1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Challenging Paradigms and Influencing Policy: UNRISD Research for Social Change, 2005-2009



UNRISD research during the period 2005–2009 sought to respond to key policy challenges and debates within development thinking that were prominent during the first half of the decade. Poverty reduction and social policies, key elements of efforts to foster equitable social development, were receiving greater attention from national governments and the international development community in response to the United Nations summits of the 1990s, and mobilization around the Millennium Declaration.

However, questions remained about the processes for achieving effective and sustainable poverty reduction and social protection, and the nature of the institutional and governance arrangements that could deliver on objectives, such as the Millennium Development Goals. Issues of inequality and redistribution, and the structural change needed for sustainable development also required attention.

This report highlights key findings of the Institute’s 2005–2009 research agenda, which aimed to address some of these neglected issues. The five-year agenda sought to build on the Institute’s strengths and track record in areas of social policy, gender and the role of non-state actors and social movements in promoting equitable social development. It included a major inquiry into the dynamics of poverty reduction, culminating in the preparation of the forthcoming UNRISD flagship report Combating Poverty and Inequality. During this period, UNRISD also devoted significant effort to designing and implementing a comprehensive dissemination and outreach strategy to ensure that research findings reach key audiences, and are fed effectively into processes for advocacy and policy making.

Among the specific issues and questions that shaped the 2005–2009 research agenda were the following.
  • In contrast to the experiences of countries that were successful historically in reducing poverty, contemporary poverty reduction strategies have increasingly focused on “targeting the poor”. How should poverty reduction and social development strategies be better integrated with macroeconomic policy frameworks, universal approaches to social provisioning and an analysis of changes in power relations?
  • While many governments were making a renewed commitment to social policy and service provision, it remained unclear how this would be financed under different political-economy conditions. How do changes in, for example, fiscal regimes, commodity prices and remittances from migration affect the relative mix of revenue sources for social policy and protection?
  • In recent decades women’s presence in public life has grown, including their participation in labour markets. At the same time, they continue to assume the bulk of unpaid care provision in families, households and communities. What needs to be done to distribute unpaid care work more equally between women and men, and to socialize the costs of maintaining households and reproducing the labour force more evenly across society?
  • Business enterprises have become important players in the field of social policy, providing basic services, engaging in corporate social responsibility and setting standards related to working and other conditions. How effective are these approaches?
  • Civil society organizations have become more adept at networking and campaigning on issues of global justice. Have they also become more influential in reforming national-level government policies towards social justice ends?

This report summarizes key activities and research findings from projects in the thematic areas of poverty reduction, social policy, gender equality, corporate social responsibility, and activism and policy making. It also highlights some of the major outreach activities and impacts.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Jun 2010
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    From: UNRISD