1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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UNRISD 2000+: Comment l'Institut envisage son avenir



At the turn of the twenty-first century, new approaches to economic and social development are urgently needed. The world is changing rapidly, for better and for worse. Great fortunes grow side by side with destitution. A volatile and increasingly interdependent world economy lurches from one speculative crisis to another, and in many societies there is a growing atmosphere of insecurity and violence.

Yet possibilities for social progress are enormous. There is no technical reason, for example, why hunger and poverty should not be eradicated. Nor is there any technical reason why remarkable advances in medical science should not greatly improve the health and well-being of people around the world. Economic and political obstacles to realizing these goals are legion. But a revolution in information technology is greatly increasing the opportunity for transnational co-operation, including the formation of alliances in support of social initiatives.

The quality of social research will play a significant role in determining whether the lives of most people improve or deteriorate in the years to come. Public policy and private initiatives to bring about constructive change must be supported not only by reliable information on social trends and rigorous analysis of available options, but also by debates that stimulate new visions of the human condition. Conventional wisdom is insufficient for generating solutions to the unconventional problems of a rapidly changing world.

This is a time for questioning—questioning the assumptions underlying current models of development, the concepts used to construct these models, and the methodologies that have been chosen to generate basic social and economic information. It is a time for constructing alternative scenarios. New links must be made between the physical and social sciences. A more productive dialogue must be promoted between economics and related disciplines. And a much more decisive voice in the development debate must be given to scholars and activists in developing countries, whose knowledge is not systematically used.

Work at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) during the next five years will contribute to a process of renovation in the field of international development research. The Institute will take advantage of its unusual position—at the intersection between international organizations, civil society and the academic community—to open new spaces for creativity and dialogue, and to encourage better circulation of ideas in the international community and beyond.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Apr 2002
    Pub. Place: Genève
    ISSN: 92 9085 041 8
    From: UNRISD