Social Cohesion – The Glue That Holds

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A cohesive society includes everyone. Photo by pixaby.com

Dear Citizens,

There is a strong consensus across the international community about the critical importance of poverty eradication. Few problems present such a formidable challenge to the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Fighting poverty offers an opportunity to tackle them all at once.

Poverty is not simply characterized by a lack of adequate income. It is an all-encompassing issue. People who experience poverty suffer from several deprivations and restrictions. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision making and civil, social and cultural life. Enhancing social cohesion through a comprehensive policy package is crucial to sustainable poverty reduction.

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Dear citizens, a cohesive society can be understood as a society that strives for social integration and builds up the necessary social capital to create a common sense of belonging and as a place where prospects exist for upward social mobility. To understand social cohesion, one perhaps ought to take a step back and look at social exclusion.

In its economic dimension, the exclusion is first and foremost linked to poverty. Although in some instances it may be the cause, in general, it is largely understood to be the result of poverty. The unemployed are typically excluded from mainstream economic activity and are, therefore, denied access to property and credit.

In most of the developing world, especially Africa, long term unemployment has rendered many people unemployable. Dear citizens, unemployment does more than deprive one of an income, in most societies unemployment greatly reduces one’s status in society. Exclusion takes a political character when certain categories of the population (women, ethnic, racial and religious groups especially minorities) are deprived of access to their rights and/or when they can be blamed as the source of problems being endured by the majority.

There is a very short leap, conceptually, between social exclusion and inclusion. Indeed, they can be understood as two sides of a coin. However, addressing exclusion and developing more cohesive societies is a task complicated by a lack of understanding of what makes a country or a community cohesive. The notion of exclusion raises the point that there are often pockets of disaffected and/or marginalized groups within society- which can cause rapture and stand in the way of development or integration.

Whereas cohesive communities can identify problems, prepare objectives and strategies to meet the objectives and put them into action, distinct pockets of cohesion may fracture and divide the community or broader society and undermine the trust that is essential to collective action. Listening to the concern of isolated groups and incorporating them into the broader vision of the society, is an important task for leaders in the developing world.

Dear citizens,

Social cohesion enables us to recognize the continuous process whereby the individuals and groups are included or excluded from participation within wider society. It can also reform the measure of shared values, or to a willingness, refusal or indifference to face common challenges in society. These are influences, in turn, by any combination of a variety of factors such as ethnicity, gender, education, social class, culture, religion, physical disability and associations of choice.

Given the complex nature of associations between social ties and environment, cohesion significantly helps curb the numerous threats to sustainability. As the world forges to fight the global climatic crisis, like the recent Amazon fires; floods; cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique, prolonged droughts in Kenya and Somalia, unity fostered through social cohesion goes a long way in the success of combating these scourges.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Our rapidly evolving and interdependent world with its complex emerging challenges creates a necessity for us to act with a renewed sense of drive and responsibility. We should explore new ways of developing and implementing targeted policies. In designing a post-2030 world, let us target inclusive, green and sustainable growth; let us devote more attention to social cohesion and to outcomes that improve the quality of people’s lives. That is the glue that holds.

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