What are the approaches being taken by donors, CSOs and others to build social cohesion in post-conflict societies? Are there any measures being put in place during conflict (as building blocks to peace processes)? How effective are these approaches? What are the pros and cons?
The approaches covered in this report include community-driven development, job creation, social protection and education. Whilst in theory there are strong links between these and social cohesion, there is very little rigorous empirical evidence to verify these links. More specifically, the literature highlights that:
- Community-driven development (CDD) programmes promote social cohesion
through community participation in decision-making, bringing divided
people together, and addressing community needs.
- Evidence of the impact of CDD programmes on social cohesion is mixed:
Programme design and context significantly determine impact.
- It is widely assumed that access to jobs improves social cohesion.
This is because jobs can reduce tensions stemming from unemployment;
improve people’s economic condition; and enable different groups to
- Evidence of the impact of job creation programmes on social cohesion
is extremely limited: The literature shows correlation between jobs
and some outcomes typically associated with social cohesion, such as
social well-being, but evidence of how individual experiences
translate into interactions between groups is limited. Some of the
literature highlights the negative impact jobs can have on social
cohesion – for example, when labour markets are divided along group
- Social protection may promote social cohesion where it can reduce
poverty, enhance the income security of vulnerable people, improve
access to basic services and establish legal entitlements for
previously excluded groups.
- Empirical evidence of the impact of social protection on social
cohesion is limited: Different social protection modalities (cash
transfers, conditional grants, social insurance, etc.) could improve
social cohesion, but problems could arise if programmes are not
designed carefully. For example, if targeting is carried out on ethnic
lines, or weakened by corruption/mismanagement, this can exacerbate
- Education can be either a positive or negative influence on social
cohesion: Education reform can be designed to improve social cohesion,
but there is little evidence of positive impact.
- Civil society can play a role in peacebuilding: However, it can also
have a negative effect, particularly where it reflects societal
divisions. Evidence of impact of donor-supported interventions by
civil society to promote social cohesion is lacking. Guidelines for
donors seeking to support civil society in this role include using a
broad definition of civil society, understanding the context, and
ensuring local ownership.
Idris, I. Building social cohesion in post-conflict situations (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1332). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2016) 10 pp.