2016 Flagship Report Published; Policy Innovations for Transformative Change: Issue 31 November 2016
UNRISD is an autonomous institution within the UN system that carries out multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues.


2015 and 2016 were good years for cooperation on global challenges.

In September 2015 UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in doing so set out an ambitious vision of inclusive, prosperous and sustainable human societies.

The Paris Climate Agreement was adopted in December 2015 and by this month had been ratified by enough countries to enter into force. For the first time it was possible to get an international agreement on what needs to be done to slow down human impact on climate change.

The 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are not without their critics, but the international development community has been buoyed up by these achievements, looking for ways to advance a progressive agenda that—if implemented fully—could move the world towards transformative change and sustainability.

At the same time, there are signs that countries are starting to retreat into isolationism, which could threaten prospects for much-needed international cooperation. The President-elect in the US has signalled his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, and the UK is retreating from over 40 years of European cooperation.

In both the US election and the Brexit vote it is still too soon to say with any certainty why people in both countries voted the way they did. Xenophobia and immigration are likely to have played a key role. And yet a common thread between them appears to be the stagnation of living standards for many people who live away from cities, and who have seen their incomes and job security eroded by globalization. They feel that the political elites do not represent them, and that the economic elites do not care about them.

The 2030 Agenda contains elements of a response that will be important in addressing this exclusion: decent work for all, social protection systems, access to essential services, and the commitment to reduce inequalities in all dimensions. An overriding principle of the agreement is to leave no one behind.

Whether protectionism will trump (pun intended) these lofty aspirations remains to be seen—all too often the promises to poor and marginalized people have been broken. But we have a strong vision of what it will take to reach a more sustainable world, and many people are working to make these commitments as real and as transformative as possible for people’s lives.

UNRISD stands amongst them. Our most recent flagship report, Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, offers insights into how governments and other national actors can implement the 2030 Agenda in a way that lives up to its transformative promise. The Report, based on extensive interdisciplinary research with our partners, presents innovative and practical examples from around the world showing what societies are already doing. The video and podcast of the report launch are available below.

And for those of you who want to go further, why not delve into our November 2016 reading list, Bibliotherapy for Progressives? We’ve collected a number of titles from the Institute’s recent archives which speak to the issues that are now front-page news.


The Report

Policy Innovations for Transformative Change: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
After the successful consultation held over the summer, UNRISD launched its 2016 Flagship Report in October. Find out what our research says about what needs to happen now to enable the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to deliver on its transformative promise, as well as the kinds of policies and practices that can lead to social, economic and ecological justice.

The Launch Event

Walking the Talk: Transformative Pathways for Achieving the SDGs—Launch of the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report “Policy Innovations for Transformative Change”
The launch event for the Flagship Report was held on 17 October 2016, attended by over 100 people from the UN, civil society, donor and research communities. Panellists, including Katja Hujo from UNRISD, Valentin Zellweger from the Swiss Mission to the UN Office at Geneva, Isabel Ortiz from the ILO and Constanza Martinez from World Vision International, discussed what transformative change really means for societies and individuals.

The Video

UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report Launch
In this video from the Geneva launch of Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, panellists discuss how to put the vision of the 2030 Agenda into action, exploring how innovative policies that integrate and balance the social, environmental and economic dimensions can lead to inclusive societies that leave no one behind.

The Blog Series

The Transformation Conversation
Launched in our last eBulletin, we've updated the blog series accompanying the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report every week. Check out posts on global social governance, and the "just transition", as well as contributions by all the chapter authors.


A Tribute to Rodolfo Stavenhagen

Cynthia Hewitt de Alcántara UNRISD mourns the loss of Rodolfo Stavenhagen, who died on 5 November 2016 in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the age of 84. Rodolfo Stavenhagen contributed to the work of the Institute for almost 50 years, beginning in the 1960s. For all of us, within UNRISD and outside it, who have had the privilege of working with Rodolfo, of learning from him and laughing with him and benefiting from his extraordinary generosity of spirit, the news of his death is an irreparable blow. We celebrate his memory.

UNRISD Is Back On Its Feet, Holds Stakeholder Meeting

UNRISD has continued work on its own sustainability with an important stakeholder meeting held in early November. The Institute's Director and senior staff, donors, UN representatives and other stakeholders met to make progress on issues of financing and governance as well as future research.

Readers will be aware, from our communications throughout the year, that at the beginning of 2016 UNRISD’s financial position reached crisis point and operations were threatened. Many of you signed on to a letter of support. Thanks to your solidarity, and as a result of discussions and negotiation with our principal government partners and the UN system, emergency funds were mobilized to stabilize the Institute. UNRISD continues its efforts to diversify core funding and increase project funding.

Revitalizing the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy

Joannah Caborn Wengler UNRISD participated in a two-day meeting of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy (TFSSE) at the FAO in Rome in early November which served to revitalize the Task Force and develop a new strategic plan for its future activities.

Bibliotherapy for Progressives after the US Presidential Election

In the wake of the US presidential election in November 2016, and similar political phenomena such as the UK referendum on leaving the European Union, many progressives and liberals are asking themselves where we go from here. UNRISD has put together a reading list to reinforce the arguments and analyses of why racism, xenophobia and misogyny are not the answer to (perceived) social and economic losses resulting from globalization and rising inequality.


How Change Happens

How can we understand the events, individuals and institutions that change the world, and use this understanding to change things for the better? During this Geneva stop on his global book tour, Duncan Green introduced the arguments of his new book, How Change Happens, which combines research with practical experience to explore the topic of social and political change. If you couldn't be at the event, you can now watch the video.


Social Protection for All. Civil Society Activists from El Salvador and Costa Rica Engage with UNRISD

Harald Braumann "Transforming our world", the aspiration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, starts at home—but global actors and processes can support change in multiple ways. This message crystallized from lively discussions with a group of activists from Central America who engaged with UNRISD on 8 November 2016 as part of a capacity-building and networking trip organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.


Dr. David Nabarro on the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report
In a video message recorded for the launch of the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report Policy Innovations for Transformative Change in Geneva on 17 October, David Nabarro reminds us that research has a critical role to play as countries seek solutions to today's complex and interrelated problems, including those that will need to be addressed in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. David Nabarro serves as Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

Access UNRISD Podcasts

Did you know that UNRISD produces podcasts on many of the topics it researches? Listen on the go, from our website, iTunes or Player FM which now also carries all our podcasts.


Redrawing the Welfare Map: New Directions in Social Policy in the MENA Region

New Project Brief It is often assumed that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region lacks effective social welfare systems and is reform resistant. Yet, there is evidence of long-standing, complex systems of social protection provided by a variety of actors and, in the wake of the popular uprisings of 2011, significant reform efforts. This Project Brief on the MENA country cluster study of the UNRISD project New Directions in Social Policy: Alternatives from and for the Global South , assesses the background, nature and impacts of these initiatives in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman and Tunisia.


Multi-Sectoral Partnerships and Power

Moira Faul Public-private partnerships are critical to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This background paper for the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report advances a systems understanding of the ways in which power relations in specific contexts may shape partnerships. It suggests that a systems approach, coupled with a keen eye for asymmetries of power, can lead to new ways of mapping and evaluating partnerships for more equitable partnering behaviours. In other words, how partnerships are established and how power relations are enacted within them will impact more or less positively on sustainable development for all.

Feminist Economy in Latin America

Valeria Esquivel, La economía feminista en América Latina, Nueva Sociedad 265, Septiembre-Octubre 2016.
La economía feminista en América Latina se inscribe en una perspectiva estructuralista del funcionamiento de las economías de la región y de la ubicación diferencial de mujeres y varones en ellas, y contribuye a expandir los análisis tradicionales. Las conceptualizaciones de la economía feminista han contribuido al avance de la agenda del cuidado y de las políticas sociales en la región, aunque han sido menos influyentes en la política macroeconómica. En el último tiempo, ha habido cruces con otras corrientes críticas en la construcción de una lectura feminista de la economía social y solidaria, del «altercapitalismo» y del ecofeminismo.

Making Public Employment Schemes Work: Insights from Civil Society Engagement in India and South Africa

Ellen Ehmke and Khayaat Fakier This research note looks at the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in two public employment schemes in major emerging economies: the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India and the Community Works Programme (CWP) in South Africa. Of special interest in this research note is how CSOs engage with and positively impact these public schemes.


Marking International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Paul Ladd The launch of UNRISD’s new Flagship Report, Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, coincided with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In this post Paul Ladd asks whether, in moving to the expansive 2030 Agenda that has added climate change, environmental degradation, inequalities, decent work, urbanization and better governance to the development "to-do" list, we have lost the focus on poverty.

Sustaining Government Support for Social and Solidarity Economy

Peter Utting Alternations of political parties in power and the rise and fall of political leaders raises the intriguing question of what happens when a government that has fostered an enabling environment for social and solidarity economy (SSE) is replaced by another headed by a party or leaders with less supportive inclinations. The institutionalization or sustainability of a pro–SSE policy environment is one of the major challenges confronting the development and consolidation of this form of economy.

Poor Access to WASH: A Barrier for Women in the Workplace

Rockaya Aidara 19 November, World Toilet Day, highlighted the staggering fact that 2.4 billion people—one third of the world’s population—still live without access to proper sanitation. This expert commentary featured on the Social Protection and Human Rights platform examines what this means for women in the workplace.

Aging, Social Protection and Human Rights: Preventing Financial Abuse of Older People

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock Over the past 30 years, the number of older people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) receiving a pension has grown rapidly. While this may well empower recipients, there is also growing evidence of widespread financial exploitation of older people by relatives, and others. This expert commentary featured on the Social Protection and Human Rights platform explores examples from South Africa and points to a need to reframe the rights of older people to recognize that they must go beyond simply the right to receive a pension, and include the right to decide how the pension is spent.

Banner photo: "Arctic Ocean Ocean" by Stuart Rankin (Creative Commons via Flickr)


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