1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

UNRISD Flagship Report: Combating Poverty and Inequality

  • Project from: 2006 to 2010

The preparation of the UNRISD flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality, was a major research initiative which aimed to contribute to debates on policy approaches to poverty reduction within the context of a post-MDG framework. The preparation of the report drew heavily on the project on Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes, as well as previous UNRISD work on Social Policy in a Development Context.

Many contemporary approaches treat poverty and inequality as residual outcomes of wider growth processes that can be addressed through discrete and targeted policy interventions. They often fail to consider key institutional, policy and political dimensions that may be both causes of poverty and inequality, and obstacles to their reduction. Such approaches run counter to the evidence from countries that have successfully reduced poverty over relatively short time periods. The research showed instead that progress occurred principally through state-directed strategies which combined economic development objectives with active social policies in ways that were complementary and synergistic. It also showed how poverty outcomes are shaped by complex interconnections of ideas, institutions, policies and practices in the social, economic and political spheres.

Research Inputs
The preparation of the report drew heavily from the project Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes, thematic papers, as well as past UNRISD research related to issues of poverty and inequality under several of the Institute’s programmes.

Case studies
Research was conducted in Botswana, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, South Africa and Taiwan Province of China, which have historically involved the state as an active agent of development, have had a certain amount of growth and have attempted structural transformation. The studies analyse initial conditions or historical antecedents of regimes to understand options available to policy makers before adoption of a developmental growth strategy. They trace the processes in which countries are launched on specific development paths; identify trade-offs, reactions and adjustments made in development strategies as regimes are consolidated; and analyse regime adaptability and change in contexts of exogenous shocks and pressures for global policy convergence.

Overview papers
Eight overview papers were commissioned to examine the following countries: China, Finland, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the former USSR and Viet Nam.

These represent four types of cases: late industrializers with high structural transformation; countries with a good record in poverty reduction in recent years that have pursued heterodox economic policies in opening up to the world market; countries that historically have done well in human development with low per capita incomes; and countries with a previously good record in poverty reduction and that have been in transition from communism to capitalism. Some countries may straddle more than one classification.

Thematic papers
A number of thematic background papers were commissioned. Most of the thematic papers, in draft or published in the Programme Paper series, can be downloaded using the panel on the right (Publications for the Programme Papers and Unpublished Papers for the drafts).

The Report
This research culminated in the publication of the UNRISD flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality in 2010. The report is structured around the following main issues, which, it argues, are the critical elements of a sustainable and inclusive development strategy:
  • patterns of growth and structural change (whether in the agricultural, industrial or service sectors) that generate and sustain jobs that are adequately remunerated and accessible to all, regardless of income or class status, gender, ethnicity or location;
  • comprehensive social policies that are grounded in universal rights and that are supportive of structural change, social cohesion and democratic politics; and
  • protection of civic rights, activism and political arrangements that ensure states are responsive to the needs of citizens and the poor have influence in how policies are made.

Leading up to the end of the MDG process, it is important not only to concentrate on meeting the targets but to begin an inquiry into how to achieve social development in a post-MDG world structured around principles of equity, social rights, resilience and transformation.

Research Teams

Country-level teams
  • Gervase S. Maipose—Institutional Dynamics of Sustained Rapid Economic Growth with Limited Impact on Poverty Reduction
  • Imogen Mogotsi—Wealth and Income Inequalities
  • Keitseope Nthomang—Basic Social Services and Poverty Reduction in Botswana
  • Dolly Ntseane—Welfare Regime, Social Protection and Poverty Reduction
  • Onalenna Doo Selolwane—Organized Interest Groups, Development Strategies and Social Policies: A Review of Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes in Botswana
  • Happy Siphambe—Development Strategies and Poverty Reduction in Botswana

  • Marcus André Melo—The “Unsocial” Leviathan Interests, Institutions and Social Policy in Brazil
  • Wilnês Henrique—Development Strategies and Poverty Reduction
  • Marcio Pochmann—Unequal Distribution of Income and Wealth in Brazil
  • Pedro Luiz Barros Silva and Norberto Dachs—Social Protection in Brazil: Access to Health Care, Education and Water and Sanitation (Sewage and Garbage Collection)
  • Brasilio Sallum Jr.—The Evolution of Brazilian State Capacity since 1930
  • Sônia Miriam Draibe—Brazil: Welfare Regime, Social Protection and Poverty Reduction

Costa Rica
  • Diego Sánchez-Ancochea—Costa Rica’s Development since 1950: Between Success and Contradictions in a Small Economy
  • Alberto Cortes and Andrés León—Costa Rica: Social Conflict and Distribution, 1950–2005
  • Juliana Martínez Franzoni—Costa Rican Social Protection: The Accomplishments and Strains of a Showcase
  • Isabel Román Vega—The Evolution of Inequality and Poverty over Thirty Years: From Success to Uncertainty, 1950–1980
  • Juan Diego Trejos—Basic Social Services: Achievements and Bottlenecks since 1950
  • Jorge Vargas Cullell—Public Institutional Infrastructure and Social Redistribution in Costa Rica

  • Vivek Chibber—Organized Interests, Development Strategies and Social Policies
  • Atul Kohli—State and Redistributive Development in India
  • P.S. Vijay Shankar and Mihir Shah—Rethinking Reforms: A New Vision for the Social Sector in India
  • Rayaprolu Nagaraj—Development Strategies and Poverty Reduction: Indian Experience
  • Gita Sen and Durgam Rajasekhar—Social Protection in India: Policies, Experiences, Challenges
  • M.H. Suryanarayana—Economic Development and Inequalities

  • Rosemary Atieno—Organised Interests, Development Strategies and Social Policies
  • Mohamud A. Jama—Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes: The Case of Kenya
  • Winnie V. Mitullah—Poverty and Social Service Provision in Kenya: Balancing Public and Private Provision
  • Adams Oloo—Developmental State Capacity and Institutional Reform: The Case of Kenya
  • Joseph Onjala—Wealth and Income Inequalities in Kenya: Causes, Dimensions, Dynamics and Poverty
  • Chweha Ludeki—Welfare Regime, Social Protection and Poverty Reduction

  • Khoo Boo Teik—Development Strategies and Poverty Reduction
  • Francis Loh Kok Wah—Organized Groups, Development Strategies and Social Policies
  • Abdul Rahman Embong—Developmental State Capacity and Institutional Reform in Malaysia
  • Saidatulakmal Mohd—Welfare Regime, Social Protection and Poverty Reduction
  • Khoo Khay Jin—Poverty and Inequality
  • Halim Salleh—Welfare Regime, Social Services and Poverty Reduction

South Africa
  • Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass—Why Don’t the Poor Get More? The State and Poverty in Post-Apartheid South Africa (book)

Taiwan Province of China
  • Yeun-wen Ku—Development Strategies and Poverty Reduction
  • Yeun-wen Ku and Yu Fan Chang—Wealth and Income Inequalities
  • Jen-Der Lue—Welfare Regime, Social Protection and Poverty Reduction
  • Ling Ping Chen—Organized Interests, Development Strategies and Social Policies
  • Chung-Hsien Huang—Developmental State Capacity and Institutional Reform
  • Jun-Rong Chen—Welfare Regime, Social Services and Poverty Reduction

Overview paper authors
Thematic papers
For further information, please refer to the tabs to the right.