UNRISD (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development) research and policy analysis are at the forefront of progressive international development thinking that has reasserted the centrality of social policy in development strategies. UNRISD understands social policy as public interventions that aim to guarantee adequate and secure livelihoods, income and well-being, and that enable all individuals to strive for their own life goals. This is a purposefully broad definition that goes beyond interventions designed only to protect the most vulnerable. UNRISD research has demonstrated, for example, the transformative role that state-led social policy can play in development contexts, and has shown that social welfare is tightly bound to economic progress, as well as the role of social policy in strengthening citizenship, political participation and social cohesion.
The contemporary challenge is to build on the expansion of social policies and programmes related to the MDGs, which have largely focused on ameliorating problematic outcomes of development processes, to generate a more transformative approach to social policy that responds to the global challenges of inequality, conflict and unsustainable practices, and identifies and addresses structural inequalities and their drivers.
The UNRISD Social Policy and Development Programme examines how social policies can be instrumental to economic development, and financed in a sustainable and progressive way, while maintaining their intrinsic goals of protection, equity and social inclusion.
Photo credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.