Social Development: From Research to Policy to Action - Draft Paper

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Within the framework of the MOST programme, UNESCO is committed to an ongoing effort to strengthen the research-policy nexus, acting in particular through the International Forum on the Social Science - Policy Nexus (IFSP) and the Regional Fora of Ministers of Social Development. This “nexus” is a profoundly practical concern: whether they realize it or not, policy makers need enhanced links between research and policy because, in their absence, policies are unlikely to attain their objectives. As an example, consider the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which constitute a key component of the current international agenda in the areas of social policy and development. As adopted in 2000 by the United Nations, the MDGs express clearly and concisely a diagnosis of the most urgent priorities that the world faces; a statement of the reasons why “business as usual” is likely to produce profoundly unacceptable - and ultimately dangerous - outcomes; and, finally, a set of quantified indicators to ensure that the international community can be held accountable for its action towards the MDGs. The unfinished business in this respect is not simply to move from rhetorical commitment to practical engagement but also to improve the capacity to act effectively against the evils that the MDGs were formulated to address. Well-meaning policies are, no doubt, better than selfish or cynical ones. But the history of development is littered with the toxic waste of well-meaning policies that, through ignorance, naivety or wilful disregard for established social-science knowledge, made things worse, not better. The challenge is therefore to establish a new basis for policy that takes account of its indispensable anchoring in rigorous knowledge about how societies actually work and recognizes at once the primary and irreducible responsibility of states for the welfare of their citizens and the essential contribution of civil society at all levels.

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