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Working Definition of Social Integration

The Social Summit approached social integration in terms of goals, principles, and process. The goal of social integration is to create “a more stable, safe and just society for all”, in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play. Such an inclusive society must be based on the principles of embracing – not coercing or forcing – diversity and using participatory processes that involve all stakeholders in the decision-making that affects their lives.

In this E-dialougue, we use "Social Integration" as a dynamic and principled process in which societies engage in order to further human development. Successful social integration processes encourage “coming together” while respecting differences, and consciously and explicitly putting great value on maintaining diversity. Social integration represents the attempt not to make people adjust to society, but rather to ensure that society is accepting of all people.

To view the section on Social Integration from the Copenhagen Declaration, click here

Three main building blocks of social integration were suggested as follows:

  • The main ingredients:   inclusion, participation, and justice*/social justice allow meaningful and effective engagement for a common future. (*The term “Justice” used here encompasses a broad sense of justice, including social justice and procedural justice, and not just legal justice).
  • The interventions:   a range of interventions in different domains of society, from the psychological through the social and cultural to the economic and political, are available to facilitate social integration processes
  • The stakeholders:   the change agents consist of groups and individuals in societies that influence, or can influence, decision-making, and that need to be part of implementing plans and solutions.

Working Definition of Social Inclusion

Social inclusion is the process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities - that everyone, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential in life. Such efforts include policies and actions that promote equal access to (public) services as well as enable citizen’s participation in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Working Definition of Social Cohesion

Social cohesion is a related concept that parallels that of social integration in many respects. A socially cohesive society is one where all groups have a sense of belonging, participation, inclusion, recognition and legitimacy. Such societies are not necessarily demographically homogenous. Rather, by respecting diversity, they harness the potential residing in their societal diversity (in terms of ideas, opinions, skills, etc.). Therefore, they are less prone to slip into destructive patterns of tension and conflict when different interests collide.