1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: The Social Effects of Globalization

Rethinking Social Development in the 1990s

  • Project from: 1993 to 1995


The purpose of the programme was to encourage informed discussion of major issues of social development in the 1990s, as part of the UNRISD contribution to the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in March 1995. Drawing upon the accumulated knowledge of UNRISD collaborators in some areas, and making new efforts in others, the staff of the Institute commissioned a series of briefing and occasional papers, organized conferences and prepared a major UNRISD report for the Social Summit. Work was organized in three subprojects.

The first involved preparing a Report on the Crisis of Social Integration, which addressed a series of issues crucial for understanding contemporary problems of social integration. It identified the processes of economic, cultural and political change which underpin the increasing levels of marginalization, alienation and conflict experienced by much of the world's population and examined how such problems affect different social groups. It also considered the effectiveness of dominant policy approaches to problems of social integration and, where necessary, suggested possible alternatives. The report was eventually published under the title States of Disarray, and has since been translated into six languages.

The second subproject was designed to provide material for pre-Summit discussion and debate. Nine Occasional Papers and four Briefing Papers were published and distributed to over three thousand individuals and groups involved in the Summit preparatory process. Two major conferences were also held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, at times coinciding with the formal Preparatory Meetings for the Summit. This created new possibilities for concerned NGO representatives, academics and members of diplomatic missions to discuss key social issues.

Finally, the programme organized a large international conference during the Summit itself. The event, titled Rethinking Social Development, brought together ten world-famous scholars and activists (Ralf Dahrendorf, Amitai Etzioni, Johan Galtung, Anthony Giddens, Eric Hobsbawm, Fatema Mernissi, Tetsuo Najita, Emma Rothschild, Wole Soyinka and Tatyana Tolstaya) for a two-day discussion of contemporary patterns of global societal change.