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UN Conference on the Global Crisis and its Implications for Developing Countries

10 Nov 2009

  • Press Contacts: Maya Yulistiani Minwary, Richard Warren, Véronique Martinez

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) is sponsoring an international conference to address the global financial crisis, to be held 12-13 November 2009 in Salle XVI at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Entitled the “Social and Political Dimensions of the Global Crisis - Implications for Developing Countries”, the event will raise the issue of whether current policy reforms are conducive to a transformative social change or if they only reproduce the status quo.

The recent financial crisis brought the world’s attention to the severe effect a financial debacle can have on the global economy. Nevertheless, the social and political dimensions of the crisis and its subsequent policy and institutional reforms received little notice.

For developing countries, the financial crisis could be just as detrimental. In fact, an IMF report published in March 2009 projected an adverse impact of the crisis on growth and external stability of many low-income countries. The report states that fluctuating commodity prices, high fuel costs, the rise in food prices in addition to a decrease in remittances, foreign direct investment and aid flow could mean an increase in the financing needs of low-income countries by at least US$25 billion.

Presentations at the UNRISD conference will focus on examples from low- and middle-income countries such as Chile, China, South Africa, and Thailand and the strategies of their citizens and governments to cope with the financial crisis.

As developed nations are ready to officially announce the end of the crisis, experts predict that its ramifications are not over. Developing countries and rural economies in particular may continue to experience the direct and indirect shock of the crisis as markets remains volatile, while food and fuel prices continue to fluctuate.

“This conference on the social and political consequences of crisis is a critical subject for debate at this juncture,” said Dr. Sarah Cook, UNRISD Director. “We are now at a point where many countries, particularly in the North, are emerging out of the severe shock of immediate crisis. Discussions of alternative policies and institutional arrangements at national and global levels may become less urgent; the status quo is reasserting itself and the space for ideas and policies that offer the possibilities of more stable, sustainable and equitable development will quickly shrink.”

Although fiscal and monetary reforms have been the main focus of government strategies, the social and political aspects are as important in understanding the complex nature of the crisis and how governments as well as social actors in the South and North can best mitigate current and future situations. Can governments and policy makers restructure a new development context in order to protect the poorest and most vulnerable group in the wake of a future crisis?

The conference aims to address such questions with topics related to the social and political origins of the financial crisis, dealing with vulnerability while enhancing resilience through social protection, redistribution and care through social policies, and the politics of institutional and transformative change.

“In this context, the conference will be extremely important in bringing together researchers and policy makers from around the world to provide richer empirical findings about the impacts and implications for different groups of people in different countries, and the responses by individuals, households, communities and nations”, Dr. Cook said.

Researchers from the South and North will present their findings to raise awareness of neglected social and political elements in the global crisis debate. The conference comprises five sessions:

1. Impacts, Coping strategies and Livelihoods
2. Country and Regional Perspectives on Social Policy
3. Global Perspectives on Social Policy
4. Political Economy Dimensions of Crisis
5. Political Economy Dimensions of Policy Reform

“By sharing experiences, we hope UNRISD can generate new ways of thinking about what it means to live in uncertain times, and particularly what it means for people who are poor, or particularly vulnerable to crisis given their poverty, location or identity”, said Dr. Cook. She continued, “From this, new agendas for research, policy and practical action should emerge, leading ultimately to policies and institutional arrangements which provide greater resilience for individuals, communities and nations.”

Sarah Cook, Director of UNRISD, and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs will give the opening remarks.

Notes to editors
  • The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) was created in 1963 and is an autonomous UN agency engaging in multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary development issues. Through its research, UNRISD stimulates dialogue and contributes to policy debates on key issues of social development within and outside the UN system.
  • The event will take place in Salle XVI at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. For further details please visit: http://www.unrisd.org/events/crisis2009
  • The IMF report mentioned in this press release can be found here https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/books/2009/globalfin/globalfin.pdf


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