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UNU Research & Policy Briefs

Briefs are listed with latest at top.

Research Brief No. 1

Religious Perspectives on the Use of Force

Religious Perspectives on the Use of Force

By Vesselin Popovski & Nicholas Turner

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This research brief explores to what degree the world's leading religious traditions are in unity or disagreement regarding the justification of the use of force. It argues that the general principles of the ethics of war are cross-cultural, and that despite constant political interpretation of religious teachings, attitudes towards the use of force are more corresponding than contradicting.

Listen to an audio recording of this policy brief
(26 min., 25 MB mp3)

Policy Brief No. 8

Accountability and the United Nations System

Accountability and the United Nations System

By Michael Fowler & Sumihiro Kuyama

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The term accountability has come to be used increasingly these days at the United Nations as a key word in the Secretary- General reports, General Assembly resolutions, etc. However, accountability is by nature a "fuzzy" word and views are divergent on the concept, depending upon academic discipline. It appears to be a political reality within the United Nations that there may exist a certain mistrust between Member States over perceptions of accountability, the lack thereof, and ensuing policy implications and consequences.

Policy Brief No. 7

Building the Rule of Law under UN Transitional Administration

International actors seeking to consolidate peace and democracy in disrupted states have increasingly recognised the critical importance of establishing the rule of law. Yet rule of law practitioners in the UN system and elsewhere have struggled to achieve this goal. With the establishment of a new Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group in the UN Secretariat, it is important to consider the potential for, and limitations on, external actors in nurturing rule of law transformations. This policy brief draws on the experience of UN transitional administrations in Cambodia, East Timor and Kosovo to suggest factors for consideration in formulating rule of law strategies.

Policy Brief No. 6

Stranger than Fiction? Understanding Institutional Changes and Economic Development

The volume Institutional Change and Economic Development fills some important gaps in our understanding of the relationship between institutional changes and economic development. It does so by developing new discourses on the 'technology of institution building' and by providing detailed case studies — historical and more recent — of institution building. It is argued that functional multiplicity, the importance of informal institutions, unintended consequences, and intended 'perversion' of institutions all imply that the orthodox recipe of importing 'best practice' formal institutions does not work. While denying the existence of universal formulas, the volume distills some general principles of institutions building from theoretical explorations and case studies.

Policy Brief No. 5

The Significance of Transport Costs in Africa

The Significance of Transport Costs in Africa

By Wim Naudé and Marianne Matthee

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The success of Africa's exports, as well as its spatial development, depends on lowering transport costs. In this Policy Brief, we address a number of pertinent questions on transport costs in Africa, such as 'what are transport costs?', 'do transport costs matter for trade?', 'how important are transport costs in practice?', and 'why are Africa's transport costs so high?' We present a case study of the firm location decisions of exporters in South Africa to illustrate the significance in particular of domestic transport costs for manufactured exports. The message from this Policy Brief is that Africa's international transport costs are significantly higher than that of other regions, and its domestic transport costs could be just as significant. Moreover we show how domestic transport costs influence the location, the quantity, and the diversity of manufactured exports. Various policy options to reduce transport costs in Africa are discussed.

Policy Brief No. 4

War in Our Time: Reflections on Iraq, Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction

In this policy brief, based on the book with the same title, Ramesh Thakur argues that Iraq confirms that, as with terrorism, a war of aggression is an unacceptable tactic no matter how just the cause. What was meant as an awesome demonstration of limitless American might and willpower turned out to prove the limits of American power in defeating even a small band of insurgents fighting urban warfare with their own bodies as the primary weapon-delivery system. The fallout with respect to Iran suggests that the United Nations cannot contemptuously be brushed aside as irrelevant and disposable in one crisis, only to be lifted out of the rubbish bin of history, dusted off and put to use in another.

Policy Brief No. 3

Measuring Human Well-being: Key Findings and Policy Lessons

This Policy Brief is an outcome of the UNU-WIDER research project 'Social Development Indicators'. The overall aim of the project was to provide insights into how human well-being might be better conceptualized and, in particular, measured, by reviewing various concepts and measures and then offering recommendations for future practice and research. This Policy Brief outlines a contextual background to the project, by introducing some key concepts and measures used in assessing achieved well-being, especially at the national level. Highlighted are some of the best known and most widely used well-being measures. The Policy Brief then provides an overview of the five edited volumes that have emerged from the project, summarizing some of the main conclusions.

Policy Brief No. 2

Linking Globalization to Poverty

Linking Globalization to Poverty

By Machiko Nissanke and Erik Thorbecke

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While the economic opportunities offered by globalization can be large, a question is often raised as to whether the actual distribution of gains is fair, in particular, whether the poor benefit less than proportionately from globalization and could under some circumstances be hurt by it.

This Policy Brief summarizes and examines the various channels and transmission mechanisms, such as greater openness to trade and foreign investment, economic growth, effects on income distribution, technology transfer and labour migration, through which the process of globalization affects different dimensions of poverty in the developing world.

Policy Brief No. 1

Protracted Refugee Situations and Peacebuilding

Protracted Refugee Situations and Peacebuilding

By Gil Loescher, James Milner, Edward Newman and Gary Troeller

Download Policy Brief (128 KB PDF)

Despite the need for a multifaceted approach to protracted refugee situations, the overall response of policy makers remains compartmentalised. Security, development and humanitarian issues tend to be discussed in different forums, each with their own institutional arrangements and independent policy approaches.

Meaningful comprehensive solutions for protracted refugee situations must overcome these divisions and instead incorporate the recent policy initiatives of a wide range of actors. This type of broader engagement — with a catalytic role by UNHCR — cannot occur without the sustained engagement of all branches of the UN system. In this way, the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission provides both a timely opportunity and a possible institutional context for this type of cross-sectoral approach.


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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