symposium



Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World
Just Transition Research Collaborative This state-of-the-art report, launched at COP24, unpacks the different understandings, narratives and framings of Just Transition that underpin the concept’s growing popularity and uptake. Six short country case studies then provide insights into how Just Transition is—or is not—being mobilized on the ground.


Global Social Policy Actors and Factors in Indonesian Social Policy Making
Alexandra Kaasch, Mulyadi Sumarto, Brooke Wilmsen This paper explores the transnational dimension of social policy through a case study of the health care system in Indonesia. It draws on in-depth elite interviews and relevant policy documents, demonstrating how global policy influenced the adoption of universal health care provision in Indonesia. The paper argues, however, that this was made possible by qualitative changes in the relationship between the Indonesian government and global actors that broke away from earlier models of foreign intervention.

New Directions in Social Policy: Evidence from the Indonesian Health Insurance

Mulyadi Sumarto, Alexandra Kaasch This paper describes the characteristics of Indonesia’s social policy development, analyses its relationship with economic policy, highlights its key drivers, and identifies the interests and alliances that shaped it. The paper then discusses the development of Indonesia’s health insurance programme as a lens through which to understand Indonesian social policy development.

Social Policy and Social Spending in Zimbabwe: 1980 to 2015

Rekopantswe Mate This paper examines historical changes to social policy in the first three decades of Zimbabwe's independence. It traces how social spending has evolved over time; identifies the key institutions providing social services, and the reforms that have been implemented since independence; explores how services and social protection programmes have been financed; and evaluates outcomes in terms of service delivery, coverage, adequacy and quality of benefits.


Social Work and Youth: Towards Inclusive Sustainable Development
Katja Hujo Young people are key agents of change with the potential to push the world towards a better tomorrow and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But they are faced with structural, socioeconomic, political and interpersonal challenges which can give rise to vulnerabilities and potential risk behaviour. This Event Brief summarizes discussions at the 2018 edition of Work Social Work Day at the United Nations in Geneva, which considered ways to strengthen young people’s potential to contribute to sustainable development, and inclusive societies and communities, and live a fulfilling and dignified life.

Issue Briefs on Feminist Analysis of Social and Solidarity Economy Practices: Views from Latin America and India

Three Issue Briefs were published summarizing the main research themes and findings of the project Feminist Analysis of SSE Practices: Views from Latin America and India. Access them in English, Spanish and French below.

UNRISD Researcher Contributes to Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice

Dunja Krause. 2018. "Transformative Approaches to Address Climate Change and Achieve Climate Justice". In Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice, edited by Tahseen Jafry, 509-520. London: Routledge.

Spanish Translation of Publication by Former UNRISD Staff

Valeria Esquivel and Andrea Kaufmann. Innovaciones en el cuidado: Nuevos conceptos, nuevos actores, nuevas políticas Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and UNRISD. [English original: Innovations in Care: New Concepts, New Actors, New Policies, March 2017.]


New Think Piece Series: Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization

Launched to coincide with the UNRISD conference of the same name, this think piece series brings together experts from academia, advocacy and policy practice to critically explore the various causes of deepening inequalities in the current context, their implications for sustainable development, and strategies and mechanisms being employed to reverse them. These are the first three contributions, more are to come!

Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World – Think Piece Seies

We have a few more think pieces to offer you in the series Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World, published as transitions away from coal are the subject of hot debates in Poland at the UN Climate Conference, COP24.

Expert Commentaries on socialprotection-humanrights.org

Gender and Social Protection: What does WDR 2019 have to offer?
Silke Staab In this expert commentary, Silke Staab from UN Women discusses the World Bank’s 2019 World Development Report. The policies it advocates could, she argues, have significant detrimental effects on women’s right to social protection.

Are Human Rights Relevant to Economic Inequality? A response through the lens of social protection
Ignacio Saiz and Kate Donald The Center for Economic and Social Rights’ Ignacio Saiz and Kate Donald argue that a human rights lens is both applicable and crucial to tackling inequality in this new expert commentary on socialprotection-humanrights.org.


Facebook Live Videos from Recent Events

We've been making good use of Facebook's live-streaming capacity recently to cover selected highlights from our many events over the last few months. You can re-live the following:

From the Conference Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World From the Seminar Series


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