Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Fifty-Second Session of the UNRISD Board

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to address the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) at its 52nd session, in particular as the first Under Secretary-General of DESA to do so.

I appreciate this opportunity to contribute to the important development of a new five-year research strategy.

Coming on the heels of UNRISD’s 50th anniversary, I also wish to congratulate you on five decades of producing rigorous, forward-thinking research and analysis on social issues. The vast body of work that you have created represents a tremendous contribution to the formulation of the principles and norms that the UN upholds.    

The collaboration between UNRISD and DESA has served to support Member States in their efforts to realize social development. UNRISD’s research and related activities have been critical in informing DESA’s analytical work. They have, in particular, influenced the policy recommendations that we submit to the Commission for Social Development and to the General Assembly.

Yet the need to advance social development remains acute. One needs only to consider that:

  • approximately 1 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty;
  • or that 123 million youth lack basic reading and writing skills;
  • or that around 80 per cent of the global population lacks access to comprehensive social protection.

Beyond these numbers, severe deprivation persists in health, access to clean water and sanitation, and other areas of well-being.

In order to address these challenges, we must re-examine the role and importance of social policy. And we need to adapt it to the current social, economic and political climate.

UNRISD has recognized the changing nature of the development landscape, including:

  • the shifting geography and profile of poverty;
  • large and, in some cases, growing inequalities;
  • the accelerating pace of globalization;
  • uneven economic growth;
  • expanding risks associated with climate change and environmental degradation; and
  • the vast opportunities as well as shortfalls associated with ICTs.

The focus on economic growth has sometimes come at the expense of social and environmental issues and concerns. This has fostered development that is neither inclusive nor sustainable.

The transition to sustainable development therefore entails the balanced integration of economic growth, environmental stewardship and social justice. The interlinkages among these three domains are such that each is more robust and sustainable when addressed in a harmonized way.

As the contours of the post-2015 development agenda take shape, the research and ideas that emanate from UNRISD have a critical role in buttressing UN system-wide support to Member States and in ensuring a strong social pillar.

My Department has benefited from recent collaboration with UNRISD in examining the emerging issue of the latest session of the Commission for Social Development, “the social drivers of sustainable development”. UNRISD also participated in the launch of the 2013 edition of the flagship Report on the World Social Situation on inequality. And we are collaborating with you in promoting the Social and Solidarity Economy, and in preparing the SG report to the 2014 ECOSOC session.

I look forward to further opportunities for joint work, particularly in connection with the priority theme selected by the Commission for Social Development for its next two sessions, “rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.

UNRISD’s new project, “New Directions in Social Policy”, will be a valuable resource to DESA as it prepares to inform the Commission on this new priority theme.

Thank you again for the opportunity to represent DESA at this important meeting. I am confident that stronger cooperation will enable us to enhance the impact of our work.