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The B06 team has published much of its research data on the online platform "Discuss Data". This makes it permanently accessible and usable for the public.

Project B06 "External Reform Models and Internal Debates on the New Conceptualisation of Social Policy in the Post-Soviet Region" investigates how Western reform models were evaluated by policy makers and the public in the post-Soviet region and what influence they had on actual social policy reforms.

The datasets posted on Discuss Data include information on the influence of international organisation on the reform process in the post-Soviet region, opinion polls in Russia as well as transcripts of parliamentary debates and presidential speeches.

Discuss Data: The research data of project B06

Dr. Andreas Heinrich
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Klagenfurter Straße 8
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57071

As a PhD student in project B06, she researched how the interaction between international development organisations, governments and civil society influences the sustainability of aid programmes in the health sector.

Gulnaz Isabekova, PhD student and member of project B06, successfully defended her dissertation "The Impact of Donor-State-Civil Society Interaction on the Sustainability of Health Aid. Case Studies of Projects combatting Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan". After an online presentation of her work lasting about half an hour (with an audience of about 40 guests), Isabekova discussed her research design and main findings with the examining board. The board* evaluated Isabekova's work and presentation very positively and, after a short consultation, congratulated her on passing the oral examination.

In her work, Isabekova examined how different types of interaction among stakeholders (i.e., international development organizations, governments, and civil society organizations) affect the sustainability of aid programmes in the field of health care. She focused on the countries following the project-based (Armenia) and Sector-Wide Approaches (Kyrgyzstan) to development assistance. Isabekova studied three large healthcare projects financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Planned and implemented by recipients and not providers of development assistance, all three programmes represented the “bottom-up” approach to health aid. However, the projects varied in terms of their objectives and presence of conditions attached to the funding.

For her work, Isabekova collected the project-related documentation on selected cases and systematically analyzed the studies on development assistance, interaction among stakeholders, and sustainability of health aid in the context of developing countries. She has also conducted around 100 semi-structured interviews in the field and, on this basis, worked out causal mechanisms and hypotheses that explain the influence of the interaction among stakeholders on the sustainability of aid projects, i.e., whether project activities, benefits, and community capacity building persist locally after project funding has ended. According to Isabekova, although context-specific, these causal mechanisms and hypotheses are transferrable to health programmes in other developing countries following the project-based or Sector-Wide Approaches to development assistance.

Isabekova will submit her dissertation to the State and University Library for publication in the coming weeks.

Gulnaz Isabekova is the second doctoral student in CRC 1342 to complete her PhD, following Jean-Yves Gerlitz (project A03). Many more will follow in the coming weeks.


* consisting of Prof. Dr. Heiko Pleines (first supervisor, University of Bremen), Dr. Monika Ewa Kaminska (second supervisor, University of Bremen), Assoc. Prof. Kristina Jönsson (external examiner, Lund University), Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink (Jacobs University), Prof. Dr. Michael Rochlitz (University of Bremen), Dr. Amanda Shriwise (University of Bremen) and Liva Stupele (University of Bremen).


Further readings:

Isabekova, Gulnaz, 2020: Mutual learning on the local level: The Swiss Red Cross and the Village Health Committees in the Kyrgyz Republic, in: Global Social Policy, online first.

Isabekova, Gulnaz; Pleines, Heiko, 2020: Integrating development aid into social policy: Lessons on cooperation and its challenges learned from the example of health care in Kyrgyzstan, in: Social Policy & Administration, online first.

Isabekova, Gulnaz, 2019: The relationships between stakeholders engaged in development assistance: towards an analytical framework, SOCIUM SFB 1342 WorkingPapers/3/2019, Bremen: SOCIUM, SFB 1342.

Dr. Gulnaz Isabekova
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research Centre for East European Studies
Klagenfurter Straße 8
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57073

Bengüsu Abacıoğlu
Bengüsu Abacıoğlu
Bengüsu Abacıoğlu has researched and processed bilateral social security agreements as a student assistant of project A04. She is now writing a technical paper on this topic.

Bengüsu Abacıoğlu, 28, is studying "International Relations: Global Governance and Social Theory (MA)" at the University of Bremen. For about a year she is also working for projekt A04 "Global Developments in Health Care Systems and Long-term Care as a New Social Risk" as a student assistant.

Dear Bengüsu, how did you get the idea to work as a student assistant in our CRC and especially in project A04?

I wanted to gain further work and research experience when I started doing my master's. While I was looking for a job, I came across the project on the website. As I read about CRC and the description of the project itself, I found it very interesting because the research on the health and long-term care systems is very relevant both academically and practically since it has been and will be gaining importance globally. Also, the project is closely related to my field, International Relations, but at the same time, different from my previous work experiences. Thus, it was a great opportunity to obtain a deeper understanding of my field while gaining experience in a different area and broadening my horizon eventually. 

How are you involved in the project work?

I have been working in the project for over a year, and I am currently maintaining 33 hours per month. I used to go to the office, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, I have been working from home. I have been involved in a diverse range of tasks. For a while, I was helping with the extraction process of the treaties for the project's database. Thus, I was responsible for finding the bilateral social security agreements (BSSAs), extracting the necessary parts, and eventually uploading them to the system. Then, I was involved in the more technical side of the same process, such as text cleaning and PDF conversion by using R Studio. Recently, I have started working on a technical paper that will be published. For that, I have been conducting a literature review by reading, and summarizing the articles that would be useful for the base of the paper.

What are you learning through your work at the CRC?

Most importantly, I am learning the content of the BSSAs primarily through conducting a literature review. In that sense, I am getting familiar with qualitative analyses on the topic and their importance, as well as how quantitative analyses could contribute to the literature. On the technical side, working at the CRC enables me to be more familiar with tools for the database, such as Zotero and Seafile. Besides, I obtained knowledge on R Studio during the Advanced Quantitative Methods class I took in my master's. Through working in the project, I get the chance to practice and advance my knowledge in R Studio by engaging with the text mining process. 

Are you already working on your thesis or do you already have ideas for it?

I have recently started working on my thesis. My topic is active female participation in armed conflicts and whether their participation leads to their empowerment and emancipation.

What plans do you have for your further studies and the time after?

I intend to enhance my academic career by pursuing a Ph.D. degree. Then, I would like to work in an NGO.

Simon Gerards Iglesias, Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
Simon Gerards Iglesias, Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
Delia González de Reufels and Simon Gerards Iglesias talk about the results of project B02, how they dealt with pandemic-related constraints and what is particularly appealing about the cooperation between history and political science.

You were faced with the monumental task of examining 90 years of socio-political development in three countries - how did you structure this huge task?

Simon Gerards Iglesias: There are different focal points for the three countries. I am examining the case of Argentina and have placed a focus on the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has only existed since 1919. I have defined the following years up to the Second World War as the central period of investigation, because in this phase certain structures dominated relations between the ILO and Argentina and the foundations were laid for the future development of relations.

The period under study in the project is indeed long, yet it can be meaningfully considered because it is criss-crossed by long lines of development. What has always been important, for example, is the transnational exchange of knowledge. I also see this in Argentina from the 19th century until today: people are always looking at what is happening in Europe. And another point: we find certain path dependencies. If we look at the labour protection laws for women in Argentina and other Latin American countries, for example, we find that there were quite restrictive regulations here very early on. They were actually more restrictive than in Europe. In Argentina there were laws such as the Ley de silla, translated as the "chair law": In every industrial company, a chair had to be available for every employed woman, which was intended for recreational breaks. This was because in Argentina women's health was primarily linked to concerns about the health of mothers and thus the future generation, which is why women were allowed more rest breaks at work. Even today, this law can be found in a certain form so that attentive travellers can discover chairs everywhere in Argentina, even in the most curious places. The background, however, only becomes clear to those who can relate to Argentina's labour protection laws.

Delia González de Reufels: In the example Simon gave, one can see very clearly that social policy has left visible traces up to the present day and has responded to the concerns of the respective countries: The countries of the Cono Sur had precarious demographics in the 19th and also in the early 20th century. In Europe, where the population was growing exponentially at the time, employers may have been relatively relaxed about the fact that pregnant women were also at the machine and worked extreme hours. But it was different in the Cono Sur: there were fewer children and this was identified as a problem and taken up by social policy. The "Ley de silla" may seem bizarre today, but the future of the nation was decided at the workbench, at least when a pregnant woman was standing at it. Not surprisingly, population development was one of the lines of development along which social discussions unfolded, which can be followed very well over 90 years.

And during these nine decades, fortunately, events do not come thick and fast every year. It is rather a process of accumulation with important points of culmination. First of all, there had to be an awareness of the problem. The state did not immediately take on all problems, but rather made a selection. In Chile, our period of investigation begins in the 19th century, and in 1850 the government said for the first time that it was unacceptable for people to go to hospitals to die. These were so poorly equipped that patients had no chance of being cured. So in 1850, for the first time, there was a discussion about how government money, or more precisely: revenue from trade and customs duties, could be diverted into the development of a functioning hospital system. Until then, health had been a private matter, but in 1850, the Chilean state steps into this responsibility for the first time and begins to understand public health as a field of political action. And from that moment on, the field of health policy expands to include other elements. To observe this, the 90 years are actually ideal.

Your work is not only divided spatially, but also thematically. Delia, you mainly study the development of health policy in Chile, while Simon studies occupational health and safety in Argentina. How did this division come about?

Delia González de Reufels: All social policy fields are of course effective in all these countries. But in the case of Chile, I have noticed that many developments in occupational health and safety have emerged from health protection. In other words, from the observation that certain working conditions undermine people's health. This observation was made in the health sector, and therefore it made sense to focus on health policy.

And in the case of Argentina, we have occupational health and safety as a focus because the ILO Office for Latin America was established in Buenos Aires: After South America was initially administered from Madrid, the ILO moved to Buenos Aires with its own office and was present there. In order to be able to depict this development and its consequences in the project, we have made this separation. This gives a more complete picture than if all the developments in all the countries were traced.

Simon Gerards Iglesias: The separation also helps us to be able to apply the historiographic magnifying glass, i.e. this analytical approach, despite the large time period. This is only possible with a thematic division. On labour protection: In Argentina there was an important law in 1915 that redefined labour protection for industrial workers: it regulated compensation for accidents at work and for the first time gave the working class an important enforceable right to monetary compensation, which was a big step towards the later social insurance. Many regulations followed this law, and many bilateral agreements with European states were also concluded as a result. This example shows that social policy in the early 20th century had many transnational linkages and that rights for minority groups, such as foreign workers, were already introduced at an early stage in the development of the welfare state.

Delia González de Reufels: In Argentina, the work of a supranational organisation that looked at both areas - work and health - is becoming prominent. For health protection, we could have focused on the PAHO, founded in 1902. However, in Chile, health policy began much earlier and was closely linked to the professionalisation of medicine, which was of particular interest to us here because it was of great importance for the development of public health. So we have history before the foundation of PAHO to capture. And it is particularly important that the ILO takes up issues that have been discussed before on the part of public health. Through our division in the project, we have been able to capture this dynamic.

What other major influencing factors or mechanisms for social policy developments have you encountered in your work?

Delia González de Reufels: It was confirmed that the countries observed each other closely and also learned from each other and took up each other's initiatives. There was an intrinsic motivation to make a difference in the fields identified as important through their own measures, but there was also competition between them. Argentina and Chile observed each other very closely, even though there was a neighbour in the region, Uruguay, which was very reform-oriented and defined itself very much in terms of social policy progress. Nevertheless, the Chileans and Argentines looked to each other. And towards Europe, of course.

Simon Gerards Iglesias: Argentines looked in many directions, but always towards Europe. Argentines didn't really consider themselves Latin Americans, they always emphasised their special connection to Europe. You can find this in fashion, architecture and so on. Europe is then also an important reference point in social legislation. Spain is not seen as an old colonial power, and if it is, then as a positive one that introduced the first social laws with the so-called "Leyes de Indias". Argentina knew that it was not as industrialised as Europe, but at the same time it wanted to become so and copied many things - industrialisation, but also the related social legislation.

What is important with regard to the role of the ILO: I have the impression that the conventions and recommendations do not have that much influence on national social legislation. It is the classic problem of international cooperation: one only agrees on the lowest common denominator. As a result, many conventions are relatively weak and vague, they leave a lot of room for interpretation without really establishing a higher standard. This is clearly the case in Argentina. Here, conventions were ratified very late and only implemented in certain areas. They cherry-picked conventions for areas where there were already very sophisticated laws. As a result, the conventions usually had neither a positive nor a negative impact on Argentine legislation.

Nevertheless, the ILO was a very important actor: namely as a platform and hinge for knowledge generation in social policy. The ILO was the first and, at that time, the only organisation capable of carrying out large-scale comparative studies. It had also built up a huge library and archives that were used by Argentines. You can tell that from looking at the correspondences. Especially in the field of social security, a lot was requested from the ILO because it had built up an incredible wealth of knowledge.

You report that these countries looked very much to their neighbours and to Europe. The world was not as interconnected then as it is today. What were the ways of exchange?

Delia González de Reufels: The world was much more interconnected back then than we often imagine today. Back then, there were close connections, not by plane, but by ship. If we look at the organisations, but also the military, they were highly mobile personalities who could travel and see things in Europe for themselves. The same goes for doctors. Ideas travel with people, they also travel in writings. The actors read French, German, English and also Italian. Doctors in particular have mastered a wide range of European languages in order to be able to receive the specialist journals and to be at the cutting edge of their discipline; this at least applies to the luminaries. In the oldest medical journal, which is still published today, there was therefore always a kind of Reader's Digest that summarised what was being discussed in international journals. In this way, the entire medical profession could participate in medical advances. In some cases, one gets the impression that the authors were present when Robert Koch made another discovery; their enthusiasm about this is just as evident in the texts as the pride in their own discipline, which was constantly developing and would contribute to solving the problems of the time in Chile and elsewhere.

Simon Gerards Iglesias: There were also numerous attempts on the part of the ILO to have a stronger impact on these South American countries, to reach people and to enter the discourse. This began with Spanish-language publications in the 1920s. Then there were trips by ILO presidents, by Albert Thomas and Harold Buttler and other ILO personnel, who all travelled to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile to present the work of the ILO and to promote their organisation. On the other hand, there is interest and commitment from national authorities: The Argentine Labour Authority published papers from ILO conferences in its bulletin and their proceedings were translated into Spanish. This bulletin was read by social policy experts in Argentina, and so the debates and knowledge were carried into Argentina.

Argentina was always the most important country for the ILO to reach the whole of Latin America. This was because - as Delia says - Chile looked to Argentina and the smaller countries even more so. That's why, for example, Alejandro Unsain, a social lawyer from Argentina, was elected to a committee of the ILO, to the Executive Board. The declared feminist and socialist Alicia Moreau de Justo is also the only representative from a country in the southern hemisphere to become a member of the Commission for Women and Children. An attempt has thus been made to involve Argentinean actors, to bring them to Geneva and thus to promote exchange and the production of knowledge.

Delia González de Reufels: As a developed country, Argentina also had a special infrastructure to offer the ILO. This also applies to Chile. So in the 1930s, a large ILO meeting was held in Santiago. Chile enjoyed the fact that the world looked to Santiago. They were willing to pay for it, even in times when money was scarcer.  This also applies to the Congresses of Latin American Physicians, whose idea was developed in Chile. At the same time, the country organised the first congress, which was a further development of the first Chilean medical congress. Thus, national development and transnational development were closely interwoven.

We found that there were always eventful periods of time that were driven by transnational exchange as well as by domestic developments. Neither one nor the other alone is sufficient to explain the dynamics of social policy developments. There was always a link between the transnational and national levels. Only this created a dynamic that made change possible. This is true for all social policy areas.

You have spoken of your historiographical magnifying glass, yet you are part a CRC that is mostly about political science. What was challenging about this constellation and what was particularly fruitful?

Delia González de Reufels: It is challenging, that the two disciplines are used to look at different time spans. Historical science is operating very close to the source, and sometimes you don't see the bigger picture in the beginning, but have to work it out first. We are usually in the archives for a long time before we can start to falsify our theories and make statements on the basis of sources. Our colleagues in political science are much faster. But the CRC didn't start out of nowhere. There were years of preparation, it was also about developing a common language, uniting our perspectives and learning from each other. That's what makes it so exciting for me to this day. By the way, we mostly come to similar results and complement each other very well, even though we look at things differently.

Simon Gerards Iglesias: I think political science focuses very much on methods, e.g. causal mechanisms, which we also had to acquire first. We, on the other hand, have this source perspective, and it usually takes longer until we can present results. But it is a very fruitful cooperation. I learned a lot and was able to use theories on international relations for my dissertation.

Let's move on to an unpleasant topic: How did the Corona pandemic affect your project and your research?

Delia González de Reufels: It's really tough: we have travel funds that we can't use. At the moment it is completely uncertain when we will be allowed to travel again. And unlike many colleagues, we are bound to the printed word: we have to go to the library and the archives. There are ways around it: Through a contact in a Chilean library, I was able to have some material digitised and thus get access to sources. But of course, that is only an excerpt and cannot replace weeks of archival work. Because you have to know from a distance exactly where in which serial publication something relevant can be found. And you have to be sure that no mistakes are made during digitisation and that the collections are complete.

Simon Gerards Iglesias: Fortunately, I was in Argentina two years ago, right at the beginning of my dissertation phase, and was able to collect material there. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, the ILO has not let anyone into its archives, which is a shame and ultimately a bit incomprehensible. That is a huge problem. We have hardly been able to view any ILO archive material, only that which has already been digitised. That's a lot, but it doesn't include correspondence, letters and informal reports. Yet it is precisely these unofficial sources that we as historians are so interested in. And we still hope that the archives will be opened up in time to allow us to look at them.

Despite all this, what publications can we expect from you in the coming months?

Delia González de Reufels: A working paper will soon be published that presents the results of my research and that of Mónika Contreras and puts them up for discussion. This is about the field of social housing and how it affects a particular professional group: the Carabineros de Chile. This is a militarised and centralised police force, created in 1927 through a merger of various other police forces and present throughout Chile.This new national police force was quickly able to use the social housing legislation to make itself attractive as an employer and to turn the housing crisis in Santiago around in a positive way for the members of its own unit. Housing, after all, is more than just a place to live, it has an impact on family life, on health, on the social fabric. I also have two essays in the pipeline for which I can draw on archival material I was able to collect before Corona in Chile and the Conway Medical Library in Boston.

And as a project, we will contribute two chapters to a a volume that I am one of the editors of: The volume aims to look at the breadth and dynamics of global social policy dynamics. It was fun to present some of the results of our work in a short and concise form for our countries.

Simon, when will you complete your doctorate?

Simon Gerards Iglesias: I will probably finish in late summer. It will then be published a little later, i.e. after the colloquium. I also have a lot of material and sources that I haven't used yet. Based on that, I will still write paper, but that is only due in the second half of the year.

Simon Gerards Iglesias
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft / FB 08
Universitäts-Boulevard 13
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67204

Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft / FB 08
Universitäts-Boulevard 13
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67200

Shire met with CRC members and guests to present her new co-edited book “The Dynamics of Welfare Markets” and to discuss in detail the challenges in regulating cross-border labour in home-based domestic and care services.

Clémence Ledoux, Karen Shire and Franca van Hooren are editors of the book "The Dynamics of Welfare Markets - Private Pensions and Domestic/Care Services in Europe", recently published with Palgrave Macmillan. The contributions to this book are exploring and comparing the dynamics of the very different segments of the welfare market, private pensions and domestic and care services.

In her presentation, Karen Shire (University of Duisburg-Essen) focused on home-based domestic and care services and in particular on the case of Germany, where a few hundred thousand migrant care workers are employed in a wide variety of work arrangements. These workers have little to no recourse to union representation and collective bargaining, thus they find themselves often in vulnerable positions.

Karen Shire intensified the exchange with CRC 1342 in a workshop organised by project B07 together with Helma Lutz (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt). 

Dr. Stephen Devereux, Anna Wolkenhauer, PhD
Dr. Stephen Devereux, Anna Wolkenhauer, PhD
Our Mercator Fellow Stephen Devereux is investigating the role of international donors in the spread of social protection in Africa. Having published a CRC 1342 working paper, he is currently writing a paper with Anna Wolkenhauer on this topic.

Almost non-existent in Africa 20 years ago, social cash transfers targeted to the poor and vulnerable have been adopted today by the majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In his CRC 1342 working paper, Stephen Devereux describes four causal mechanisms that are being discussed in the literature to have led to the rapid introduction of social protection programmes in Africa since the millennium - learning, com­petition, emulation, and coercion. Devereux then focuses on the pivotal role of transnational actors, specifically international development agencies, as ‘policy pollinators’ for social protection. By introducing ’policy pollination’, Devereux contributes a fifth mechanism to the literature on the diffusion of social protection in the Global South. “These agencies”, Devereux writes, “deployed a range of tactics to induce African governments to implement cash transfer programmes and establish social protection systems, including:

  1. building the empirical evidence base that cash transfers have posi­tive impacts, for advocacy purposes;
  2. financing social protection programmes until governments take over this responsibility;
  3. strengthening state capacity to deliver social protection, through technical assistance and training workshops;
  4. commissioning and co-authoring national social protection policies;
  5. encour­aging the domestication of international social protection law into national legis­lation."

Devereux does not make any judgement as to whether a donor-driven process of introducing social protection programmes is good or bad. But he raises the question about the extent “to which the agendas of development agencies are aligned or in conflict with national priorities, and whether social protection programmes and systems would flourish or wither if international support was withdrawn”.

At the moment, Stephen Devereux and CRC 1342 member Anna Wolkenhauer are looking even more closely at international development agencies in pushing for the adoption of cash transfer programmes by African governments. They argue for making individual agents and their agendas central in the analysis of such policy diffusion, and they do this by analysing the social protection policy diffusion process in Zambia through three individual agents located between the national and the international.

Devereux and Wolkenhauer presented their draft paper at an InIIS/CRC 1342 colloquium in mid-May and have received valuable feedback by colleagues from the University of Bremen as well as international researchers. They are planning to submit the refined version of their paper within the next couple of weeks to an international peer-reviewed journal.


Read Stephen Devereux’s working paper: Policy pollination. A brief history of social protection’s brief history in Africa

Dr. Stephen Devereux
Library Road
BN1 9RE Brighton
Phone: +44 1273 915802

Anna Wolkenhauer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67463

The scientific advisory board met with the CRC 1342 board of directors to discuss the research projects that are being planned for the second funding phase.

Last Friday, the CRC 1342 Board met with the Scientific Advisory Board in a two-hour video conference. From the Advisory Board, Evelyne Huber (University of North Carolina), Kathleen Thelen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Nicola Yeates (The Open University), Ben Ross Schneider (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Aaron Benavot (University of Albany-SUNY) and Lutz Leisering (Bielefeld University) participated in the meeting.

At the beginning, speaker Herbert Obinger reported on the progress of the work in the 15 projects and the current status of publications.

Evelyne Huber called the CRC "incredibly ambitious" and said that the Global Welfare State Information System (WeSIS) database "looked very promising". Especially in recent months, the number of publications by CRC members has increased significantly. For Aaron Benavot, "the productivity and output - even under the conditions of the pandemic with the associated restrictions - are very impressive".

Lutz Leisering noted that the publications of CRC 1342 members in peer-reviewed journals represent a great leap forward for the international visibility of German social policy research.

The CRC 1342 publishes a large proportion of its results in open access journals, its open access book series with Palgrave Macmillan and in its own open access publications. This publishing strategy produces "invaluable resources for scholars, students and the general public", said Nicola Yeates.

In the second part of the meeting, the advisory board members discussed the CRC 1342 proposal for the second funding phase (in the days before, they had read a summary of the proposal). With their questions, comments and constructive criticisms, the advisory boards gave valuable advice on research planning for the coming years.

Prof. Dr. Herbert Obinger
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58567

In "Social Policy & Administration", 7 CRC 1342 projects have presented case studies of social policy dynamics in the Global South. Their synthesis shows: The concept of causal mechanisms is particularly well suited for analysing such dynamics.

Seven projects of CRC 1342's project area B have published a Special Regional Issue of "Social Policy & Administration": Causal mechanisms in the analysis of transnational social policy dynamics: Evidence from the global south. The main research question the authors address is: Which causal mechanisms can capture the transnational dynamics of social policy in the Global South?

In order to find answers to this question, the authors present in‐depth case studies of social policy dynamics in different countries and regions in the Global South as well as different fields. All articles focus on the interplay of national and transnational actors when it comes to social policy‐making. (The papers of this Special Issue are listed below.)

The key findings of the authors are:

  • Explanations of social policy‐making in the Global South will remain incomplete unless transnational factors are taken into account
  • However, this does not mean that national factors are no longer important. In social policy decision‐making, national institutional settings and actors are key
  • Mechanism‐based research can plausibly trace the interplay between transnational and national actors and its impact on shaping social policy outcomes. The articles identify a variety of causal mechanisms that can capture this interplay
  • The output of social policy‐making is complex and can often not be explained by a single mechanism. Examining the combination and possible interaction of several causal mechanisms can provide more in‐depth explanations 
  • The concept of causal mechanisms can also be applied in comparative analyses
  • Mechanisms can be traced inductively in one case and then be applied to another case.


Johanna Kuhlmann & Tobias ten Brink (2021). Causal mechanisms in the analysis of transnational social policy dynamics: Evidence from the global south. Social Policy & Administration.

Armin Müller (2021). Bureaucratic conflict between transnational actor coalitions: The diffusion of British national vocational qualifications to China. Social Policy & Administration.

Johanna Kuhlmann & Frank Nullmeier (2021). A mechanism‐based approach to the comparison of national pension systems in Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Social Policy & Administration.

Kressen Thyen & Roy Karadag (2021). Between affordable welfare and affordable food: Internationalized food subsidy reforms in Egypt and Tunisia. Social Policy & Administration.

Monika Ewa Kaminska, Ertila Druga, Liva Stupele & Ante Malinar (2021). Changing the healthcare financing paradigm: Domestic actors and international organizations in the agenda setting for diffusion of social health insurance in post‐communist Central and Eastern Europe. Social Policy & Administration.

Gulnaz Isabekova & Heiko Pleines (2021). Integrating development aid into social policy: Lessons on cooperation and its challenges learned from the example of health care in Kyrgyzstan. Social Policy & Administration.

Anna Safuta (2021). When policy entrepreneurs fail: Explaining the failure of long‐term care reforms in Poland. Social Policy & Administration.

Jakob Henninger & Friederike Römer (2021). Choose your battles: How civil society organisations choose context‐specific goals and activities to fight for immigrant welfare rights in Malaysia and Argentina. Social Policy & Administration.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382

Dr. Alex Veit, Dr. Clement Chipenda
Dr. Alex Veit, Dr. Clement Chipenda
Clement Chipenda and Alex Veit analyse South Africa's food policy developments by looking at school feeding programmes and subsidies. Available as a new CRC 1342 working paper.

Their working paper offers a chronological analysis of South African food policy from the founding of South Africa as a semi-autonomous settler state to the democratic revolution.

Drawing on primary sources from archives and secondary literature, Chipenda and Veit compare two food security policies: school feeding programmes and food subsidies. In the period between the world wars, food scarcity and insecurity became an increasing problem, making food policy a fundamental part of the expanding welfare state. Free school meals were an important instrument from which all children benefited until the apartheid regime came to power in the late 1940s. The regime then excluded African children from the school meals.Contradictory at first sight, another food policy instrument remained in place under the apartheid regime from which all, including African populations, benefited and which was even expanded over the years: general food subsidies.

To explain these developments, Chipenda and Veit analyse the figuration of actors and their interdependencies:

  • the dominant, nationalist forces of the white political establishment, which denied responsibility for the welfare of the African population
  • the liberal, democratic, philanthropic and church groups that demanded food security for all population groups
  • industrialists, especially from the agricultural and extractive sectors, who stressed the importance of a healthy, numerous working population.

The dependence of South Africa's agricultural and extractive industries on cheap African labour, may have been the deciding factor, leading to central government regulation and subsidisation of the agricultural and food markets. But Chipenda and Veit point to the "peculiar figuration" of nationalist, capitalist, liberal, philanthropic forces that agreed to act together on food policy, albeit for different interests.

Read the full Working Paper: The trajectory of food security policies in South Africa, 1910-1994. The persistence of food subsidies

Dr. Alex Veit
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67471

Dr. Dennis Niemann
Dr. Dennis Niemann
How do international organisations influence the global dynamics of social policy? The fourth volume of the our series at Palgrave Macmillan addresses this question. In this interview co-editor Dennis Niemann explains some findings.

The aim of your book is to analyse the "architecture of arguments in global social governance". Put simply, you proceed in two steps: First, you map the field (which IOs are engaged in which social policy issues?), then you examine the discourse (which strategies do IOs use to try to make their ideas and concepts heard?). Let's start with the first part: About 100 years ago, the field was small; with the ILO, there was exactly one IO that dealt with social policy and that still exists today. How has the field expanded and differentiated since then?

Dennis Niemann: That's right, the general trend that there have been more and more international organisations since the end of the Second World War also applies to social policy. Surprisingly, there are some central actors that cover almost the entire spectrum of social policy. The OECD, the ILO and the World Bank pop up again and again and shape various areas. But UNESCO, the UN's educational, scientific and cultural organisation, is also active in many social policy fields. However, we also observed that the overall population of social policy IOs became more diverse over time. Not only the large, well-known IOs are involved, but also many other IOs, some of them regional, have appeared on the scene to cover social policy issues: e.g. ASEAN, African Union or Mercosur.

Over time, many IOs have added social policy issues to their portfolio or expanded their social policy portfolio to other fields. Why is that?

Dennis Niemann: There are two main reasons for this. On the one hand, the IOs were actively mandated by their member states to deal with certain social policy issues - even though historically they did not have much expertise in this area. For example, the OECD, whose thematic focus was on economic policy, was commissioned in the 1980s by some member states to develop an instrument to measure national educational performance. The result was PISA and today the OECD is a central IO in international education policy. In general, education policy is particularly densely populated with 30 active IOs. On the other hand, this thematic expansion was also due to internal organisational factors, i.e. the IOs proactively expanded their portfolio. This happened, for example, because it enabled them to better fulfil their actual core mission.

We also should not neglect the fact that certain policy fields were discursively expanded to include a social policy component. For example, the interpretation of water as a natural resource has expanded to include a social policy component: water and access to it is a social good.

Let's move on to the second part of your analysis, the discourses. In the social policy areas you can find a lot of active IOs. Do they cooperate or compete with each other?

Dennis Niemann: Both. Of course, the fundamental views of certain IOs on priorities in social policy are quite diverse and partly bipolar. While one side prefers economic efficiency, other IOs want to see social cohesion guaranteed first and foremost. These two perspectives are often difficult to reconcile. But it is not impossible. We see that pragmatic approaches are taken in numerous initiatives and that IOs from different "families" cooperate productively in specific projects. For example, the World Bank, OECD and ILO have developed a common approach in family policy since 2008. Something similar can be observed in areas of youth unemployment and the migration of health care workers.

You write that the tendency to cooperate has increased in the last 10 years or so. Why is that?

Dennis Niemann: Well, I think that all kinds of IOs are increasingly able to combine their programmatic points of view - perhaps due to the rather basic cooperation projects that have been started. We should not forget, however, that in social policy, different ideas often continue to compete; perhaps just no longer in fundamental opposition. The fact that certain values have become more universal and valid certainly also plays a role in increased cooperation. A catalyst for this were the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. They established certain normative reference points for IOs in social policy, which increasingly guide their arguments and actions. And a common basis of values makes cooperation much easier.

Some IOs are dominant in the social policy discourse. What factors cause an IO to dominate a field or at least to take an influential position?

Dennis Niemann: First and foremost, probably timing and resources. When IOs hit the zeitgeist, they enjoy an additional legitimacy that enables them to determine social policy discourses. IOs that also have the necessary resources to implement their programmatic guidelines can obviously have a more influential effect than IOs that lack these resources to generate outreach.

Finally, let's take a look at the future: The influence of IOs on social policy has increased in the past. Will this trend continue or even reverse in some areas?

Dennis Niemann: My crystal ball may be a little foggy on this, but in principle we have always seen an increase in the importance of IOs in social policy in the past. At the moment I can't think of many reasons that would cause a reversal of the trend. What I could imagine, however, and what is also emerging to some extent, is that individual IOs will lose significance and others, e.g. the big players, will become even bigger. Likewise, the discursive camp formation could become more pronounced again. In general, however, one should not ignore the social policy outcomes. As long as the IOs "deliver", i.e. can point out solutions to socio-political problems and help shape them, they will continue to be central actors in this field and will still present us with many exciting research tasks.


Read the full book (open access):
Kerstin Martens, Dennis Niemann, Alexandra Kaasch (eds.)(2021): International Organizations in Global Social Governance. Palgrave Macmillan. Cham

Dr. Dennis Niemann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67473

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