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Humanitarian assistance and social protection in contexts of forced displacement: effects on social cohesion

Research reports

Written by Christy Lowe, Heiner Salomon, Amanda Gray Meral, Jessica Hagen-Zanker

Hero image description: Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers move boxes with winter clothes for children to a schoolyard where approximately 30 displaced families live. Photo: KRZYSIEK, Pawel/ICRC

The increasing and sustained presence of displaced people in host communities worldwide has led to a rising focus on social cohesion in displacement settings, and how to improve it. Many factors influence social cohesion, and assistance from governments or international agencies is unlikely to be the central determinant. However, assistance provision may nevertheless play a role in influencing attitudes and interactions between displaced and host communities (horizontal cohesion) and between those communities and the state (vertical cohesion). Our research explores this relationship in various displacement settings, drawing on primary research in three country case studies (Cameroon, Colombia, Greece). What are the potential effects of assistance on social cohesion? And how do these effects differ if assistance is delivered by independent humanitarian agencies versus linked in some way with the state social protection system?

This paper is also accompanied by a toolkit to help policymakers and practitioners to apply the research findings in their displacement setting, this toolkit is available here.

These outputs are part of a larger two-year research project studying approaches to assisting affected populations in contexts of forced displacement. For more information and other project outputs, see here.

The research report above is accompanied by a background literature review, which was undertaken to identify key insights from past research on the effects of assistance provision on social cohesion (with a focus on insights that hold particular relevance for our larger primary research study). This background paper is available below.