Conflict-sensitive cash transfers: social cohesion

This helpdesk report examines the availabel evidence on this topic


Helpdesk reports provide digests of research findings and lesson learning. The question for this helpdesk report:

  • Are there documented positive social cohesion benefits from cash transfers over vouchers?
  • What lessons are there from humanitarian contexts, as well as the wider debate on universal basic incomes that use cash approaches in more stable settings?

The literature suggests that the effects of social protection initiatives such as cash transfers and vouchers on social cohesion are positive, but there is very little empirical evidence to back this. This review found no research comparing cash transfers and vouchers from the perspective of social cohesion.

Experience of cash transfers in developing countries, including post-conflict contexts, indicates that these can help promote social cohesion – but can also undermine it by creating divisions between beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. Targeting is a critical factor in determining impact.

Universal basic income (UBI) could address the targeting issues faced in cash transfer/CCT schemes, by providing cash to all citizens. UBI schemes are being tried in a number of largely developed countries. Evidence from those and pilot schemes in developing countries suggests that UBI could promote social cohesion. Alaska has had UBI for many years, and in 2014 citizens there were reported to have the highest rate of well-being of any state in the USA. A study of universal cash transfers in a district of Nepal found that, while the amounts involved were too low to improve access to education and healthcare, the universal transfers led to perceptions of equality among the beneficiaries, thereby promoting social inclusion.


Idris, I. (2017). Conflict-sensitive cash transfers: social cohesion. K4D Helpdesk Report 201. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.

Conflict-sensitive cash transfers: social cohesion

Published 8 September 2017