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Islamic Relief: Advocacy in Action - Making an impact through social cohesion

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Introduction

Violent conflict has a significant and lasting impact on communities, often leaving gaping wounds in the fabric of society. The rise of protracted conflicts has greatly driven humanitarian needs across the globe, with the majority of humanitarian and development projects taking place in fragile contexts of active conflict or post-conflict settings. This cycle of violence not only threatens peace and security, but also bears a significant socioeconomic and human cost.

The protracted nature of global conflict has a significant impact on the most vulnerable sectors of society, often producing overlapping challenges such as displacement, gender-based violence (GBV) and protection concerns to name a few. These overlapping challenges make it significantly more difficult to undertake sustainable development without addressing the root causes of conflict, which are important to understand when it comes to social cohesion. Given that the vast majority of humanitarian and development programmes are delivered in conflict or post-conflict settings, measures that seek to respond to these complex crises should also reflect should also aim to address root causes of conflict.

To reflect the complexity in humanitarian needs, the concepts and principles that underpin these measures also need to provide a holistic response to these recurrent problems and tackle the root causes. The triple nexus seeks to interlink the responses of humanitarian-development-peace actors working in fragile contexts with helping to build resilience and reduce vulnerabilities. In addition, emergency needs are often rooted in pre-existing systems of inequality and injustice that increase the vulnerability of communities to disasters, while also reducing their ability to adapt and withstand the crisis. While the triple nexus approach provides an opportunity for a more holistic approach to social cohesion, it is also important that the concepts and principles that underpin these programmes stem from priciples of justice, equality, and inclusivity to ensure that no one is left behind.

Women and youth are often underrepresented and overlooked when it comes to social cohesion. Women’s inclusion in social cohesion and dispute resolution processes is essential for long-term success and contributes to longer-lasting peace after conflict.¹ Despite strong evidence in favour of their inclusion, women remain largely invisible in and sidelined from formal dispute resolution processes and negotiations. In 2019 women constituted thirteen per cent of negotiators on average, six per cent of mediators, and six per cent of signatories in major peace and dispute resolution processes worldwide.²

Similarly, young people are marginalised in social cohesion and dispute resolution processes. This is a dangerous practice as youth can play a very positive role in aiding social cohesion in societies recovering from conflict.³ Ensuring women and youth’s inclusive participation in social cohesion is integral to building and maintaining peace. Engaging them as change agents will not only facilitate sustainable peace, but also create ownership and balance in dispute resolution processes and programmes.

This report will seek to highlight Islamic Relief’s (IR’s) approach to social cohesion, with a specific focus on the concepts and principles that guide the organisation’s social cohesion programmes. It will also highlight practical examples from Islamic Relief’s triple nexus projects and include key lessons from these projects with a special focus on women and young people.
In addition, the principle of fitrah states that all human beings irrespective of their gender, age, race, and ethnicity have the capacity to be good and participate in establishing harmony. This also reinforces the participation and inclusion of marginalised groups.