Building social cohesion in post-conflict situations (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1332)



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?

Key findings

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 interact.
  • 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 lines.
  • 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 tensions.
  • 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.

Building social cohesion in post-conflict situations (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1332)

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