• Research at UNU-WIDER

    The triple challenge facing societies today of structural transformation, inclusion and sustainability is the focus of UNU-WIDER's work programme 2014-2018. These are seen as key challenges to human development that will shape policy and research needs over the foreseeable future. 

    These three development challenges overlap and interact. Inclusion cannot be delivered by social protection alone; it requires the transformation of the productive side of economies together with the associated livelihoods. Transformation that fails to achieve inclusion may yield growth but not human development in its widest sense. Ultimately, both rest on the achievement of sustainability.


    Transformation is a necessary condition of economic development, including efforts to reduce poverty and inequality. Transformation requires that economic growth reallocates resources towards more productive sectors, and in so doing, creates decent livelihoods for the poor and new opportunities for an emerging middle-class.

    Despite past successes in Asia and Latin America, transformation has slowed in some countries and has yet to materialize in Africa. Promoting economic transformation will therefore be crucial for the success of any future development agenda.

    Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank


    Inequality is a key challenge and not only holds implications for economic growth and redistribution, but also translates into power asymmetries that can endanger democratization and human rights, engender conflict, and embed social exclusion so that chronic poverty persists.

    Questions of inequality and inclusiveness are generating a broad range of public policy concerns at global and national levels. Promoting inclusion will require policy interventions that create decent jobs as well as provide safety nets for the poor and vulnerable.

    Photo: Shreyans Bhansali


    Decision makers in developing countries face the complex task of achieving development in the context of increasing environmental stress and diminished stocks of natural resources. Sustainability is a multifaceted programme theme with environmental, social, and economic dimensions. Fundamental policy and investment decisions in energy, water resources, infrastructure, and agriculture interact strongly with environmental issues at the global, regional, and national levels.

    Photo: Benno Hansen

    Cross-cutting concerns

    Cutting across the entire research programme are three high-priority concerns: Africa's inclusive growth, gender equity, and aid effectiveness.

    Photo: Ken Harper