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E-forum on Social Integration: Toward Achieving Inclusive Participation in Western Asia


The Social Development Division at ESCWA has conducted in the period of four months in 2010 three online discussion forums on the following thematic areas: (a) Government -civil-society participation in public policy processes including social policies (1 July to 30 August 2010); (b) Media and Development (1 August to 30 September 2010); and (c) Social Integration towards achieving participation (1 September to 30 October 2010). The three e-forums provided a platform to share knowledge, experiences, ideas and best practices on operational strategies to be adopted in the Arab region to promote public-civic participation in public policy processes, enhance media role in the social domain, and further social integration through a participatory process. Generating 376 responses from experts, practitioners, stakeholder groups and policy-makers from 11 countries in the world, the e-fora presented a rich array of perspectives and some actionable recommendations for consideration by ESCWA and the larger international community. With a view to sensitize the contribution of participants in the e-discussions, SDD launched an Award-winning contest by including all members’ inputs and insights into a multi-country competition to win the ‘best ESCWA e-forum contributor award’. Platinum, Golden and Silver honorary shields were awarded respectively to 3 contestants in each e-forum. 

Upon completion of the three electronic discussion fora, a consolidated e-fora report was produced (link attached below). The report provides a synthesis and an assessment of the overall discussions tackled under the three key e-fora thematic areas. The report also captures a number of conclusions, recommendations and lessons drawn out from the e-discussions, and touches base on the use of this portal and dissects the way forward.

E-Forum 3: Social integration towards achieving inclusive participation

Social integration is one of the main social priority areas for action identified at the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995, whereby heads of States and governments committed in the Copenhagen Declaration to promote it "by fostering societies that are stable, safe and just and that are based on the promotion and protection of all human rights, as well as on non-discrimination, tolerance,… and participation of all people…". Ever since then, social integration is recognized as an overriding objective of social and economic development in the world mainly aiming at creating a "society for all", in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play.

While the need for integration of all people, including women and disadvantaged groups, has been recognized on the Arab level, actual steps towards this integration had been minimal and turned out to be elusive. Concurrently, with an unstable volatile political situation, intermittent uprisings and conflicts, an average unemployment rate of around 15% of the labor force, some 35 million people living under the US$2 per day poverty line, some of the highest fertility rates in the world and an emergent youth bulge, the Arab region faces multiple socio-economic challenges that hamper the fulfillment of the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, which in turn make difficult the prevalence of social integration in countries of the region.

This e-forum will facilitate a space for various stakeholders to interact, exchange views, bring different perspectives, and promote mutual understanding and learning, in order to create a common platform for creating an inclusive society. To stimulate discussion, we will have questions that frame this topic.

As you are aware, the online discussion will run for two consecutive months, i.e. from 1 September to 30 October 2010, side-by-side with the other undergoing e-fora, while the last week of the present forum timeframe will also provide the opportunity to wrap up and raise additional issues if necessary. While we strongly call for ESCWA countries' contribution, our geographic focus will be international and we welcome good practices and resources from different countries throughout the discussion.

For a rich and interactive discussion, we encourage you to exchange ideas with fellow participants on the forum and also provide feedback to questions and issues raised by them.

E-forum 3 Questions

  1. A "society for all" must be equipped with appropriate mechanisms that enable their citizens to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and shape their future. What kind of mechanisms do you think should be availed to fulfill this accomplishment?
  2. What are the kind of participatory tools and processes needed to achieve social integration? And what is the kind of plans, strategies and projects that can uphold this goal?
  3. What do you think is the operational relevance of the concept of "Social Integration" for peace building and conflict prevention?
  4. Do you have any specific examples of indigenous and culturally-oriented mechanism that was used as a means to achieve social integration?
  5. Do you have any examples of strategies, good practices and mechanisms that you would like to share in terms of enhancing social integration?