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UNRISD Podcast: Social Policies and Development in Small States

14 Aug 2009

14 August 2009 – In this episode, UNRISD research analyst Nicola Hypher talks about a workshop held in Fiji and how social policies can contribute to national development goals.

Please use the link to the right of this page to access the podcast. (5mins 37secs, MP3 file, 2.57mb)

Transcript of the podcast:

Richard Warren: You’re listening to the UNRISD podcast and my name is Richard Warren. Today's episode discusses the results of a workshop held in Fiji.

On the 22nd to 23rd of July 2009, UNRISD, in collaboration with UNICEF Pacific, the Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCAP and the University of the South Pacific, convened a workshop in Fiji. The workshop presented the research on Social Policies in the Pacific that is being carried out at the moment by all of the organizing institutions.

Research Analyst, Nicola Hypher, represented UNRISD at the workshop and presented findings from the project on “Social Policies in Small States”.

Nicola Hypher: Research has suggested that these small states tend to be remote, insular and susceptible to natural disasters. Also, due to their small size they have limited institutional capacity, a narrow resource base and a small domestic market. And this all means that they tend to be relatively undiversified and rely heavily on external trade and therefore they tend to be open economies.

Richard Warren: Small states, according to the Commonwealth Secretariat definition, are countries with a population of 1.5 million or less. In addition, there are six countries, Botswana, Jamaica, the Gambia, Lesotho, Namibia and Papua New Guinea, with larger populations that share many of the same characteristics of small states.

According to Hypher, some small states do better than others and have developed some resilience in the face of the problems related to their geographical and economic situations.

Nicola Hypher: The aim of the UNRISD and Commonwealth Secretariat project is look at the policies, and especially the social policies, which explain the differential performance.

And basically, the aim of the workshop was to share the research that is being commissioned and being undertaken with policy-makers from the region. So in total we had nine policy-makers from nine Pacific Island countries, as well as people from international organizations. The hope is that the workshop will contribute to much needed evidence-based debate on the importance of social policies in the region.

Richard Warren: Four islands from the Pacific were represented by the authors of the country studies in this workshop: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa.

Nicola Hypher: In the case of Fiji, the author Paresh Narayan discussed the fact that in reality there is nothing wrong with the policies that have been introduced, and rather the problem is with the environment in which they have been made.

And he discussed the fact that Fiji is a broken democracy and therefore the focus has been on economic recovery rather than on social development.

Richard Warren: Biman Prasad presented his paper on the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, where he described how poor social policy development has largely been the result of poor initial conditions at independence. These two small states have relatively modest economic growth and political instability.

Nicola Hypher:There’s been insufficient pressure put on governments to develop effective social protection mechanisms, and therefore, in much of the Pacific, social protection mechanisms simply don’t exist.

Richard Warren: Samoa has received significant international recognition for successes in social development. The paper presented by Desmond Amosa, states that these successes are due to positive trends, such as political stability and Government commitment, reinforced by strong leadership and good governance.

Nicola Hypher: Samoa has successfully introduced free health and education policies, which has underpinned the positive trends.

Richard Warren: UNRISD projects explain the differential performance with examples of countries that have performed better, such as Malta, Mauritius and Seychelles.

Nicola Hypher: These countries have been committed to social policies, so promoting social development and therefore they have created an impressive welfare state. They also have provided free health and education and promoted social cohesion within the countries.

Richard Warren: The presentations emphasized the importance of social policy and the need to consider development strategies by government ministries. The potential role of social policy is even more important in crisis and key to addressing issues of inequality and poverty.

Nicola Hypher: As part of the conclusions, it was decided that social policy should be integrated with macroeconomic policy in national development strategies.

It was recognized that improved access to social services, particularly health, education and water, may require the implementation of complementary sectoral policies, for example transport infrastructure.

Richard Warren: Effective social policies require an environment which is characterized by political stability, one of the major challenges in several countries of the region. Also, there is a need for effective partnerships between Government and civil society in the region.

Nicola Hypher: Lastly, there was the conclusion that there is a need for a regional training hub for social policy researchers and policy makers in the region, in order to build on what this workshop aimed to do: to promote the learning on social policy.

Richard Warren: For more information, go to our website, www.unrisd.org. If you have any suggestions for future podcasts, email us at press@unrisd.org.

Thank you for listening. For UNRISD news, this is Richard Warren, in Geneva.