FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
ORIGINS AND BACKGROUND
The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) was established in 1963 as an autonomous group within the UN system. It conducts research into social development problems and policies, and into relationships between various types of social and economic development during different phases of economic growth. It takes a holistic, multidisciplinary and political economy approach in its work. While research programmes are designed by a small staff in Geneva and by external project coordinators, they are carried out in collaboration with national research teams from local universities and research institutes, mainly in developing countries. UNRISD research and studies of concern to the work of the United Nations Secretariat are those in the field of social policy, social development planning and balanced economic and social development. The institute coordinates its work with that of specialized agencies. Research results are made available to a wide and varied international audience.
Current research programmes include: Business Responsibility for Sustainable Development; Emerging Mass Tourism in the South; Gender, Poverty and Well-Being; Globalization and Citizenship; Grassroots Initiatives and Knowledge Networks for Land Reform in Developing Countries; New Information and Communication Technologies; Public Sector Reform and Crisis-Ridden States; and Volunteer Action and Local Democracy--A Partnership for a Better Urban Future. UNRISD research projects focused on the 1995 World Summit for Social Development included: Economic Restructuring and Social Policy; Ethnic Diversity and Public Policies; Rethinking Social Development in the 1990s; and Social Integration at the Grassroots--The Urban Dimension.
Responsibility for approving the institute’s research programme and budget is vested in a board, made up of outstanding social scientists. The institute has a yearly budget of US$2.5 million to US$3 million. UNRISD relies wholly on voluntary contributions from governments, international agencies, foundations and other grant-giving bodies. Regular government contributors include Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
In preparation for the five-year review of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development (WSSD), also known as Copenhagen+5, UNRISD plans to generate a broad debate on five areas of policy and institutional reform that are central to creating an “enabling environment” for social progress. These include: initiatives to finance social development; promoting democratization and public-sector reform; furthering gender mainstreaming in public policy; strengthening civil society organizations; and integrating concepts of sustainable development in planning and project implementation. Within each of these thematic areas, analysis will focus both on socio-economic and political conditions that seem to facilitate progress and on key constraints and tensions that impede it.
Articles in a special issue of UNRISD News highlight some of the issues to be addressed when considering the changing “enabling environment” for social development. Commissioned studies on key problems will be published in an UNRISD Occasional Paper series for Copenhagen+5, and will be distributed both at the April 2000 preparatory committee meetings in New York and online through the UNRISD website (www.unrisd.org). They will also be collected in a series of edited volumes, to be published commercially.
Finally, these and other inputs will be synthesized in an institute report for Copenhagen+5. The report will offer some valuable insights into institutional reform for social development. An international conference to disseminate findings will be held in Geneva in June 2000, at the time of the General Assembly special session to evaluate progress in implementing the Copenhagen Programme of Action.
Copenhagen+5 and UNRISD On-Line
UNRISD has inaugurated a Copenhagen+5 section on its website to stimulate the flow of information and increase communication among actors prior to the meeting in June 2000. Since 1995, UNRISD has learned of follow-up initiatives mainly thorough conferences it has organized and by attending other such events. It is hoped that casting a wider net via the World Wide Web will bring a more diverse and complete survey of relevant work to the desktops of those interested in knowing how commitments are being fulfilled at international, national and local levels.
Through a virtual forum, UNRISD On-Line will collect, categorize and communicate work carried out in follow up to the Social Summit as well as in preparation for Copenhagen+5. Via an online form, participants in the virtual forum enter a description and background of their initiative as well as other information and key documents users can follow up on. Participants then select the thematic, organizational and geographical keywords that best represent their initiative, thus allowing others to easily locate their work. The form can be updated at any time throughout the year. Participation is open to any group or organization carrying out work in follow-up to the Social Summit.
Basic benefits of participation include:
-- a service maintained by UNRISD at no cost to participants and users;
-- the ability to search for initiatives and organizations engaged in similar work;
-- hyperlinks to your organization’s e-mail and website;
-- the opportunity for those going to Copenhagen+5 to start networking before they get there;
-- the opportunity for those not going to Copenhagen+5 to network with other organizations carrying out Social Summit related initiatives; and
-- monthly updates of latest Copenhagen+5 news via an e-mail list.
In addition to the virtual forum, the section will include UNRISD Work for Copenhagen+5; UNRISD Work in Follow-up to the Social Summit; and UNRISD Work for the Social Summit. A list of related links will also be included.
UNRISD’s work is aimed at a wide and varied international audience, which includes researchers, teachers, policy makers, officials of international, regional and bilateral development agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
Publications available include: UNRISD Discussion Paper Series, UNRISD Occasional Paper Series for the World Summit for Social Development, UNRISD Briefing Paper Series for the World Summit for Social Development, UNRISD Occasional Paper Series for the Fourth World Conference on Women, UNRISD Occasional Paper Series of the War-torn Societies Project, UNRISD Social Development News (in English, French and Spanish), The Challenge of Peace newsletter (in English), Focus on Integrating Gender into the Politics of Development (in English), UNRISD Monograph Series, and commercial co-publications.
A list of the institute’s free and priced publications can be obtained by writing to the UNRISD Reference Centre (see address below).
Nicholas Bovay, Programme Information Officer, UNRISD, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland, telephone +41-22/917 1143, fax +41-22/917 0650, e-mail <email@example.com>, website (www.unrisd.org).