Roundtable discussion and research workshop on “Social protection and social cohesion”


More than 20 researchers from three continents gathered at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) for a roundtable discussion and a research workshop to discuss whether and how social protection programmes have an impact on social cohesion. Gabriele Köhler (UNRISD) affirmed the question with reference to research on several South Asian countries. Stefan Beierl and Marina Dodlova (University of Passau) reported limited evidence of this finding for public works schemes in Malawi. Markus Loewe and Tina Zintl (DIE), in contrast, presented clear evidence that cash-for-work programmes in Jordan have a positive impact on the relations between Syrian refugees and Jordanian nationals. Francesco Burchi and Christoph Strupat (DIE), for their part, had not found evidence in Malawi that money transfers improve social cohesion, while participation in savings groups contributed to strengthen in-group trust and cooperation. Elsa Valli (UNICEF Office of Research) stressed, with reference to research on Ecuador, that the design of social protection schemes is decisive for their impact on social cohesion. Rachel Slater (University of Wolverhampton) warned that the withdrawal of a social transfer programme can damage social cohesion far more than its introduction would ever promote it. In addition, she emphasised that the removal of a social transfer scheme can destroy social cohesion much more easily than its launch can ever raise social cohesion. Morteza Ghelich and Ali Akbar Tajmazinani (University of Tehran) provided evidence for the negative effect of social protection spending cuts on social cohesion from Iran. Keetie Roelen noted that, conversely, social cohesion can also have a positive impact on the effectiveness of social protection systems. A matter of discussion has been the definition of the term „social cohesion“, with all participants ultimately agreeing that it has both a horizontal component (intra-society relations) and a vertical component (relations between citizens and the local or state institutions). Daniele Malerba (DIE) emphasized that the effects of social transfers on social cohesion are also important because they may increase the acceptability of climate change mitigation measures.