Their stories and statistics offer regular fodder for media and fuel for politicians and non-governmental organizations alike. The flagship publications of major multilateral institutions are sometimes produced in partnership with private sector publishing houses, but it is hard to see anything but a multilateral institution starting such an enterprise, much less building it over years and decades for the sake of public information and the greater public good.
Only the major institutions have the necessary networks, capacity, sense of mission and political capital to gather the information required to take stock of the current state of affairs and the issues and opportunities ahead in their respective fields.
Some, like the Human Development Report published by the UN Development Programme, have strong pedigrees and solid support from influential communities of scientists, politicians and the media (though not always all at once). Others are still fledgling publications, finding their rightful place as vanguards of all that you need to know on the topic; or at least where to start your research.
The following are some of the major publications that have proven their mettle, by providing insight, data and leadership in their respective fields:
Human Development Report (UNDP)
State of World Population (sic) (UNFPA)
The State of the World’s Children (UNICEF)
UNAIDS Global Report (UNAIDS)
World Development Report (World Bank)
World Drug Report (UNODC)
World Health Report (WHO)
World Social Science Report (UNESCO)
The State of the Humanitarian System (ALNAP)
There are of course many more!
Unlike this blog, these reports are typically also available in French and Spanish, and in various other languages including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. They are usually available as a free download online. Even in this day of digital access, many can be found in print through specialist bookstores and libraries.
Some are accompanied by major databases and have regional and thematic versions and related publications to explore. Some are a good read, full of pathos and human drama. Others can be major tomes of tables and figures. Some aim for the safety of reflecting the state of play or maintaining authority on a topic. Others dare to dream of a better future and try to establish the agenda and exert pressure and influence.
Why not suggest your favourites in the comments below.