Poverty reduction is currently prominent on the agenda of international development. Most countries have wide-ranging anti-poverty programmes, irrespective of whether they have signed up to the least developed country (LDC)–focused Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the international financial institutions (IFIs).
However, there are concerns that many countries will be unable to make meaningful dents in their poverty, let alone meet the targets set in the Millennium Development Goals. At the centre of these concerns is the question of whether countries are following the appropriate development paths.
UNRISD initiated a project in 2007 to study the causes, dimensions and dynamics of poverty. It adopted a policy regime approach to examine the complex ways in which poverty outcomes are shaped by the configuration of institutions and policies in a triad of economic development, social policy and politics. It aimed to shed light on the institutions, policies and politics that have made some countries more successful than others in reducing poverty. This project built on earlier UNRISD research on Social Policy in a Development Context, the findings of which challenged the residual role given to social policy in public policies concerned with stabilizing the economies of developing countries and pushing them onto a growth path.
The underlying research question is: how to achieve developmental, inclusive and democratic states? The past UNRISD research on Social Policy in a Development Context showed that many countries had not been able to achieve all three of these at the same time, with many countries only achieving two, one or even none of these goals. This project sought to understand why countries have succeeded or failed in combining these dimensions.
- assessed a range of contemporary approaches to poverty reduction, including the MDGs and PRSPs;
- identified key institutional, policy and political issues that were not being addressed in poverty reduction strategies at the time; and
- examined the contradictions, complementarities and synergies between different components of "policy regimes", including social, labour market and macroeconomic policies, and political and regulatory institutions.
Eight in-depth case studies and eight country overview papers, were commissioned for this project. These fed into the UNRISD Flagship Report: Combating Poverty and Inequality
, published in September 2010. The in-depth research focused on cases that have historically involved the state as an active agent of development, have had a certain degree of growth and have attempted structural transformation. The eight studies are:
- Costa Rica
- South Africa
- Taiwan Province of China
In addition, eight country overview papers on "Development Strategies, Welfare Regime and Poverty Reduction" were commissioned for the following countries: