UNRISD 2010 Flagship Report: Combating Poverty and Inequality

The 2010 UNRISD (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development) Flagship Report, Combating Poverty and Inequality – Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics, explores the causes, dynamics and persistence of poverty; it examines what works and what has gone wrong in international policy thinking and practice, and lays out a range of policies and institutional measures that countries can adopt to alleviate poverty. The report argues that current approaches to poverty often ignore its root causes, and consequently do not follow through the causal sequence. Rather, they focus on measuring things that people lack to the detriment of understanding why they lack them.

UNRISD ReportThe report analyses poverty reduction as part of long-term processes of social, economic and political transformation, but also draws important lessons from the experiences of those countries that have successfully combined economic development and active social policy to reduce poverty over relatively short time periods. It is critical of current approaches to poverty reduction that treat the poor as a residual category requiring discrete policies. When a substantial proportion of a country’s population is poor, it makes little sense to detach poverty from the dynamics of development. For countries that have been successful in increasing the well-being of the majority of their populations, long-term processes of structural transformation, not poverty reduction per se, were central to public policy objectives.
The report also examines the complex ways that poverty alleviation outcomes are shaped by the interconnection of ideas, institutions, policies and practices in a triad of economic development, social policy and politics. It advocates a pat- tern of growth and structural change that can generate and sustain jobs that are adequately remunerated and accessible to all – regardless of income or class status, gender, ethnicity or location. It calls for comprehensive social policies that are grounded in universal rights and that support structural change, social cohesion and democratic politics. And it makes the case for civic rights, activism and political arrangements that ensure that states are responsive to the needs of citizens and that the poor have influence in how policies are shaped.

Such an approach contrasts with contemporary efforts to reduce poverty through discrete social policies that are often weakly related to a country’s system of production or macro- economic policies.



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