UNRISD researcher Esuna Dugarova just published the following article on the importance of social policy in the post-2015 development agenda on the Guardian's Global Development Professional Network pages, which we reproduce here in full.
The first World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995 was a game-changer. Convened by the United Nations Commission for Social Development, it gathered together world leaders who pledged to eradicate poverty, create full employment and enhance social integration.
Summit delegates sought to turn the tide on the dominant neoliberal economic agenda which focuses too tightly on economic growth and the market, essentially removing social issues from mainstream policy discourse.
Nearly 20 years on and the goals of the summit remain just as relevant, if not more so. Yes, extreme poverty has substantially reduced, in large part thanks to the poverty-focused MDGs. Rights of marginalised groups including indigenous peoples, women and disabled people have gained more recognition. Visible improvements can be seen in gender parity in primary education. Yet, we are still trying to use economic measures of growth to tackle deeply-rooted social challenges.
Over one billion people still live in poverty. Many face inequalities, lack decision-making power or are socially excluded. And past experiences make it clear that market-centred development strategies don’t necessarily lead to sustainable, equitable outcomes, economic growth doesn’t automatically translate into decent work, and social inclusion can’t be achieved without proper participatory mechanisms.
It is therefore essential to rethink current approaches to social policy
and strengthen social dimensions
in the global agenda. We need to make sure that the provision of universal access to quality healthcare, education and social protection, along with decent employment, receive the highest priority in the new sustainable development goals. Budget allocations to these policies should be seen not as another expenditure but rather as investment for long-term development.
This is difficult but not impossible. Evidence
from countries that have successfully achieved development objectives shows that change was led by the state and occurred principally by combining economic and social policies. The Nordic and east Asian countries pursued broad-based development that involved full employment, social protection and democratic governance. Several emerging economies, including India and China, are adopting social policies and making them an integral part of their development strategies.
For a new development agenda to be truly transformative, governments need to shift away from treating social issues as a mere consequence of economic growth. The sustainable development goals will need to look behind the symptoms to tackle the structural causes or drivers of poverty
, inequality, social injustice and environmental degradation in order to create conditions for an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable future.
Can you imagine what your life would have been like if you didn’t have access to healthcare, education, pensions or other public services and goods? Or if these were available where you lived but you simply couldn’t afford them?
I was born in Buryatia, a republic in eastern Siberia. Buryatia was once part of Soviet welfare system but with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this system was dismantled, and with it went any sense of stability and security. Families had to rely on themselves, constantly worrying about tomorrow, many surviving and even thriving. But the capacity of individuals is not limitless and for development to be sustainable, there needs to be systemic support at the local, national and global level, so that each person can enjoy a decent life. This is a fundamental right to which all of us are entitled.
The original article can be viewed here.