1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Participation

  • Rebuilding The Fiscal Contract? 5 Innovative Ways to Tax Informality (13 Dec 2017) | Maudo Jallow
    The large size of the informal economy in the global South is often seen as an obstacle to increasing tax revenue. Yet some studies suggest that informal actors are not averse to taxation if it brings benefits and protection from harassment by police and inspectors. So why is this putative social contract not working? This think piece explores the potential to rebuild a social contract between informal workers and the state, refilling coffers to finance social development and providing social protection to those who lack formal access to it.
  • SDG 17: Transformative Partnerships? (21 Sep 2017) | Annekathrin Ellersiek
    Partnerships are a central Means of Implementation (MOI) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to Targets 16 and 17 of SDG17. This emphasis on partnerships points to the need to effectively harness additional resources, while at the same time highlighting the aim of ‘leaving no one behind’. But are they always both effective and inclusive, and hence transformative? This blog argues that stronger alignment of different approaches is needed for partnerships to bring about the progressive change that the 2030 Agenda requires.
  • Linking Resilience Thinking and Transformative Change: Taking Development Debates to a New Level (16 Aug 2017) | Dunja Krause
    The concept of resilience, and “resilience thinking”, goes beyond understanding resilience as ability to withstand shocks. It has the potential to inspire much more than the palliative interventions to which it seems to be relegated by its latest use in global policy documents, from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to the New Urban Agenda. This think piece introduces the concepts of resilience and transformative change, highlights useful links between them, and outlines some of the policy implications of resilience thinking for transformative change.
  • Building Momentum: Reflections on the 2017 High Level Political Forum (24 Jul 2017) | Paul Ladd
    Just returned from the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, the annual UN platform to review SDG implementation, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd reflects on talk and action, and the commitment needed from rich as well as from poor countries to keep the promises of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Facing the Future: Institutions and Work in the 21st Century (8 May 2017) | Kelly Stetter
    The rapid advance of digital technologies has left an undeniable mark on modern labour markets and is almost certain to continue to reshape the world of work in the future. How we address the challenges posed by this digital transformation depends on how we come to understand its impacts, and how well we are able to adapt our social policies and institutions to the new reality of work in the 21st century.
  • Emprendimientos económicos solidarios y empoderamiento: el papel de las redes locales en el territorio (10 Nov 2016) | Leandro Morais
    En los últimos años la Economía Social y Solidaria (ESS) ha adquirido cada vez mayor visibilidad económica, social y política. Sin embargo, además de estos avances, en la vida cotidiana de los emprendimientos económicos solidarios hay muchas fragilidades enmarcadas por factores internos y externos. Muchos de estos factores podrían ser abordados y enfrentados a partir de la formación de redes de emprendimientos en el territorio.
  • Why the SDGs need Institutional Political Economy for Inclusive, Resilient Cities (7 Jan 2016) | Franklin Obeng-Odoom
    Research and policy aiming to meet SDG11 and make "cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" will have to centre on planet, people, and places rather than property and profit for the few and poverty and privation for the many, if they are to reflect the spirit of the SDGs and flesh out the relatively sparse research on uneven urban and regional development. It is this gap that this think piece seeks to fill by offering a suitable framework for understanding cities.
  • The Paris Agreement (Part II): The First Step on the Long Road Ahead (18 Dec 2015) | Dunja Krause
    Last weekend, the world witnessed a historic success in international diplomacy. Years of international negotiations on a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol culminated in the adoption of a universal climate agreement at COP21 in Paris. Tireless efforts of a diverse range of stakeholders, including member states, the UNFCCC Secretariat, civil society and scientists seem to have finally exorcized the ghost of Copenhagen. This is the second of two think pieces on COP 21 by Dunja Krause.
  • The Paris Agreement (Part I): Landmark or COP-out? (26 Nov 2015) | Dunja Krause
    As 2015 draws to an end, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP21 in short, marks the concluding milestone in a series of potentially game-changing international agreements aimed at transforming our world towards sustainability. This think piece considers whether the Paris document will be a landmark agreement limiting global warming, or if it will remain simply one small step in an extremely technical and painfully slow negotiation process.
  • Collective empowerment? Producer cooperatives versus women’s groups in Kenyan ethical trade (29 Apr 2015) | Kiah Smith
    Part of the rationale behind fair and ethical trade is to improve the economic empowerment of smallholder farmers in the South, but also contribute to environmental sustainability, more equitable trading and decision-making relationships, and often, gender equality. However, the extent to which women’s participation in particular schemes contributes to their empowerment is highly variable. This think piece considers in particular the extent to which women’s empowerment is enhanced or reduced through their participation in ethical and fair trade decision-making structures, such as producer cooperatives, as well as other collective strategies, such as women’s groups.
  • How Feminist Activism Can Make States More Accountable for Women’s Rights (31 Mar 2015) | Andrea Cornwall, Jenny Edwards
    Despite the gains made on women’s rights since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, we still have a long way to go in terms of enjoying a gender-equal world. We also need to be vigilant against sliding back on progress already made. This article recognizes the crucial role women’s organizing plays in holding states to account on obligations made under international agreements. Drawing on examples from Brazil and Egypt from the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment programme, the article demonstrates the contribution of women’s organizing to: mobilizing around injustice, harnessing the power of ratified agreements to bring about change in legislation, working on the design of progressive laws, and then ensuring the laws are effectively implemented. In order to be truly successful, however, women’s organizing needs to be matched by responsive, effective government. It is only when citizen voice works in unison with the state that commitments made on women’s rights can be comprehensively achieved.
  • 20 Years of Mobilization: The Role of Young Feminists (16 Mar 2015) | Ruby Johnson
    Young women and girls continue to experience rights violations in their daily lives such as sexual- and gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, discrimination and limited access to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Approaching Beijing+20, we arrive at an important juncture, a moment to reflect on achievements to date and challenges ahead. Operating in volatile and resource-constrained environments, young feminists are organizing collectively, facing backlash and barriers within their communities, societies and their own movements. The mobilization, the courage and the experience of this generation have an important role to play in redefining a just development and human rights agenda ahead. Coming from diverse movements and contexts, and using art, technology and sport as key tactics in their work, their contributions can make development more responsive, grounded and sustainable. Let us collectively re-imagine how we work together across generations and movements, and leverage both our critical mass and the technology available to hold all actors accountable.
  • Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: A View from Switzerland (9 Mar 2015) | Flurina Derungs, Ursula Keller
    Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest countries and most modern economies, in Switzerland gender equality remains an elusive challenge. Paid maternity leave, legal abortion and an increase in women’s educational attainment are some of the milestones achieved since 1995. But while legal gender equality may be nearly achieved, much remains to be done to achieve gender equality in practice. Rigid gender stereotypes, wage discrimination, women’s heavy care burden, segregation in the workplace, violence against women, under-representation of women in political and economic decision making, and structural obstacles to reconciling family duties with employment still stand in the way of gender equality.
  • Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: An African Perspective (2 Mar 2015) | Faiza Jama Mohamed
    Twenty years have passed since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), a comprehensive roadmap to advance women's rights and achieve gender equality. This piece will reflect upon achievements made but also persisting challenges to the successful implementation of the BPfA within the African context, ahead of the review process in March 2015. Discussed in detail are the issues of sexual violence, women's political participation, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), education and maternal health. Additionally, this piece discusses the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and successful regional strategies pursued by the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition that have helped to push for particular achievements pertaining to women's rights, especially at the African Union level.
  • Activists and Extractive Industries: An Alliance Against Social Development? (23 Jul 2014) | Martin Tengler
    This paper argues that activists and corporations in extractive industries depend on each other for power. This might seem to be a positive outcome for social development. However, activists do not always have a positive impact on social development. In fact, relying too much on activist interventions creates a risk of government and public complacency, which shifts discursive power toward extractive industry corporations. This paper argues that if extractive industries are to have a positive impact on social development, the state needs to break the activist-corporate dependence cycle.
  • Securing a Dignified Old Age for All (24 Apr 2014) | Charles Knox-Vydmanov
    Access to adequate social protection in old age remains a luxury limited to a minority of older people globally. This huge gap is symptomatic of the wider failure of social protection systems as a whole to guarantee the right to social security, which constitutes a fundamental barrier to tackling pervasive poverty and growing inequality across the globe. Encouragingly, recent years have seen some positive developments, such as the introduction and extension of non-contributory (or “social”) pensions. As the landscape begins to change, a human rights analysis can help to unpack the remaining barriers and consider how these can be overcome.
  • A Rejoinder to ‘Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency’ (15 Apr 2014) | Charles Lwanga-Ntale
    Pro-poor transparency laws and policies must have ending poverty as an underlying objective. This can become possible if social protection and access to information are fully recognized as rights that poor people can invoke to exit poverty. Yet uptake of social protection policy in developing countries has been slow, largely because it has not been understood as a human right. The post-2015 development agenda needs to correct this failing to achieve future goals.
  • The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes (14 Apr 2014) | Felipe J. Hevia
    The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Others concern the the opacity and discretionality of actors implementing social protection programmes and indifference from citizens to holding service providers accountable. The author suggests that civil society and collective action can contribute to breaking the deadlock.
  • Transformative Approaches to Care Responsibilities: Overcoming Obstacles to the Meaningful Participation of Women (10 Apr 2014) | Valeria Esquivel
    One way to approach care in a transformative way is moving beyond seeing care responsibilities as an impediment to women’s participation, and start seeing them as a missing component of social protection, and as an opportunity for political participation. At the same time, families’ and women’s demands for care need be articulated in political terms, a challenge in highly unequal contexts.
  • Realizing Rights in Practice: A ‘Minimum’ Level of Social Security in Relation to an ‘Adequate’ Standard of Living (8 Apr 2014) | Bob Deacon
    ILO Recommendation 202 asks countries to lay down Social Protection Floors providing some basic social security guarantees and promulgating principles like universalism, non-discrimination, dignity, accessible complaints procedure . Its human rights underpinnings are clear, but the Recommendation nevertheless has certain limitations which are further discussed in this contribution.
  • Good Practices for Effective Participation in Social Protection Design and Implementation (27 Mar 2014) | Robert Chambers
    The tendency for programmes intended for those who are poor and marginalized to be distorted and captured by local elites is widely recognised. For programmes of social protection, participation is an obvious prescription to overcome this elite capture but is far from a magic wand. Who participates? Participation can itself be captured to become an instrument for exclusion of those who are meant to benefit, How effective participatory processes can be in overcoming these tendencies, and what processes can be recommended, will always depend on local context. There is, though, experience of a repertoire or menu of approaches that can be drawn upon, adapted and evolved to fit.
  • What Do Cooperatives Have To Do with the Post- 2015 Development Framework and Proposed Sustainable Development Goals? (27 Sep 2013) | Emery Igiraneza
    Cooperative enterprises are instrumental in providing opportunities for productive employment as well as offering services such as health care, education, credit, improved infrastructure and sustainable energy. They are guided by values of social dialogue and democracy, and are often rooted in local communities, making them a sustainable option for achieving development. However, recognition within UN processes crafting the post-2015 framework of the current and potential role of cooperatives in achieving sustainable development, reducing poverty and creating employment is patchy. To remedy this situation, the ILO, in collaboration with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), UNRISD and other partners has launched an initiative to assess and promote the contribution of cooperatives to sustainable development.
  • Legal Frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy: What is the Role of Civil Society Organizations in Policy Making? (29 May 2013) | Rafael Peels
    To respond to the fragmented landscape of legal frameworks on Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) a variety of countries have been taking initiatives to create overarching legal frameworks that apply to the whole sector. One field within the sector that is characterized by much confusion and that receives little attention is the political participation of non-state actors in recent legal developments concerning SSE. In other words: how do various legal frameworks take into account the policy participation of SSE organizations? In this think piece, I take a closer look at five recent legal initiatives in Spain (2011), Ecuador (2011), Greece (2011), Mexico (2012) and Portugal (2013) and can show that approaches differ in these countries.
  • An Impossible Marriage: Solidarity Economy and Monetary Economy (26 Mar 2013) | Anitra Nelson
    Can a forest or a human life be reduced to a price? Can one hold, or balance, contradictory values? If not, then those who advocate a Social and Solidarity Economy must address the generally intractable conflicts between social and environmental values on the one hand, and monetary ones on the other. Markets create prices, or monetary values, on an entirely different logic to either shared social values, for example related to basic needs, or ecologically determined environmental values. So, doesn’t the Social and Solidarity Economy need to avoid the trappings of monetary calculation and capitalist markets?
  • Making Space for Economic Democracy: The Danish Wind Power Revolution (8 Mar 2013) | Andrew Cumbers
    This think piece illustrates through the example of the Danish renewables sector the role that innovative forms of collective and democratic ownership can play in tackling climate change. Although Denmark has been held up as a model for other countries to follow in forging a progressive and far-sighted approach to tackling climate change, there is relatively little recognition that this has been founded upon state intervention and localized forms of public ownership. The paper emphasizes the way that supportive regulation and legislation by national government institutions come together with grassroots initiatives to foster more localized and participatory forms of public ownership and decision making.
  • Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Which Way for the Informal Economy? (23 Jul 2012) | Fredrick Otieno Dawa, Mary Njeri Kinyanjui
    This think piece argues that the informal economy should be included in discussions on green economy. The informal economy represents three-fourths of non-agricultural employment in sub-Saharan Africa, making it an important component in the social, economic and political arenas in Africa. The authors draw on a case study on the informal sector in Kenya, known as the Kamukunji Jua Kali cluster, to make their case. The cluster is an initiative by subaltern groups that supports rural agriculture, creates jobs, recycles industrial waste and has an association that runs its own affairs. It is an example of how the informal economy in Kenya is linking social and environmental concerns. The likelihood that this sector will persist requires rethinking the informal economy in terms of community economies that secure livelihoods, cultural identity and employment while moving toward green economies more generally.
  • Green Economy: The New Enemy? (11 Jul 2012) | Peter Utting
    This viewpoint reflects on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), known as Rio+20, held in June. It looks at, among other things, the reactions to the idea of green economy, one of the conference’s main themes; the role of corporations; and the positioning of equity and justice in the sustainable development agenda.
  • Equipping Democracy to Deliver Sustainable Development (16 Jun 2012) | Halina Ward
    Environmental and social challenges like climate change are accelerating faster than the ability of current forms of democracy to cope. This think piece raises four challenges faced by democracy in dealing with climate change. First, there is a need for long-term thinking to ensure that actions are taken now to forestall the risk of possibly extreme climate change. Second, politicians tend to prioritize economic growth over societal goals where progress is difficult to measure. Third is the challenge of retaining and nurturing an active commitment to vibrant democracy while allowing expertise—and science—space to offer insights and inform policy. And finally, climate change demands a globally coordinated response. If democracy is to survive and thrive, it will likely have to outperform any currently or potentially competing political system in relation to such challenges.
  • Transforming Extractive Industries in the Philippines: Locating Spaces for People’s Participation in Mining Policies (31 May 2012) | Marie Joyce Godio
    Many in the Philippines consider mining an important industry that generates employment, taxes and foreign exchange earnings. But such economic potential is not translating into the well-being of local communities. More often than not, resource extraction is associated with social conflict and environmental degradation. The 1995 Philippine Mining Code requires environmental monitoring and includes provisions for public consultation. According to the author, however, these processes are often mired in corruption; a lack of transparency and consultation means that the communities most affected are deprived of their right to determine how best to use their resources and the freedom to define their own development.
  • The Challenge of Political Empowerment (24 Mar 2012) | Peter Utting
    In the struggle over ideas in the development arena, terms that are associated with more radical perspectives are often picked up by mainstream actors and organisations. And this has been the case with ‘empowerment’. But such mainstreaming can cause original meanings to be modified or become obscure. From the perspective of strategies that aim to improve the well-being of small-scale farmers, there are various risks inherent in the way the term ‘empowerment’ has been taken up by international and bilateral development agencies.
  • Security Sector Reform Needs Inclusive Politics and Jobs for the Poor (19 Mar 2012) | Yusuf Bangura
    Security sector reform has gained prominence in recent years as the international community seeks solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. However, in order to achieve sustainable peace, security sector reform needs to be grounded in inclusive government and growth strategies that deliver jobs to the poor.
  • Green Growth, Social Agency and the Regulation of Agricultural Production in India and Brazil (10 Feb 2012) | Diego Vazquez-Brust, Evelyn Nava-Fischer
    Green growth is being promoted as a new paradigm that encompasses economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion. However, some developing countries have been questioning its relevance for their development. This paper shows how this paradigm is challenging, and being challenged by, traditional social norms and practices in agricultural production in India and Brazil, and how the commitment and agency of supply chain actors—both of which are key for resource efficiency and social inclusion—are affected.
  • The Great Lie: Monoculture Trees as Forests (20 Oct 2011) | Raquel Nuñez Mutter, Winnie Overbeek
    2011 marks the “International Year of the Forest” and it calls for a shift in our understandings of forestry management. Top-down, market-oriented, approaches which have seen monoculture plantations flourish and the lives of forest peoples uprooted, often under the guise of initiatives such as REDD, are not sustainable. We need to recognize that “sustainable development” is not simply compatible with biodiverse plantations or the lives and traditions of forest peoples; it is deeply dependent on them.
  • A Fair Green Economy: Framing Green Economy and the Post-MDG Agenda in Terms of Equity (7 Sep 2011) | Alison Doig, Erica Carroll
    In the next few years the global community must address the dual crises of global poverty and global environmental degradation. As the international community develops a successor to the MDGs and at the same time aims at a global green economy, it is essential to recognize the role of inequality in perpetuating high levels of global poverty and undermining attempts at environmental sustainability.
  • “We Have to Correct the Errors of our Ancestors”: Policy Implications of Environmentalism and Gender in Intag, Ecuador (7 Sep 2011) | Linda D'Amico
    A community in Ecuador has found ways to improve its livelihood and well-being through ecologically responsible actions. Responding to local manifestations of global crises, community members have developed creative solutions that balance economic, social and environmental concerns.
  • The Arab Spring, Democracy and Well-Being (1 Apr 2011) | Yusuf Bangura
    The popular revolts in the Arab world underscore the importance of grounding governments in foundations of democracy, well-being and equity. An article by UNRISD Research Coordinator, Yusuf Bangura.