Looking back, moving forward – a photo retrospective of the 2019-2023 WIDER Work Programme
As we conclude the groundbreaking years of the 2019–2023 work programme on transforming economies, states, and societies, we reflect on the milestones achieved and anticipate the journey ahead.
In 2019, I assumed the role of Director at UNU-WIDER and initiated the planning of the new work programme. Building on the institute’s progress during Finn Tarp’s ten-year leadership, where we deepened our understanding of the causes of poverty and inequality, climate change, the roots of gender inequality, and the challenges of structural transformation for low-income countries, I faced a daunting task. However, I was thrilled at the opportunity. I asserted that economic progress must intertwine with political and social changes. Soon, we organized inception workshops to lay the foundation for the next five years of work.
Our next actions led to the most ambitious work programme UNU-WIDER had yet undertaken. I believe the challenge of development fundamentally involves transformation—bringing about broad-based sustained improvement in multiple dimensions of wellbeing necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This encompasses transformation in three different dimensions: economies, polities, and societies.
The photoblog below chronicles this transformative journey, providing a visual account of our research and impact on the ground. It covers the entire process, starting from inception to the development and strengthening of partnerships with governments and policymakers in the Global South. It touches on the publication of numerous working papers, journal articles, and books, as well as various events such as research presentations, panel discussions, five WIDER Development Conferences, and five WIDER Annual Lectures.
During this time, we’ve seen the continued engagement in data for development, with the launch of new SOUTHMOD models, the release of the WIID Companion, the WIID Explorer, the Economic Transformation Database—all free to use and hosted by UNU-WIDER, underscoring our commitment to providing valuable resources for analysis and Global Goal achievement.
As we approach the conclusion of this work programme, it's time to unveil our next chapter. The upcoming work programme will delve into three pivotal themes: enabling a just energy transition, reducing inequalities across and within countries, and building sustainable peace in conflict-affected states. These themes form the foundation of our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Stay tuned as we capture moments of inspiration, collaboration, and progress, showcasing the resilience and dedication of individuals contributing to a more sustainable and equitable future for all.
In the first year of the work programme, we began to provide the foundation for the research we would conduct in the following years. This resulted in numerous inception workshops for the projects in the work programme.
From 11–13 September 2019, UNU-WIDER, in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), organized the first WIDER Development Conference of the new work programme and the country programmes, such as the Inclusive growth in Mozambique (IGM) and Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Economic Development (SA-TIED) projects continued.
In the face of the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNU-WIDER's resilience and adaptability came to the forefront in 2020. As we embarked on what was anticipated to be a milestone year—celebrating the 35th anniversary of our institute, the 45th birthday of the United Nations University (UNU), and marking 75 years of the UN—the global landscape quickly shifted, demanding our attention and immediate response.
The onset of the pandemic prompted a swift reevaluation of priorities and a recalibration of our approach. Rather than dwelling on cancellations and setbacks, we redirected our focus toward becoming a leading voice in COVID-19 research and policy recommendations. Despite the unavoidable cancellation of our annual WIDER Development Conference in 2020, our commitment to knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts remained unwavering as we pivoted to online modalities, even holding our first online WIDER Annual Lecture by Mark Malloch-Brown later that year.
UNU-WIDER findings headline the Oxfam Media Briefing on a new economic rescue in advance of major IMF, World Bank, and G-20 meetings on the COVID-19 response. The study’s findings become the Guardian’s Top Story of the day on 9 April 2020. The study was subsequently cited in more than 300 unique media outlets.
UNU-WIDER celebrates its 35th Anniversary with special issues of the WIDERAngle newsletter in October 2020.
Third training on GHAMOD – a tax-benefit microsimulation model for Ghana held 9–11 March 2021.
In 2022 and 2023, UNU-WIDER evolved significantly, resumed in-person events and conferences, uptake events with partnering institutions and policymakers located globally, and offered dynamic presentations of our work programme research and findings.
Throughout 2022–23, our researchers actively presented their work at conferences and contributed to academic discourse. Key engagements in 2022 included resuming in-person training with customized SOUTHMOD simulation models, enabling exploration of diverse tax and social protection policy solutions. Rwanda joined our SOUTHMOD family, marking a new chapter.
Entering 2023, we began concluding work on the current work programme, synthesizing key results from the previous four years of dedicated research. On Thursday, 21 November 2023, UNU-WIDER signed a contract with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) for a research and capacity-building programme on domestic revenue mobilization (DRM) to strengthen the knowledge base on tax through North–South–South partnerships.
Continuing progress on our country programmes and partnerships, in 2022, we launched the second phase of the SA-TIED programme, collaborating with the National Treasury of South Africa and welcoming the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office as a new partner. Our collaboration with the European Union endured, expanding our partnerships.
IGM Annual Conference 2022 on private sector dynamics and well-being held on 8 November 2022, in Maputo, Mozambique.
SA-TIED hosts special session at ESSA Biennial Conference from 12–14 September 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Social protection event in Zambia on 2 November 2023.