The UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) was created in 1963 as an autonomous agency within the UN system. It engages in multidisciplinary research on the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development. Its work is guided by the conviction that, for effective development policies to be formulated, an understanding of the social and political context is crucial. The institute attempts to provide governments, development agencies, grass roots organizations, and scholars with a better understanding of how development policies and processes of economic, social, and environmental change affect different social groups.
Working through an extensive network of national research centers, UNRISD aims to promote original research and strengthen research capacity in developing countries.
The UNRISD program for the 2000–03 period included work in the following areas: social policy and development; democracy and human rights; identities, conflict and cohesion; civil society and social movements; technology and society.
In 1996, UNRISD conducted the War-Torn Societies Project, which focused on post-conflict rebuilding and rehabilitation. The project sought to identify novel and integrated policy responses to the complex interactions between peacekeeping, relief, rehabilitation, and development activities.
The UNRISD Internship Program provides a limited number of graduate students from around the world the opportunity to gain valuable experience in an international research institute setting. Interns are selected on the basis of their academic experience and interests. Students selected for the unpaid internships spend a minimum of two months at UNRISD assisting project coordinators in developing project proposals, compiling annotated bibliographies, organizing research seminars, translating correspondence, and carrying out various tasks in the Reference Centre. As part of its mandate, UNRISD issues newsletters, books, and other publications, some of which are available online at http://www.unrisd.org/ .
By 2002, the institute had approximately 35 staff members at its headquarters in Geneva, and is financed entirely by voluntary contributions.