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Short visit to Seoul

October 2, 2009

 

This week I paid a very short but interesting visit to Seoul in South Korea. I was invited to present at the International Conference on Global and National Strategy for Poverty Reduction, organized by the Graduate School of Public Administration of SNU and UNRISD. The two-day programme focused on discussions related to social policy in Asia and how these can contribute to poverty reduction. Presentations focused on the specific experiences in Korea over the last decades and how they could be relevant for other countries in the South East and East Asia region. But there were also presentations on programmes in Africa, outlining their policy context, achievements and drawbacks. My presentation focused on the social welfare programmes in Vietnam and what their impact is in terms of child poverty. One the one hand, we considered the performance in terms of coverage and targeting and on the other hand, we used different methods to assess the actual impact on child poverty. The paper was a primarily empirical study of the programmes, using household survey data and taking a purely micro-perspective. Although relevant to the topic of social policy as poverty reducation strategies, it did not quite fit the other presentations as these focused more on the bigger picture, policy context of social programmes and the political economy. Conclusions during the closing session of the conference consequently focused on such macro and political aspects of social policies, highlighting the importance of employment opportunities amongst others. But probably the most passionate and important message from one participant was that whatever we do, we should always remember that we are talking about people. People that have to withstand unbearable situations and living conditions and that it is everybody’s responsibility to improve these people’s lives and not look away.

 

Seoul by night

Seoul by night

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