1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Overarching Concerns (2000 - 2009)


As a UN agency, UNRISD has always based its work on development values enunciated in the United Nations Charter, as well as in various international declarations and resolutions. Two central values of social development are expressed repeatedly in these documents: that every human being has a right to a decent livelihood and that all people should be allowed to participate on equal terms in decisions that affect their lives. Over the years, UNRISD research has been guided by these two core values. Ironically, however, the fact that so many governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have claimed to adhere to these principles has made them seem commonplace. The challenge for research is thus not only to reinforce their substantive content and assist in their operationalization, but also to highlight the extent of real adherence to them.

At the same time, the United Nations has become more explicit about the social and institutional arrangements required to promote its core values. Livelihood issues - especially questions of poverty, inequity and economic development - continue to be a central preoccupation. But there is new attention to the environmental sustainability of the strategies and policies designed to address such issues. Respect for human rights and a commitment to democratization have also been forcefully emphasized in recent years. And concern with gender equality has become an integral part of the development agenda.

All research at UNRISD takes these basic elements of the international agenda into account. Poverty eradication, the promotion of democracy and human rights, gender equality and environmental sustainability are overarching concerns of every programme. So is the rapidly advancing process of globalization, which constitutes one of the defining parameters for social development at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Increasing economic interdependence and the formation of supranational identities create new challenges, of relevance to virtually every area of social development research. The global brief of UNRISD - its role in forming cross-cultural and cross-national research networks, and its commitment to encourage understanding of the international policy context for development - gives added importance to the analysis of globalization throughout the work of the Institute.

Publications in the Institute's series of Overarching Concerns Programme Papers (2000 - 2005) are listed on the right.