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UNRISD Poverty Report has Global Reach

5 Jan 2011



Since the launch of the UNRISD 2010 Flagship Report, Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics, on 3 September in Geneva, the report’s reach has gone global. The "Poverty Report" has been presented in Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Major media outlets in print, radio and television have featured the report in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, Arabic and Chinese. What follows are excerpts from some of the mentions in the press and blogosphere.

An editorial in The Hindu, an English-language Indian daily with a circulation of 1.46 million, said this in response to the report, “For a country that embarks upon economic reforms, it is also imperative to put in place adequate institutional support, by way of social policy, so that the transitory process triggered by a smaller role for the state as employment provider does not affect the well-being of its workforce.” The Poverty Report argues that countries should institute these types of social policy to protect its citizens in times of transition or crisis. The editorial concludes, “The over-arching message from the report, which is important at a time when the global targets for poverty reduction appear elusive, is this: poverty and inequality are too serious issues to be left to the markets.”

In Time magazine blog The Curious Capitalist, Michael Shuman said that “the institute wisely criticized ongoing development efforts for not addressing certain key issues that could help uplift the poor in a sustainable way. Governments have been too focused on targeted social welfare programs and not enough on job creation.” While international efforts such as the Millennium Development Goals are laudable, targeting the poor is unlikely to create conditions in which poor people can lift themselves out of poverty.

In The Global Times, a Sierra Leone newspaper, Lansana Gberie suggested that “the report’s original – and important – contribution to the debate on poverty” was “the idea that the state must play an active role in fashioning social policies that would reduce inequality, create employment opportunities, and remove inherent disabilities, like discriminatory cultural practices that, for example, limits educational opportunities for women.” This is in contrast to a weak state that depends on outside help to reach those in need.

For Share The World’s Resources, a think-tank with consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), Francine Mestrum wrote “The UNRISD report is particularly strong in demanding universal social policies, in pointing to the need for more policy space and for reducing income inequality, in noting the weaknesses of corporate social responsibility strategies, in elaborating on basic income grants. Social policies can contribute to economic growth as well as social welfare. In order to be transformative, social polices cannot be confined to a residual role, they must address the broader economic, social and political goals. They aim at redistribution, production and reproduction.” The Poverty Report shows that countries that have successfully reduced poverty have tended to invest substantially in education and skills development, as well as in health and social protection.

UNRISD is hopeful that the report’s audience will continue to grow in 2011. This is likely as launches are planned for South Africa, Sierra Leone, Mexico, and elsewhere.