Who is socially excluded and how is social exclusion (SE) related to poverty, conflict and insecurity? How can governments, civil society and donors reduce SE? This policy paper from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) explores the causes, effects and solutions to SE worldwide. Governments, civil society and donors should tackle the challenges posed by SE. Not only for reasons of equality, but also to reduce poverty, improve the productive capacity of societies and reduce conflict and insecurity.
SE is the process by which certain groups are systematically disadvantaged. They are discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, caste, descent, gender, age, disability, HIV status, migrant status or where they live. Discrimination occurs in public institutions (for example legal systems), health/education services and in social institutions like the household.
Those socially excluded are most likely to be poor, and this causes problems not only for themselves but for society as a whole. It has multiple causes and effects.
- SE can be open and deliberate, for example where state institutions deliberately discriminate in laws, policies or programmes. Or it can be unofficial, for instance in Indian schools where teachers expect Dalit children to do menial tasks. It can also be unintentional, where it takes place through a lack of awareness of needs, for example of disabled people.
- SE therefore denies some people the same rights and opportunities as others in their society. It also causes poverty and prevents poverty reduction.
- SE makes those excluded poorer in terms of income, health and education, as well as socially.
- SE impedes the efficient operation of market forces, restrains economic growth and increases the level of economic inequality in society, in itself damaging to reducing poverty.
- SE is a leading cause of conflict and insecurity in many parts of the world.
Governments, civil society and donors can reduce SE.
- Governments can create legal, regulatory and policy frameworks that promote social inclusion. They can ensure that excluded groups equally benefit from public expenditure, for instance through gender/social budget initiatives, social protection and social transfers.
- They can improve economic opportunities and access to services (for example free school meals) and promote political participation. More inclusive policies can also have broader reaching positive economic and social effects.
Excluded groups themselves must be involved in changing their situation. Civil society can increase accountability and demand that citizens are protected by the rule of law.
- Civil society organisations (CSOs) can advocate increased representation and voice for excluded groups in policy and decision-making, and deliver services where the state does not. They can tackle prejudice and change attitudes and behaviour, for instance through the media.
- Donors have a role to play in supporting national action, ensuring their own programmes take account of exclusion.
- Donors can assist lesson-learning and dissemination of best practice and hold policy discussions with partner governments, being clear about their values and expectations. They can also support wider alliances for change, innovative pilot approaches and direct service delivery to excluded groups where the state is fragile. DFID itself intends to step up its current efforts to tackle SE.