Protecting vulnerable populations


The globalisation process coupled with the changes brought about by human activity affecting the balance between people and their environments have dramatically transformed contemporary societies in both the Global North and South. These processes have triggered multiple social changes, with social, identity and territorial reconstruction, greater mobility and movement of people, goods and ideas, increased inequalities, new forms of exclusion and social achievement, and new forms of violence and conflicts. This social restructuring in turn influences the stability of societies and the sustainability of systems, as well as the safety and well-being of populations. It also reveals different vulnerabilities and varying capacities for resilience.
Understanding contemporary societies in the Global South while analysing the dynamics, transformations, adaptations and resistances that underlie and drive them is a major area of research for IRD.

The ‘Societies and Globalisation’ department brings together the majority of IRD’s social science researchers. Anthropology, economics, geography, demography and sociology are the main disciplines represented. The department also includes archaeologists, historians, legal experts, urban planners, political scientists and linguists, as well as several environment and life science researchers (agronomy, ecology, pedology, hydrology, health, remote sensing, modelling and geomatics). 

IRD thus conducts multidisciplinary research in eight main subject areas:

Key figures

Flagship projects

Madagascar caught in its crises

In half a century, Madagascar has seen its GDP per capita plummet by one third – while it has almost tripled elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Since its independence in 1960, every period of growth has ended dramatically in socio-political crisis, compromising all hopes of real economic take-off. IRD researchers and their Malagasy partners attempt to understand why a country with so many assets – including natural and human resources – has not so far managed to emerge from this decline.

Hanoi: the metropolis undermining the ‘craft villages’

Vietnam has thousands of craft villages. Each one specialises in a particular craft: works of art or objects of worship, textiles, basketwork, food, and so on. There are 500 such villages on the outskirts of Hanoi, the capital. IRD researchers and their Vietnamese partners analyse the impact of globalised industry on the secular ‘craft village’ system.
The villages sit together in clusters and have modernised and diversified since the opening up of the country’s economy in the 1980s. However, market globalisation, the capital’s metropolisation, and the ensuing competition over land and the workforce, are undermining these secular production systems.

Camps and refugees:
a world of transformations

Driven by war, poverty and humanitarian tragedies, twelve million people live cut-off from the world, grouped together in camps for refugees or migrants. This organised confinement, a source of marginalisation and social displacement, does not however make it a lifeless and sterile environment. Life goes on for the refugees and their life paths take new turns. For more than twenty years, researchers at IRD and their partners have been surveying and analysing the transformations at work in the camps.

2015 Highlights
  • ECAS 6: Sixth European Conference on African Studies

    This conference was held at Paris I-Panthéon-Sorbonne university and the Ecole pratique de hautes études (EPHE). Its theme was Collective Mobilisations in Africa: Contestation, Resistance, Revolt.

    For more information
  • Third international conference on development economics

    This conference is organised by the DIAL unit and was held in Paris in July 2015.

    For more information

And in the future?

Looking ahead to Habitat III

Habitat III (17 – 20 October 2016 in Quito) is the UN’s next event for member states, local governments, research organisations, companies involved in urban development and civil society, focused on defining a World Urban Agenda to meet SDG 111.
Chaired jointly by France and Ecuador, this conference will look at the outcomes achieved by the Agenda established at Habitat II (3 – 14 June 1996 in Istanbul) and review the 22 themes selected by the Conference’s preparatory committee and its secretariat.
Several IRD researchers are heavily involved in this preparatory process and the institute will take part in several events to highlight the need to strengthen interdisciplinary and partnership-based research as the urban environment become increasingly complex. The research programmes led by IRD across the world over the past few years, including in Ecuador, will be spotlighted. 

  1. ODD 11 — Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.