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Social cohesion in displacement: when aid actors should step back

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Caitlin Sturridge, Amanda Gray Meral, Kerrie Holloway, Simon Levine

Image credit:Ada Jušić

This paper presents our policy analysis of the findings from a two-year research project exploring social cohesion between refugees and host communities and within refugee communities.

The research sought to address two fundamental questions: How important is social cohesion in refugee settings? And what role should aid actors play in supporting social cohesion? Our conclusions draw on a literature review, data collection in Pakistan and Tanzania, and an expert roundtable.

A key question that emerged during the research was: Should social cohesion be a primary goal of aid interventions or a secondary objective of wider practice? In other words, should aid actors seek to orchestrate social relations through specific interventions designed to build social cohesion? Or, should they integrate social considerations across their policy and practice in order to guard against the unintended consequences that all kinds of programming can have on social relations?

About the illustrator

Ada Jušić is a Bosnian artist and animator. Her work is strongly influenced by storytelling, dialogue and investigation; particularly the stories and experiences of marginalised communities. As a refugee who came to the UK in the early 1990s, art and creativity was how she made sense of her story and identity. Now she works to help others do the same – through making thought-provoking animation and illustration.