International Panel to Address Building Better Societies in Today's World

Mar 03 2015
By B. Rose Huber | 609-258-0157
Source Woodrow Wilson School

Is there hope for building better societies? A new panel is gathering hundreds of global experts to find out.

With support from Princeton University's Center for Human Values and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP), will examine social justice and progress in today's societies and how social science research can help to facilitate change.

Examining a number of issues – including democracy, poverty, global risks, health, violence, religion and education, among others – the panel will evaluate how societies have evolved and what barriers or drivers exist for change.

In 2017, the panel will deliver a detailed report addressed to policy makers, decision-makers, social actors, movements and organizations to help them make better-informed decisions that improve society.

Two experts on the panel are based at the Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values. Marc Fleurbaey, Robert E. Kuenne Professor in Economics and Humanistic Studies, serves as a member of the IPSP Steering Committee, and Kim Lane Scheppele, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, is a member of the IPSP Scientific Council.

"It is often too easy to seek technical solutions when the causes of threats lie within our social institutions," said Fleurbaey. "For example, seeking a vaccine to Ebola is important, but this cost could have been saved with very cheap and beneficial basic health care institutions in Africa. Creating more effective and more just institutions is the most secure and long-term solution to many of our problems."

While similar in nature to the International Panel on Climate Change, the IPSP is independent and will not be mandated by governments. Chapters of the report will be written by teams, requiring collective work and debates between authors. The panel will seek consensus whenever possible but will not hide controversies, presenting arguments, analyses and debates in an accessible way. Their aim is to restore hope in social progress and simulate intellectual and public debates.

The report will be prepared in several stages. Authors will be selected from various committees, and a draft will be written. This working report will be made public to scholars, civil society, activists, politicians, administrations and international organizations for comment. Taking these remarks into consideration, the panel will produce a final report connecting the stakeholders' concerns with not just academic knowledge but broader societal knowledge as well.

"We know that social justice is more controversial than other technical topics," said Fleurbaey. "But there also is a lot of consensus about certain values like freedom, democracy, equal respect, and it will be interesting to lay out the implications of this consensus for the design of better societies."

Scientific and institutional partners of IPSP include the Fondation Maison des Sciences de I'Homme, the International Social Science Council, Bilgi University in Instanbul, Network of European Institutes for Advanced Study, the Institute of Global Governance, the Centre for European Economic Research, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and the Institute for Futures Studies. Foundation partners include the Russell Sage Foundation and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

For more information about IPSP, click here.

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