2011-10-19 | News
Regional and Local Perspectives on Social Cohesion

An estimated 35 percent of people in the post-socialist countries of Europe and Central Asia (ECA) are excluded from society, ranging from 12 percent of the population in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to 72 percent in Tajikistan.

UNDP’s Regional Human Development Report (RHDR) on social inclusion: Beyond Transition: Towards Inclusive Societies looks at the vicious cycle of poverty from the perspective of those who experience it firsthand. It turns out that poverty is not just about money and income.

“The report intends to initiate a discussion in the region and beyond and focuses on what excludes people, and the ways that they can be included in society. In our view, this is a promising way to achieve our ultimate goal – improved human development through social inclusion,” said Dafina Gercheva, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Armenia, during the launch of the RHDR at “Erebuni-Plaza” Business Center in Yerevan.

According to data collected in a six country study (Kazakhstan, Moldova, Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine) - in all countries but Tajikistan, access to social services rather than economic exclusion was the biggest reason people are left out of society. The surveys carried out in these countries suggest that the elderly, children, youth, those living in rural areas, and the unemployed and undereducated are being left out of society.

Recommendations from the report include improved vocational education and active labor market policies, radical improvement of services for the elderly, and a region-wide overhaul of social protection, as current social policies do not promote social inclusion. The report also calls for each country in the region to develop a strategy to promote social inclusion, based on involvement of people and groups who are experiencing social exclusion.

“We want policy makers to know that they can help to lift people out of poverty by increasing access to income, social services and social networks,” said Balazs Horvath, UNDP Poverty Practice Leader in the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS.
As part of UNDP “Enhancing Dialogue and Trust Building in Armenia” project, the social cohesion study in Armenia was also launched. The research was carried out by UNDP, in partnership with the Caucasus Resource Research Center (CRRC), and is the first comprehensive study on social cohesion in contemporary Armenian society.

The nationwide survey was conducted with 3,200 adults over the age of 18 years old. UNDP’s goal was to initiate an in depth assessment of the status of social cohesion based on quantitative and qualitative surveys and consultations. In other words, the research gives, for the first time, an understanding of social cohesion that is based on solid evidence and analysis. The research identifies practical ways and recommendations to improve social cohesion and calls for a renewed local and national collaboration as the way forward.

The study has revealed that Armenia has a huge resource of social cohesion at the level of families, local neighborhoods and communities. However, this resource is almost solely utilized to address the problems of individuals or families. At the level of community infrastructure, this resource remains idle, primarily due to the lack of ownership of anything which goes beyond households, e.g. community roads, school playgrounds, public parks or forests adjacent to communities.
Based on the findings of the research, the spirit of survey’s recommendations to policy makers on national and local levels is that any projects aimed at improving the lives of people - in every sphere ranging from healthcare to construction - should include careful planning of interaction with communities to ensure their engagement in the process and ownership of the results. The implementation of such policies will not require additional resources, but utilizing the existing ones, which ultimately will lead to multiplier effects on community level and beyond.
The study provides with Social Exclusion Index – a tool developed within the framework of RHDR “Beyond Transition: Towards Inclusive Societies” – a mechanism for policy makers to consider the social exclusion component while drafting regional development programs. Its application for regions in Armenia identifies Yerevan with the lowest level of social exclusion, while Gegharkunik region has the highest rate of social exclusion.

“This research is only the very initial step. UNDP expects that it will trigger a countrywide discourse and more research. To that end, we will share the available database with the government, think tanks, universities and research centers across Armenia. UNDP expects this exercise to influence decision-making processes at all levels with the ultimate aim to equip national and local authorities with comprehensive social cohesion strategies,” concluded Dafina Gercheva.
UNDP is the UN\'s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 177 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. UNDP in Armenia was established in 1993 and supports the Government of Armenia to reach its own development priorities and the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

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