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

UNRISD Conference on Social and Political Dimensions of the Global Crisis: Implications for Developing Countries

Date: 12 - 13 Nov 2009

On 12–13 November 2009, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) hosted an international conference in Geneva to better understand the social and political dimensions of the current crisis and subsequent policy and institutional reforms, and their implications for developing countries.


The social and political dimensions of the crisis itself and subsequent reforms have received little attention. The conference aim was to highlight and discuss some pertinent yet neglected dimensions in the global crisis debate, including:
  • The social and political origins of the financial crisis: Changes in power relations and political configurations were instrumental in facilitating the rise of financialization, deregulation and other aspects of neoliberal orthodoxy. Many developing country governments adopted this agenda as a result of conditionality associated with the multilateral lending agencies and donor governments, as well as the buy-in from certain interest groups and technocrats committed to liberalization “from within”.
  • Enhancing social protection, redistribution and care through social policies: Social policy—understood broadly as government policies that relate more directly to social protection, redistribution, reproduction/care and “human capital” formation—can play a crucial role in not only mitigating the impacts of the crisis on human well-being but also restructuring models of development to make them more resilient to future crises of various sorts. Consideration should also be given to the role of non-state actors—business and civil society—that have assumed a more prominent role in social provisioning and regulatory activities in recent decades.
  • The politics of institutional and transformative change: The experience of the 1930s revealed that deep crisis can result in very diverse ideological and institutional responses. Crises create opportunities for progressive policy and institutional reforms, but outcomes often hinge on contestation and the alignment of social and political forces. It is necessary, therefore, to examine the kind of political configurations that are emerging and consider whether they are likely to recast the current global and national agendas to meet social and transformative goals or reconstitute pre-crisis structural conditions.

Please refer to the links on the top right corner of this page to access the agenda, power point presentations, conference summary (abridged summary), conference news (extensive summary) and draft papers.

An edited volume will be published in late 2010.