1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Social Policy: Towards Universal Coverage and Transformation for Achieving the MDGs

Date: 24 - 25 May 2006

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  • Location: Hyatt Regency Hotel, Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Donor(s): UNRISD,UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC)


Experts, including representatives of United Nations agencies - UNICEF, UNFPA, DESA, UNDP, ESCAP - and ADB, as well as researchers and academics from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, participated in a joint workshop organized by UNRISD, the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, and the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Social Policy: Towards Universal Coverage and Transformation for Achieving the MDGs, on 24 and 25 May 2006 in Kathmandu.

This workshop aimed to contribute new insights into social policy as a means to accelerate and enhance Millennium Development Goal (MDG) performance, instil a rights-based approach into development thinking, and contribute to processes that ensure more equitable social outcomes.

The workshop was organized around five thematic sessions.

Following the opening session, Peter Utting, Deputy Director of UNRISD gave a presentation titled “Social Policy in a Developmental and Political Context” during Session II, on Transformative Social Policy: Vision and Reality. Social policy plays a key role in development, not only in terms of social protection, but also by promoting equity through redistribution and gender justice, economic development through human capital formation, and social and national cohesion. Contemporary approaches to social policy in developing countries often focus narrowly on aspects such as social protection, targeting and safety nets. It is important to consider the multiple roles of social policy, real-world examples of “transformative social policy”, and how such an agenda might be promoted.

Session III, on MDGs in South Asia: Challenges for Social Policy in Light of Social Exclusion, discussed how various forms of social exclusion in South Asia (income, class, gender, caste, location, faith), social consciousness and shortcomings in social policy responses converge and result in unmet promises and commitments on the MDGs and other indicators of child rights and child well-being.

Session IV, Country Policy and Programme Experiences, examined South Asian experiences in social policy, with a focus on recent institutional policy reforms and innovations.

UNRISD Research Coordinator Katja Hujo made a presentation, titled Financing Social Policies in Developing Countries: What are the Issues?”, in Session V, Financial Resources and Government Capacity to Deliver Social Services. Government financial capacity to deliver social services is a function of institutional history, evolving principles, and a variety of instruments. The session looked into government budgeting and allocation processes and outcomes.

In Session VI, Revenue Generation and Financing Modalities, participants examined patterns in South Asia, and compared these with other regions, models and policy choices. They looked into forms of financing social services, with a focus on two key areas of social policy in the light of MDG objectives: education and health.

Session VII was on The Politics of Social Policy and the Need for a Rights-Based Approach to Social Policy. A variety of factors determine, or at least influence, the outcomes of social policy. They include access, affordability, appropriateness of social services and enabling service providers to offer adequate services. This requires adopting measures to raise awareness and behavioural change, so as to address internalized social exclusion, as well as integrating a rights-based approach into social policy delivery. This in turn calls for participation and empowerment of excluded groups and individuals.
The session also looked into the role of and synergies of social policy in democratization processes.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Jomo K.S., Assistant Secretary-General in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and former member of the UNRISD Board. Participants did then wrap up key findings and charted a course for further work.