Published on Development for Peace

Social cohesion: Why does it matter in forced displacement situations?

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When refugees arrive, everything changes for the hosting community. Suddenly, there are large numbers of people who need to use your hospital, your school, and collect water from the same source. You know that they have suffered a traumatic experience, but you may start blaming the newcomers for the pressures that they bring to your community, causing tensions and raising the possibility of potential conflict.

In a new study entitled “Social Cohesion and Forced Displacement,” we review what we know about how to address this challenge. In this interview [link to audio file], I explain why it’s important to make sure that these situations are managed well, both for the refugees and for the hosts. 

What is social cohesion? There are many definitions, but for our purposes, it refers to the way people trust and interact with each other, under a common sense of purpose. It doesn’t mean that everyone thinks or acts in the same way. It doesn’t mean doing away with conflict, as this is part of human life. Rather, conflict needs to be managed constructively so that no one is left out.

Governments hosting large numbers of refugees are concerned about how best to promote social cohesion. What we do in the new study is to collate existing experiences on how people have tried to tackle social cohesion so that we can provide better answers.  

To take this forward, anyone working in these contexts needs to understand the history, social relationships, and perceptions of change among others. When you invest in this knowledge, it will help to better define what needs to be done.

Listen to the full interview to find out more. 

This work is part of the program “Building the Evidence on Protracted Forced Displacement: A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership." funded by UK aid from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID).


Jo de Berry

Senior Social Development Specialist

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