UNU-WIDER work programme 2019-2023: Transforming economies, states, and societies

Creating, strengthening, and sharing knowledge for development

Over the period 2019–23 UNU-WIDER research will focus on the interlinked development challenges of transforming economies, states, and societies. These transformations are central to the achievement of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Three key concerns will be integrated throughout the research programme — fragility and risk, empowerment, knowledge and capacity.

UNU-WIDER will mobilize research evidence for action through the ongoing processes in the UN and its member states. The institute continues to work with stakeholders to strengthen capacities for research, technical, and policy analysis, and facilitating the exchange of experiences and knowledge between countries and regions.

Transforming economies – at the core of any meaningful development strategy

This research theme is based on continuing need for large-scale changes in the structure of economic activity and employment opportunities, which must take place if absolute poverty is to be reduced alongside addressing economic and social inequalities. Economic transformation is also needed to deliver higher levels of income and market activity that are critically needed to improve the mobilization of domestic resources and establish a larger tax basis.

Research projects under this theme will include work on informality, productive job creation, especially in achieving gender equality and poverty reduction, and the opportunities but also challenges inherent in today’s global economy.

Transforming states – capable states are a precondition of achieving the SDGs

Capable and effective states are needed to work with the private sector to achieve higher and more environmentally sustainable rates of economic growth — via transformation of the economy’s structure. At the same time, the state has a key role to play in providing necessary public goods and in shaping the transformation of societies in ways that yield greater empowerment through proactive policies to help reduce marginalization of the poor and achieve greater gender equality.

Research in this theme will look at questions of public expenditure, tax incidence across income group and enterprise type, market failures and ways to correct or compensate for them (e.g., in financial products available to the poor) and in the management of natural resource wealth which now increasingly interacts with the climate change agenda (a dimension of risk and fragility).

Transforming societies - a complex task for every level of the polity

Societal transformation is, on the one hand, an outcome of strategy and policy choices. On the other hand, the characteristics of societies frame and impact on socioeconomic development as well. Increasing the capacities, resources, and confidence of individuals and their communities is a means to achieve the end of poverty and reduce gender and broader social inequalities. This is now a pressing concern in many societies, especially when high inequality is politically destabilizing — increasing state fragility — as well as hindering the transformation of economies.

Specific topics to be covered under this theme include empowerment (as a means to achieve social goals including the analysis and capacity strengthening for using instruments of empowerment and measuring and quantifying social goals), the role of social capital, migration, both internal and across borders.