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Back | Programme Area: The Social Effects of Globalization

Social Development and Public Policy: Some Lessons from Successful Experiences



This paper is based on findings of the UNRISD research project on Social Development and Public Policy. The project was designed to improve our understanding of the reasons behind the superior social performance of some developing countries, and to reveal conditions under which social progress can occur independently of economic advance. The experiences of several countries (and one state within a federated country) whose achievements have aroused much interest and debate were examined: Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Kerala, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The project focused on their impressive performance in health and education, although other dimensions of social development such as social security, unemployment, incidence of poverty and gender disparities also received some attention in the case studies.

This Discussion Paper considers these experiences using a common framework comprising historical, cultural and political economy dimensions. It gives particular attention to the political determinants of social policy, the amount and composition of expenditure devoted to social programmes and the institutional arrangements for financing, organizing and delivering social services. The paper first discusses the nature and extent of the educational and health attainments of
these countries, contrasting them with the performance of other groups of countries. This is followed by a brief discussion of their historical and cultural legacies, as well as political processes, institutions and resource allocation. The paper then provides more detail on social policy, with illustrations drawn from the fields of primary health care and literacy. The subsequent sections deal with their experiences with poverty reduction and the social impact of stabilization and adjustment policies pursued during the past two decades.
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  • Pub. Date: 1 Oct 1997
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1012-6511
    From: UNRISD