TOWARDS A MEASUREMENT OF SOCIAL COHESION FOR AFRICA. A discussion paper prepared by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation for the United Nations Development Programme
Social cohesion is a complex subject, and to date there is no single definition that is used internationally. Its theoretical origins are often traced to the early work of theorists including Émile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies, who proposed that social cohesion was an aspect of the quality of life in a society that resulted from solidarity, shared loyalty, and interdependence between people. From an African perspective, there are parallels between social cohesion and Ubuntu and related concepts that pre-date European theory and include values focused on community, altruism, solidarity, and interdependence.
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Service Centre for Africa and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation have begun discussions on the development of a measurement instrument of social cohesion on a national and regional level across the African continent. These discussions are premised on a shared understanding of the intertwined relationship between inclusive development and social cohesion. The one is not sustainable without the other. A better understanding of this relationship and the variables that affect each component will enable policy makers across the continent to assess the quality of development and the extent to which it promotes greater cohesion within the borders of countries, but also within the regions where they are located.