Social cohesion and peace
Beyond the fault lines in society that translate into tensions between communities, we should also understand what keeps societies together. Many individuals and groups have grievances and live a situation of social injustice without expressing themselves violently. Oppression can be one factor which silences people but we feel that there are also many constructive vectors in society that restrain the outbreak of violent conflict. Dynamics that reinforce cohesion are for example shared identities, mutual dependence in economic or social terms (e.g. trade), shared symbols, or shared histories. These dynamics might also be embodied in people who take the role of bridges between communities or between those in power and those excluded from power.
In a European, and particularly a French representation of society, it is the State that is responsible for creating links between citizens through creating a common identity that includes all, and to organise solidarity among them for example through taxation and community projects. In other cultures solidarity and identity are organised through different structures. Gaining an understanding the dynamics of cohesion in a society prompts us to look at the sub-state level and see that peace is as widely present as is conflict.Dynamics of cohesion are not an independent theme in our research. We have for example integrated this notion into our work on the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes. However, in this section we share some of our observations and projects that highlight the question of how to strengthen social cohesion.
A series of interviews with civil society leaders in Southern Africa brought to the fore strategies and tools for social transformation used by these organisations. A selection can be found below.
|Marjorie Jobson, Khulumani Support Group "Tools for unlocking civic competence" Read|
|Samson Ndeikwela, Forum for the future "Bringing people together to explore issues of common concern"|
|Pauline Dempers, Breaking the walls of silence "Creating public space to talk about pas wounds"|
|Richard Smith, Action for conflict tranformation "Transform violence into political action"|
|Phil ya Nangoloh, "Human rights as a tool for demanding government accountability"|
|Munjodzi Mutandiri, National Constitutional Assembly (Zimbabwe)|
This was a local project with school children in two different neighborhoods of Grenoble: Saint Bruno and la Villeneuve. They were encouraged to explore their neighborhoods, and to give their views and feelings of the area where they lived. These experiences could be expressed through music, art or writing and were put together in the form of a CD, as well as a guide that people could use for the "Quartiers Nomades" festival in June 2007 which is an arts festival that takes place within the three neighborhoods included in this project.