1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Sustainable Development Goals

  • From Science to Practice: Strengthening Research Uptake to Achieve the SDGs (20 May 2020) | Maggie Carter
    Humanity is currently facing a threat against which scientific knowledge is our most powerful weapon. Researchers are racing to learn more about the invisible enemy that is Covid-19. However, at the same time, we face another threat, one that has been rearing its head in recent years, but is becoming all the more visible in this unprecedented moment: a growing skepticism of and even hostility towards science.
  • Shrinking Opportunities: Social Mobility and Widening Inequality in Vietnam (20 May 2019) | Andrew Wells-Dang and Vu Thi Quynh Hoa
    Rising inequality is threatening Vietnam’s continued socio-economic development. Young people have fewer opportunities for higher earnings and improved social status than a decade ago. These trends make it harder for Vietnam to meet its commitments to achieve the SDGs and stand in contrast with its past experiences of inclusive growth. Our research shows how social mobility can provide a window into understanding mechanisms of inequality, especially among youth and disadvantaged social groups such as ethnic minorities. For many young people, industrial-led development is not delivering on expectations of greater social mobility.
  • Fault Lines and Front Lines: Shifting Power in an Unequal World (31 Oct 2018) | Katja Hujo, Maggie Carter
    Economic and social inequalities have grown within and between countries over recent decades, with the growing divide between the privileged and the rest fracturing society in new and more dramatic ways. In a context where governments have agreed to redouble efforts to address inequalities as part of their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, this introductory think piece to the UNRISD series Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilization raises questions around the drivers and consequences of inequalities, and how people, communities, social relationships and institutions are shifting, adapting and innovating in response to them.
  • Winning Across the Agenda: Tackling Policy Incoherence to Localize the SDGs (8 Aug 2018) | Paul Ladd
    Trying to get global initiatives to gel with local needs and priorities, and make sure we leave no one behind across all dimensions of sustainable development, has always been a challenge. In this blog, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd thinks aloud about how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is faring.
  • Technology and Freedom of Expression: Opportunities and Threats through the Journalist’s Lens (26 Mar 2018) | Mariateresa Garrido Villareal
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the role that journalists play in ensuring fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression and access to information. SDG 16 in particular calls for the effective monitoring of crimes against journalists as an indicator to measure progress towards promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Despite this, threats against journalists and media personnel are on the rise, and an accurate and comprehensive measurement system is still missing. Technology can help us to address this gap, and this Think Piece proposes a way forward.
  • Accounting for the Most Vulnerable: Ensuring Big Data Works for Sustainable and Inclusive Development (15 Mar 2018) | Sabrina Rau and Sheldon Leader
    The increasing use of big data with its inability to accurately take account of the most vulnerable has the potential to exacerbate socio-economic gaps and result in states’ failure to meet their obligation to protect those “most left behind”. This Think Piece addresses the challenges of both identifying and understanding the position of the most vulnerable in big data, and demonstrates the limitations of existing alternatives like disaggregation to include the most vulnerable statistically. The piece concludes by suggesting how the gap between the increasing use of big data and the exclusion of the most vulnerable in data can be filled.
  • Big Data and Monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 3: Not Counting Those Left Behind? (13 Mar 2018) | Carmel Williams
    Big data is being heralded by some as the solution to the missing statistics which are needed to measure progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. But big data is beset with its own flaws and pitfalls that may in fact compound human rights issues associated with the SDGs. This think piece discusses the role of indicators and whether new forms of statistics gathering are helping or hindering efforts to leave no one behind.
  • Embracing Human Diversity: Policies and Enabling Factors for Accessible Technologies (6 Mar 2018) | Alejandro Moledo
    It isn’t news that we live in an exciting moment for technology. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to robotics, 3D printing, virtual realities or smart environments, it seems like these so-called emerging technologies will soon become an everyday reality that could underpin progress worldwide. But are these new technologies designed for all? There are one billion persons with disabilities globally and as societies become older, more and more people will face functional limitations related to age. Will these technologies be accessible for them as well?
  • Time for a Fourth Generation of Human Rights? (1 Mar 2018) | Changrok Soh, Daniel Connolly and Seunghyun Nam
    The Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting economies, business models, and societies around the globe. But what about human rights concepts and practices? This piece argues that human rights defenders are not immune to the winds of change. Not only are civil society and international human rights mechanisms facing painful restructuring, but emerging technologies pose tough questions to traditional concepts, especially privacy and human agency. Far from being a rich country problem, these issues are everyone’s concern and require a new generation of human rights.
  • Tech for Transformative Change? Looking beyond Disruption (27 Feb 2018) | Kelly Stetter
    We are living in a time of rapid change, driven by increasing digitization and disruption of many of the institutions and relationships around which we structure our societies and our lives. In this first think piece in the From Disruption to Transformation? Linking Technology and Human Rights for Sustainable Development series, Kelly Stetter reflects on the role of international human rights frameworks in addressing these challenges and ensuring that no one is left behind.
  • Realizing the Human Right to Clean Water: Time to Rethink the Legal Architecture? (20 Nov 2017) | Julie Gjørtz Howden and Claudia Ituarte-Lima
    Having access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as enshrined in human rights law and SDG 6, is intertwined with the governance of transboundary river basins and other issues connected to water and healthy ecosystems. Yet the laws governing human rights and international water law do not reflect this. This piece argues that a transformation of international water law, guided by human rights principles, is needed to foster the resilience of the legal system and achieve the SDGs related to water and ecosystems.
  • SDG 17: Transformative Partnerships? (21 Sep 2017) | Annekathrin Ellersiek
    Partnerships are a central Means of Implementation (MOI) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to Targets 16 and 17 of SDG17. This emphasis on partnerships points to the need to effectively harness additional resources, while at the same time highlighting the aim of ‘leaving no one behind’. But are they always both effective and inclusive, and hence transformative? This blog argues that stronger alignment of different approaches is needed for partnerships to bring about the progressive change that the 2030 Agenda requires.
  • “Education for All”: A Hollow Pledge for International Migrant Children and Youth in the Global South? (15 Aug 2017) | Aida Lizbeth Becerra Garza
    This think piece argues that the commitment and right to quality education for all will ring hollow without serious measures to overcome the access and inclusion barriers that face millions of school-age migrant children and youth. These access and inclusion challenges are particularly pressing in countries of the Global South, which are also striving to expand and improve their education systems.
  • Building Momentum: Reflections on the 2017 High Level Political Forum (24 Jul 2017) | Paul Ladd
    Just returned from the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, the annual UN platform to review SDG implementation, UNRISD Director Paul Ladd reflects on talk and action, and the commitment needed from rich as well as from poor countries to keep the promises of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Development Financing On The Ropes? How the Current Pace of Financing is Putting the SDGs at Risk (21 Jun 2017) | Bodo Ellmers
    The United Nations’ Financing for Development Forum held at the end of May in New York was notable for the first major admission in a formal outcome document that at the current pace, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be reached. The Forum—which deals with all aspects of finance and the financial architecture that regulates finance—intended to work towards reforms that would make finance work for development. This blog post looks at what progress was made, and where political blockages are still holding things up.
  • "Disaster Citizenship" and Opportunities for Transformation: An Urgent Plea for Eco-Social Policies (18 May 2017) | Ayesha Siddiqi
    Avalanches and earthquakes are not simply ‘natural' events but are fundamentally the result of local dynamics of power and privilege that leave people vulnerable in the face of dangerous climatic and geological hazards. Contemporary disaster risk reduction policies therefore need to reimagine the very political system within which such disasters occur, instead of focusing on leaner, meaner technical interventions. This blog posts considers how an eco-social approach to disaster resilience can help deliver transformative outcomes in the long term.
  • Facing the Future: Institutions and Work in the 21st Century (8 May 2017) | Kelly Stetter
    The rapid advance of digital technologies has left an undeniable mark on modern labour markets and is almost certain to continue to reshape the world of work in the future. How we address the challenges posed by this digital transformation depends on how we come to understand its impacts, and how well we are able to adapt our social policies and institutions to the new reality of work in the 21st century.
  • From the Concrete Wall to the Glass Ceiling to the Labyrinth: Gendering Leadership for Transformative Change (28 Mar 2017) | Luisa Lupo
    Figures suggest that the gender gap in education has been reversed in almost all developed countries as well as many developing countries, and it could be globally reduced to parity within the next 10 years on current trends. Yet, women lag behind men when it comes to economic opportunities and political representation, particularly in leadership positions. This blog explores the transformative potential of policies with a gender-based approach to leadership.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Innovative: Understanding the Darker Side of Innovation for Development (2 Mar 2017) | Roman Twerenbold
    New ideas and policies are needed to tackle global challenges, and innovation will be key to implementing the 2030 Agenda. But innovation implies disruption -- and actual or even potential upheaval in the status quo can generate resistance. Innovators need to understand the potential and perceived negative impacts of innovation, and work to overcome the sources of resistance to change.
  • Africa’s Energy Transformation: Rewriting the Global Rules (1 Dec 2016) | Caroline Kende-Robb
    Africa is undergoing a remarkable energy transformation. But African governments and their international partners have to accelerate that transformation if we are to achieve our collective ambitions. Access to clean modern energy, especially in Africa, where 620 million people have no electricity, is critical to the success of global efforts to tackle poverty and achieve the SDGs.
  • Transformation for Better or for Worse? The Evidence from South East Europe (24 Nov 2016) | Marija Stambolieva
    The UNRISD Flagship report 2016 sees transformational change as a set of policies and structures that “expand rights, increase equality and reduce power asymmetries, and support sustainable and equitable structural change of the economy”. For scholars of post-socialist transformation, however, the notion of “transformation” is typically associated with structural changes that generated social inequalities and boosted power asymmetries in societies which were previously relatively equal but perceived as inefficient. This blog post discusses the social policy pitfalls of transitions after political and economic crises.
  • The Ethic of Care. Why Care Policies Need to Recognize the Interdependence of Us All (17 Nov 2016) | Ruth Evans
    Care is finally receiving more of the attention it deserves in international development policy. But rather than using the language of 'burden' and 'dependency', care needs to be re-framed to recognize the vulnerability and interdependence of us all. This blog explores a a more holistic understanding of the complexity of caring relations in line with an ethic of care and human rights perspective that recognizes and re-values care.
  • Emprendimientos económicos solidarios y empoderamiento: el papel de las redes locales en el territorio (10 Nov 2016) | Leandro Morais
    En los últimos años la Economía Social y Solidaria (ESS) ha adquirido cada vez mayor visibilidad económica, social y política. Sin embargo, además de estos avances, en la vida cotidiana de los emprendimientos económicos solidarios hay muchas fragilidades enmarcadas por factores internos y externos. Muchos de estos factores podrían ser abordados y enfrentados a partir de la formación de redes de emprendimientos en el territorio.
  • The Just Transition: Making Sure a Low-Carbon Economy Leaves No One Behind (2 Nov 2016) | Edouard Morena
    Climate change is without doubt the most urgent and critical issue of our times. Given the scale of the problem and its consequences—which are already being felt, especially by the world’s most vulnerable populations—the climate challenge requires us to adopt a holistic approach and to rethink our growth and development models. This blog post discusses the need for not just a green but also a just transition for workers and their communities.
  • Blind Spots in Agenda 2030: What Happened to Improving Global Social Governance? (27 Oct 2016) | Bob Deacon
    The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would seem to have ushered in a new era of global governance, but will the status quo be sufficient to fulfil the full potential of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? This blog expands on the important issue of what improvements in global social governance will be needed to achieve everything that is set out in the SDGs, and some things which aren’t there but should be.
  • Transformation and the Tax Collector. How to Make Tax Reform Work for Sustainable Development (20 Oct 2016) | Katja Hujo
    Mobilizing sufficient financial resources to implement the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is one of the key challenges countries and the international community face in the run-up to 2030. But the challenge is not only to increase the quantity of revenues. The quality of financing policies also needs improvement. This blog discusses how mobilizing domestic resources can impact positively on production and employment, redistribution, social inclusion and gender equality, as well as sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Marking International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 Oct 2016) | Paul Ladd
    The launch today of UNRISD’s new Flagship report, Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, coincides 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.
  • Prosperity, People or Planet? Eco-Social Priorities for Sustainable Development (13 Oct 2016) | Pascal van Griethuysen
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development constitutes a major shift in the way development is addressed in international governance, reconnecting it with the imperative to shift towards sustainable development. This blog argues that this means re-thinking our priorities and changing the hierarchy which puts economic choices ahead of sustainable and just social and ecological outcomes.
  • When Can Public Policy Work for SSE? (5 Oct 2016) | Peter Utting
    An increasing number of governments are adopting policies and programmes that aim to support different types of SSE organizations and enterprises. This potentially bodes well for implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But whether or not such initiatives are effective is an open question. The state-SSE relationship is fraught with tensions and contradictions, which under certain conditions may be mitigated. This blog post explores how.
  • Social Policy is a Must for Integrated Sustainable Development (20 Sep 2016) | Ilcheong Yi
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is by now well-known as a set of 17 Goals and 169 Targets, but it is noticeably silent on how to achieve them. This blog post identifies social policy as a crucial building block in the development community's efforts to create an integrated strategy for sustainable development.
  • Up and Down the Political Agenda: Pathways to Transformative Care Policies (2 Aug 2016) | Andrea Kaufmann, Valeria Esquivel
    What do preschool childcare, safe water and paternity leave have in common? All of them can contribute to achieving Target 5.4 in the SDGs on unpaid care. Find out where UNRISD research has discovered transformative care policies and effective strategies for getting these policies put into place.
  • Inequality and the SDGs: Not Only a Developing Country’s Burden (24 Mar 2016) | Kelly Stetter
    On March 30 in New York, ECOSOC will host a Special Meeting on Inequality, bringing together high-level representatives from Member States, the UN system, academia and civil society to discuss unequal distribution of wealth, its implications for the Sustainable Development Agenda and what can be done about it. However, despite SDG 10’s clear objective of reducing inequality within and among countries everywhere, too much of the focus on inequality centres on developing countries, ignoring serious economic, social and cultural divides in many of the world’s advanced nations, which contribute to rising global inequality levels.
  • Are the Sustainable Development Goals Good News for Women? (7 Mar 2016) | Valeria Esquivel, Caroline Sweetman
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals, agreed in September 2015, marked a historic moment for development—and for feminism, according a range of prominent women's rights activists and advocates involved in the creation of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. What needs to be done to ensure that SDGs deliver on their promise for people living in poverty and for women in particular? Valeria Esquivel and Caroline Sweetman introduce some of the analysis in the latest issue of the Gender & Development journal.
  • Decisions for Davos (19 Jan 2016) | Paul Ladd
    From today, over 2,500 people will descend on Davos for the World Economic Forum. Most will be leaders from business, joined also by representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society. In this blog, read three simple suggestions for how business leaders can commit to the SDGs and not only help to make the world better for people now, but also more resilient to respond to future shocks—whether these are driven by technology or not.
  • Making the SDGs Transformational: UNRISD and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (17 Nov 2015) | Paul Ladd
    I started as the Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development in mid-October. I’ve spent most of my first four weeks in meetings—with government representatives in Geneva, with UN colleagues, and with the UNRISD team. I’ve been grateful for the warmth with which I’ve been welcomed, and the professionalism and commitment of every single member of staff. In all of these discussions the main questions at the back of my mind have been: What does it mean to work on ‘social development’ at this particular point in history; and what is the best contribution that UNRISD can make?
  • Delivering Social Protection Systems for All: Why Taxes Matter (5 Oct 2015) | Francesca Bastagli
    Social protection and taxation feature prominently as key policy instruments available to governments in the pursuit of development goals in both the Financing for Development (FFD) Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This renewed interest in social protection and tax presents a precious opportunity to promote the closer consideration of the links between the two and the ways in which they operate jointly to shape development outcomes.
  • Destination: Socially Sustainable Development. Will Addis Lead the Way? (25 Sep 2015) | Katja Hujo
    In this concluding think piece of the Road to Addis and Beyond Series, UNRISD Research Coordinator Katja Hujo brings together some of the main strands of argument covered by contributors and situates them in relation to UNRISD research, highlighting the importance of the politics of tax reform over and above the technicalities of reform blueprints. The piece concludes by outlining promising routes to more and better finance at the national level as well as blind spots to be aware of, and provides a concise, compelling view of what direction the road beyond Addis should take if we are to arrive at the destination set out in the sustainable development agenda for people, planet and prosperity.
  • Beyond Addis: How Can We Finance the SDGs? (8 Sep 2015) | Matthew Martin
    This contribution examines what the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, which took place in Addis Ababa in July 2015, means for financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what we need to do next to ensure they are fully financed. It emphasizes the need to double tax revenues, double aid, provide US$500 billion a year of innovative finance, and establish strong debt crisis prevention and resolution mechanisms. It then discusses how each of these could be achieved. Finally it quantifies the public spending needs for the SDGs, emphasizing the need for country leadership, anti-inequality focus, and transparency and accountability, for strong monitoring of post-2015 means of implementation in terms of inputs (spending, aid, tax), and for all sides to redouble their efforts to mobilize the money.
  • Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference: A Missed Opportunity to Discuss the Role of International Public Finance Post-2015 (24 Aug 2015) | Gail Hurley
    The Addis Ababa Financing for Development conference has concluded with an agreement that has both its supporters and its critics. In the run-up to Addis, discussions around international tax cooperation and how to leverage more private finance for development took centre stage. Less in evidence, however, was a frank discussion around how we need to use international public finance in the future; the international community still tends to think of this finance as ‘aid’ when in reality it will have a far larger and more complex role in supporting the realization of the new sustainable development agenda.
  • An Orphaned Tax Agenda? Sacrificing Good Governance and Tax Justice in the Addis Ababa Outcome (18 Aug 2015) | Manuel Montes
    At the Financing for Development Conference in Addis in July 2015, developed countries blocked a proposal to establish an intergovernmental body within the United Nations on international cooperation in tax matters. There is a fundamental difference between North (where international companies are mostly headquartered) and South (whose interest lies in obtaining a fair share of the tax revenues arising from the operations of international companies in its territory). This divide can be better bridged in work by an intergovernmental body in the UN. The Addis Ababa outcome however sacrifices good governance and tax justice.
  • Investing in the SDGs: Whose Business? (18 Aug 2015) | Aldo Caliari
    The role of foreign investment in financing development has been a matter of considerable debate in the negotiations leading up to all Financing for Development (FFD) conferences. But deliberations towards the one which took place in Addis Ababa in July 2015 have seen a definite tendency to propose a greater reliance on foreign investment in financing development. It will be important to watch how the Addis Ababa conference frames the regulatory role of the state, and the practices of using aid as an incentive to attract private sector funding, and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and institutional investors’ role in closing the infrastructure finance gap. With the transnational corporate sector more involved than ever in defining policies around sustainable development, winning the struggle for the narrative around the contribution of private capital flows to development is a crucial prize at stake in the Financing for Development negotiations in Addis Ababa and beyond.
  • Promoting Tax Bargains in Uganda and Beyond: The Importance of Civil Society and Parliamentarians (20 Jul 2015) | Jalia Kangave
    While developing countries have acknowledged the importance of domestic resource mobilization in development, in practice, not enough attention is being paid to the importance of tax bargains. Attempting to increase tax-to-GDP ratios without promoting negotiations between the taxing authorities and those being taxed is bound to undermine sustainable tax collection and promote poor governance. Successful domestic resource mobilization requires that (1) tax bargains are made more open; (2) civil society organizations (CSOs) and parliamentarians are given more political space in the bargaining processes; (3) systems are put in place to ensure the accountability of CSOs and parliamentarians; (4) governments introduce or reintroduce personal taxes at the local government level (such as the graduated tax – a direct tax that mostly affected poor and vulnerable households – which Uganda abolished in 2005) and (5) indirect taxes are made more visible.
  • Revenue Bargains Key to Financing Africa’s Development (16 Jul 2015) | Yusuf Bangura
    Africa has enjoyed a growth momentum since 2000 after the wasted years of the 1980s and much of the 1990s. However, eradicating poverty will require huge resources, which existing funding strategies will be unable to generate. Global commodity prices have fallen sharply; capacity to mobilize domestic revenues is waning; and aid has been insufficient in plugging funding gaps. Revenue bargains in which states extract revenues from citizens in exchange for investments that impact positively on well-being may be key to financing Africa’s development. They can substantially increase revenues, nurture effective state-citizen relations, force companies to pay correct taxes, push fragmented systems of service provision in the direction of universalism, improve policy space and make aid more effective.
  • International Corporate Tax Reform is Critical to Financing Sustainable Development (6 Jul 2015) | Erika Dayle Siu
    The Third International Conference on Financing for Development presents an historic opportunity to make the commitments necessary to eradicate extreme poverty and reset the development trajectory on a sustainable path. While financing for the post-2015 development agenda must come from many sources, increasing tax revenue will be critical. Although capacity building efforts in developing country tax administrations have been partially successful in the past decade, much more can be done to reform the outdated international tax rules. This think piece argues tax reform is essential to mobilizing the resources required to achieve the SDGs, and surveys current reform efforts.
  • Fair Pensions in an Ageing World (3 Jul 2015) | Manfred Nitsch
    Longevity without misery has always been mankind`s dream. Modern technology and political will can make that dream come true. Fair pensions for everybody are possible and affordable, when compulsory contributions from wages and salaries are topped-up or complemented with tax financing. No formal earmarking is recommended, but an explicit political consensus on linking pension and tax reforms can help for acceptance on both fronts. Pension systems follow a special financial and administrative logic. They are inherently different from the financial sector, because they rely on compulsory contributions and they cover most, if not the whole of a country`s population; they are different from non-financial business, because it is national legislation which governs their structure and their benefits rather than the fate of the businesses or their pension funds, as is the case with most company pensions; finally, they are markedly different from finance ministries which take tax money without any specific counter-claim. Pension insurance also differs from social assistance schemes, which are means-tested and care for the needy. Distinct from finance ministries and the financial sector, their governance structure often includes national employers, pensioners’ associations and trade unions. Increased labour migration flows make the international mutual recognition and portability of pension rights an urgent issue for global UN conventions, ILO standard setting, and bi- or multilateral treaties.
  • Let’s Walk Our Talk: Making Concrete Commitments on Financing the Sustainable Development Agenda (16 Jun 2015) | Inge Kaul, Donald Blondin
    Judging by the current draft outcome document, the Third Financing for Development (FfD) Conference is likely to achieve just one thing: a long list of declarations of intent, statements on what one might wish to consider or what should ideally be done—but few concrete commitments on who will deliver what means of implementation (MOI) and by when. If the FfD Conference is to produce more than just a non-committal piece of paper, it must meet a twofold challenge. It must (1) close the ‘specificity gap’ by moving from declarations of intent to concrete, actionable MOI commitments; and (2) close the ‘ambition gap’ by identifying the MOI issues that are of strategic relevance to the successful implementation of the Post-2015 Agenda.