1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

  • Project from: 2012 to 2020

We have much to learn in the years until 2030 about how to make [this] transformative change happen. Research by organizations like UNRISD will continue to play an important role in understanding the underlying processes and drivers of change, and in helping countries to learn from each other.”
      Ban Ki-Moon, Foreword to UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report Policy Innovations for Transformative Change. Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


UNRISD research in the areas of social policy, gender and sustainable development engages directly with priority concerns of the international development community and the UN system. This page highlights some of the entry points through which UNRISD research is contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and helped to inform the "post-2015" process.

How UNRISD Engages with the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Assessing SDG Implementation from a Civil Society Perspective
On 23 October 2017, UNRISD hosted the Geneva launch of the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 report, produced by a global coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions, and supported by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Carrying the subtitle "Reclaiming policies for the public. Privatization, partnerships, corporate capture and their impact on sustainability and inequality - assessments and alternatives", the civil society "shadow" report provides a wide-ranging independent assessment of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

UNSSC Summer Academy: Training for SDG Implementers
UNRISD shared its research results on how social and solidarity economy can facilitate the implementation of the SDGs at the local level with 120 participants and speakers from over 50 countries at the UN Summer Academy hosted by the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany. Senior Research Coordinator Ilcheong Yi participated in a plenary panel discussion and moderated an “AppLab” (an interactive workshop). Participants at the Summer Academy, who in their day jobs contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, came from a wide variety of backgrounds including UN entities from across the globe, governments, municipalities, civil society organizations, research institutes and universities.
UNRISD is also working with UNSSC to create a suite of micro-learning opportunities based on our 2016 Flagship Report Policy Innovations for Transformative Change. More information to follow in 2018.

Linking Resilience Thinking and Transformative Change
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development uses the concepts of resilience and transformation normatively and does not specify what kind of policies are needed to support deliberate transformations to sustainability. UNRISD is contributing to filling that gap by hosting a panel at the 2017 Resilience conference in Stockholm and commissioning the think piece series Linking Resilience Thinking and Transformative Change. In the panel and the series, scholars unpack the notions of transformation and resilience and analyse the politics at play as policy makers try to identify environmentally sustainable and socially equitable solutions. We argue that deliberate transformations toward social-ecological resilience need to be supported by eco-social policies that prioritize these objectives in development strategies.

UNRISD Keynote Speaker at Asia Policy Dialogue on SSE and the SDGs
The Keynote Speech given by UNRISD Research Coordinator Ilcheong Yi at the 2017 Asia Policy Dialogue, held in Seoul on 1 June 2017, focused on the potential of SSE to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but also noted where the challenges lie in scaling-up initiatives without losing the values they are based on. The Asia Policy Dialogue, organized by the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF) and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, brings together select actors in the field of SSE, giving UNRISD a unique opportunity to transfer knowledge on SDG implementation to policy makers, elected officials, social entrepreneurs, practitioners and researchers from the Asia Pacific region. Attendance is by invitation only.

World Social Work Day
UNRISD hosted the Geneva event for World Social Work Day in 2017 under the banner of “Social Work and Sustainable Development”. Two events took place around the overarching question: What can social work contribute, and which competences are needed, to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Practitioners, academics and students discussed the commitments to social justice, inclusive development and human rights that social work and sustainable development have in common.

The Transformation Conversation: Blogs on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
This blog series explores what it takes to design and implement innovative eco-social policies that will lead to transformative change and fulfil the potential of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Together with the evidence, analysis and case studies in the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report they are the part of the Institute's contribution to the global conversation on implementing the SDGs. The first edition was centred on the launch of the Flagship Report and the second was published as part of UNRISD's engagement with the 2017 High-Level Political Forum, the annual UN platform to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Arab Forum for Sustainable Development
In 2017 UNRISD was an engaged partner with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in the preparation and delivery of the annual Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, using research findings to contribute to coherent and coordinated implementation, follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab region. UNRISD's contribution feeds into the findings and recommendations of the Forum which have a long trajectory in UN policy processes: they convey the key messages from the Arab region to the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) and will also be submitted to the ESCWA Executive Committee and Ministerial Session. The Forum was held in Rabat, Morocco on 3-5 May 2017 and hosted by UN ESCWA and Moroccan Ministry of General Affairs.

Transformative Change for Children and the SDGs
With this research project, initiated in 2017, UNRISD and UNICEF are uniting their research and expertise to critically explore what the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda means for children: What does transformative change, as defined in the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report, and sustainable development mean for children and adolescents in different contexts? How can policy innovations and institutional reforms drive transformative change for them? And how can children and adolescents themselves meaningfully participate in these processes?

Executive Training Course for Policy Makers on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals
UNRISD delivered technical assistance in the form of knowledge sharing and capacity building as part of an Executive Training Course for Policy Makers on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Senior researcher Ilcheong Yi shared UNRISD research on transformative change with government officials from 28 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia, delivering two modules of the course organized by the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development and held on 24-28 April 2017 in Incheon, Republic of Korea. The Executive Training Course provided policy makers in national and local governments, and policy shapers in the private sector and civil society, with the concepts and tools for mainstreaming and implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs through their work.

Social and Solidarity Economy for the SDGs: Spotlight on the Social Economy in Seoul
This UNRISD research project, initiated in 2017 with funding from the Global Social Economy Forum (GSEF), examines the social economy (SE) in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and how it is contributing to implementing and, ultimately, achieving, the city’s “localized” SDGs. Characterized by a rapid development of proactive SE policies, dramatic growth of SE organizations and enterprises, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s strong commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the city’s experience offers a valuable opportunity to further enrich understanding of social and solidarity economy as a means of implementation of the SDGs. This is the first case study of a series of research projects on SSE and the SDGs which UNRISD is planning to undertake.

Policy Innovations for Transformative Change: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report helps unpack the complexities of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in a unique way: by focusing on the innovations and pathways to policy change, and analysing which policies and practices will lead to social, economic and ecological justice. Drawing on numerous policy innovations from the South, the report goes beyond buzzwords and brings to the development community a definition of transformation which can be used as a benchmark for policy making toward the 2030 Agenda, intended to “leave no one behind”. Bringing together five years of UNRISD research across six areas—social policy, care policy, social and solidarity economy, eco-social policy, domestic resource mobilization, and politics and governance—the report explores what transformative change really means for societies and individuals.

Walking the Talk: Transformative Pathways for Achieving the SDGs (18 July 2016)
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals are a global commitment to “transforming our world” and eradicating poverty in all its forms everywhere. The challenge now is to put this vision into action. In keeping with the efforts of the UN system to provide guidance and recommendations on implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, the UNRISD 2016 Flagship Report, Policy Innovations for Transformative Change, explores how innovative policies that integrate social, environmental and economic aspects can lead to inclusive societies that leave no one behind. UNRISD previewed the report on 18 July in New York at an Official Side Event of the 2016 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, "Walking the Talk: Transformative Pathways for Achieving the SDGs".

Republic of Korea National Voluntary Review (April-July 2016)
UNRISD Senior Research Coordinator Ilcheong Yi provided technical assistance to the Republic of Korea in the development of its National Voluntary Review, titled Year One of Implementing the SDGs in the Republic of Korea: From a Model of Development Success to a Vision for Sustainable Development. This report analyses the enabling environments, prospects, challenges and opportunities for achieving the SDGs in the Republic of Korea, and reviews best practices for sharing knowledge with stakeholders at all levels of governance within and beyond the Republic of Korea. The review was presented at the 2016 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Youth Empowerment through the Sustainable Development Goals (18 April 2016)
UNRISD Director Paul Ladd participated in a debate organized by the Interns With A Mission initiative in Geneva on the motion "Does the current SDG framework provide enough opportunities for youth involvement and empowerment?" The event was an opportunity for exchange between representatives of UN agencies, the Swiss government and young people themselves. It was opened by Michael Møller, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and closed by David Nabarro, UN Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, and the Ambassadors for Switzerland and Belgium, showing high-level commitment to this important issue.

Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
UNRISD Reseach Coordinator Valeria Esquivel is a member of the expert advisory group for the UN Women report, Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Produced by UN Women's Research and Data section under the leadership of Shahra Razavi, this report aims to provide a comprehensive and authoritative assessment of progress, gaps and key challenges in the implementation of SDGs from a gender perspective. By generating high quality data and policy lessons, the report will be a key reference and accountability tool to be used by governments, civil society, the UN system and other stakeholders.

Special Issue of the journal Gender & Development on the SDGs
The open access Oxfam journal Gender & Development has published a special issue devoted to the Sustainable Development Goals, co-edited by UNRISD Research Coordinator Valeria Esquivel and Caroline Sweetman. Contributors, including prominent women's rights activists and advocates, offer a "first cut" analysis on what the SDGs hold for activists working to advance gender equality and women's rights. The special edition was launched at two events in New York and Geneva.
  • Gender and the Sustainable Development Goals: Are the SDGs Good News for Women? (Geneva, 6 April 2016)
    At this event, which is a part of the UNRISD Seminar Series, experts from the UN and academia reflected on the SDGs' potential, strengths and weaknesses from a gender perspective, and the challenges of their implementation.
  • Gender and the SDGs: The Outcome, the Processes, and the Prospects (New York,14 March 2016)
    At this side event at the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, experts from the UN, academia and NGOs came together to review what has been agreed in the SDGs, the role that activists could continue to play, and how Agenda 2030 could contribute to furthering gender equality.

Partnerships, Power and the SDGs (25 February 2016)
Networks are now established with the goal of enacting the ideals of multistakeholder partnership, which will be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. However, most of the studies of "partnership" often investigate only the formal rules that bring new development actors to the table and assume that inclusion automatically means that existing power inequalities are mitigated. In this seminar, Moira Faul argued that development "partners" may informally depart from these formal rules and relationships. Behind formal "partnership" lies a dense network of informal governance relationships and practices that require investigation in order to understand how partnership works, and prescribe effective solutions for policy and practice.

UNDESA Expert Group Meeting on Social Development and Agenda 2030 (21-27 October 2015)
UNRISD Research Coordinator Ilcheong Yi attended the Expert Group meeting, organized by the Division of Social Policy and Development of UN DESA, where he presented a paper on Making Institutional Complementarity for Equal Opportunity and Equalities of Outcomes. The meeting aimed to provide a strategic framework for addressing sustainable development from a social perspective; identify areas that require greater policy coherence to effectively address interlinkages between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development; review how to address specific needs of (or how to involve) vulnerable social groups; and examine how to harmonize the SDGs' implementation with that of existing policies and instruments related to social groups.

Interagency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation
UNRISD is an observer at the newly established United Nations Interagency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (UN IATT on STI), which was launched as part of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism (TFM) called for in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UNRISD Engages with UN Processes for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

UNDESA Expert Group Meeting "Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World" (United Nations Headquarters, New York 19-20 May 2015)
UNRISD Research Coordinator Ilcheong Yi was invited to participate in this Expert Group Meeting which undertook a review of policies and strategies that have effectively strengthened social development. The outcome of the meeting was concrete, evidence-based recommendations on how Governments, the international community and the Commission for Social Development can best contribute to promoting social development. In particular, the meeting provided inputs for the report of the Secretary-General on the Commission for Development's priority theme for 2015-6, which is “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.

The outcomes of the meeting also take into consideration how the implementation of the post-2015 global development agenda can best promote social justice, inclusion and participation, and reflect on how the Commission for Social Development can best use its leadership to ensure that these principles will remain central in the agenda’s implementation and monitoring processes.
  • Read more here to access Ilcheong Yi's paper and presentation; one of Ilcheong's slides features among the photos.

ECOSOC Integration Segment on Employment and Decent Work for Achieving Sustainable Development (30 March – 1 April, 2015)
UNRISD provided a series of policy recommendations emerging from its extensive research on the close connections between employment and social policy, considering the two to be mutually reinforcing. The recommendations will be considered by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) during its 2015 Integration Segment which brings together Heads of States and Governments, ministers, governors, mayors, the United Nations system, the tripartite constituents of the International Labour Organization, civil society, academia and the private sector. The Segment will demonstrate how the creation of good quality jobs could be a tool for promoting the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. The Segment will also serve as a platform to identify policy choices and possible trade-offs that could arise from an integrated approach.
  • Read our contribution here.

Report of the Secretary-General on Managing the transition from the MDGs to the SDGs (the theme of the 2015 ECOSOC cycle)
UNRISD contributed to the Report of the Secretary-General Managing the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals: What will it take, emphasizing how reducing inequality should be recognized as a guiding principle for the post-2015 agenda around which the SDGs can be integrated and implemented coherently across the dimensions of sustainability, and the role of social policy in achieving this goal.
  • Read our contribution here.

UNITAR Orientation Briefings on Social Inclusion and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
UNRISD Director Sarah Cook participated in two UNITAR Orientation Briefings which aim to strengthen knowledge for evidence-based decision making in the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda. For the first, on 16-17 April 2014 in New York, she prepared a short video using lessons learned from UNRISD research to set the stage for the two days of dialogue among experts and delegates. UNRISD also provided a short paper (written by Esuna Dugarova and Tom Lavers). The second Orientation Briefing took place in Geneva in May 2014, where Sarah Cook participated in person. The events form part of a series of interactive technical briefings for members of delegations and other government officials at the United Nations.

Geneva Dialogues on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda
These high-level dialogues between Geneva's international organizations and member state representatives are a forum bringing different stakeholders together for comprehensive, results-oriented conversations. UNRISD welcomes this UNCTAD initiative, which provides a way to channel specialist knowledge and expertise from International Geneva into the UN's post-2015 processes.

UNRISD is taking part in the Second Geneva Dialogue, titled The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: The Road from Bali, on 4 April 2014. Director Sarah Cook's intervention will focus on the gender dimensions of labour markets, in particular how "trade shocks" are passed on to women and the impacts on women of such shocks. International trade can be a powerful instrument to stimulate and spread economic progress via, for example, job creation and increased investment in infrastructure, productive capacity and human resources. Realizing the enabling impact of trade, however, requires certain conditions.

ECOSOC 2014 Annual Ministerial Review
UNRISD contributed a section on "Sustaining development gains through inclusive development" to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Addressing ongoing and emerging challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and for sustaining development gains in the future for the 2014 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)'s Annual Ministerial Review (AMR). The section was written by UNRISD Director Sarah Cook and Research Analyst Esuna Dugarova. Two of UNRISD’s publications, Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics, and Social Drivers of Sustainable Development (Beyond 2015 Brief No. 4), are mentioned in the report.

UNRISD’s contribution was the result of an e-discussion, which took place as part of the AMR process. UNRISD Director Sarah Cook co-moderated the e-discussion on Sustaining development gains through inclusive development , with assistance from Esuna Dugarova, from 17 February - 2 March 2014. Contributions made by the participants were channelled into various parts of the AMR, thus providing ECOSOC with constructive inputs and policy recommendations relating to the MDGs and beyond.

Panel Discussion on Drivers of Sustainable Development at the Commission for Social Development
At the 52nd session of the Commission for Social Development in New York, UNRISD Director Sarah Cook moderated a panel discussion on the social drivers of sustainable development held on 14 February 2014. The panel discussion represented an opportunity for the Commission to contribute to shaping the post-2015 development agenda.
  • Read the UNRISD background note on the social drivers of sustainable development on which the Note by the Secretariat accompanying the discussion was based.

The Global Thematic Consultation on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Addressing Inequalities
The Consultation was held under the auspices of the United Nations Development Group from September 2012 to January 2013, co-led and facilitated by UNICEF and UN Women, and supported by the governments of Denmark and of Ghana. Ongoing guidance and extensive contributions were provided by the Advisory Group for the Consultation, drawn from civil society organizations, UN agencies and academic institutions. UNRISD Director Sarah Cook is a member of the Advisory Group. This provides an important channel through which UNRISD research can inform the global conversation on the issue of inequality and to shape how it is addressed in the post-2015 development agenda.

Public Dialogue and Leadership Meeting: Addressing Inequalities
The end of the Global Thematic Consultation was marked with a Public Dialogue and Leadership Meeting, at which the Synthesis Report was delivered to the cosponsors, Ghana and Denmark. The meeting took place in Copenhagen on 18-19 February 2013.

Co-chaired by Michelle Bachelet of UNWomen, Tony Lake of UNICEF, Christian Friis Bach for Denmark and Paul Victor Obeng for Ghana, the meeting brought together high-level participants from around the world, including ministers of finance, social policy, development cooperation, planning and trade from Burkina Faso, Colombia, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Tanzania and Uganda, members of the High Level Panel on Post-2015, and many international and development organizations. Advisory Group members Sarah Cook (UNRISD) and Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) presented the report’s key messages to these high-level participants.
  • Read the presentation by Sarah Cook and Jayati Ghosh on the Synthesis Report.
  • Read the Chairpersons’ Summary Statement, which outlines a number of far-reaching recommendations for tackling inequalities.
  • Read Jayati Ghosh’s article in Guardian Development: "Inequality is the biggest threat to the world and needs to be tackled now: the post-2015 agenda must ensure universal access to quality basic goods and services, and tackle earlier policy failures."
  • Read Alex Cobham’s blog: "The report didn’t only bring together important research but more importantly it reflected the results of participation and showed a clear political position. ... My feeling now is that it would be very difficult for the High Level Panel to seek to exclude the idea of a free-standing inequality goal."
  • See all materials from the Public Dialogue and Leadership Meeting on Addressing Inequalities.

UN Task Team Working Group on "Emerging Issue of Inequality (including gender)"
As a member of the this Working Group UNRISD prepared the following Concept Note:

Subsequently, UNRISD worked with colleagues in UNICEF, DESA, UN Women, ESCAP, and ECE to produce a consolidated Background Thematic Paper as one of the outputs of the UN Task Team. Finalized in April 2012, the Paper drew on various documents, including the UNRISD Concept Note on inequality.

UN System Task Team on Post-2015
In September 2011 the UN Secretary General requested that an inter-agency Task Team be established to propose a unified vision and road map for the definition of a UN Development Agenda post-2015. UNRISD was invited to become a member of this Task Team and worked actively alongside other UN agencies from January 2012 through to June 2012 to produce a number of documents, most notably:

Reducing Inequalities: A Key to Social Development in the Contemporary World
On 6 February 2015, UNRISD held a joint side event with UNESCO and UN-DESA at the 53rd session of the Commission for Social Development. High-level speakers discussed why tackling inequalities was essential for progress in social development in today’s world, providing findings from social science research as well as policy recommendations.

UNRISD Beyond 2015 Briefs

UNRISD’s “Beyond 2015” Briefs contribute research-based insight and analysis to the dialogue around the post–MDG development agenda. They highlight key information in a concise format, with references to further in-depth reading, useful to policy makers, activists and academics alike.

Selected UNRISD Resources Related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development