Social exclusion

Social exclusion


Tackling exclusion: sectoral issues, international aid and the role of civil society

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Sectoral issues

There is increasing recognition that inclusive growth, universal service provision and social protection initiatives can alleviate the negative effects of exclusion on certain groups over the long term. For example, education has been found to have positive effects on income, and it is argued that reducing the gap in years of schooling could reduce inter-ethnic inequality in a significant way.

Inclusive growth

The 2009 DFID White Paper ‘Building Our Common Future’  emphasises the importance of inclusive growth for sustainable poverty reduction. The World Bank defines inclusive growth as being about “raising the pace of growth and enlarging the size of the economy, while leveling the playing field for investment and increasing productive employment opportunities” (World Bank, 2009,‘What is Inclusive Growth?’ World Bank, Washington, DC). Thus, inclusive growth includes the idea of equality of opportunity in terms of access to markets, resources and productive employment, as well as an unbiased regulatory framework for businesses and individuals.

Inclusive growth can thus be both an outcome and a process. On the one hand, it ensures that everyone participates in the growth process, both in terms of decision-making on the growth progression itself, as well as in participating in the growth itself. On the other hand, it makes sure that everyone equitably shares the benefits of growth.

Ali, I. and Zhuang, J., 2007, 'Inclusive Growth Toward a Prosperous Asia: Policy Implications', Asian Development Bank, Manila
How can a development strategy based on inclusive growth help developing Asia eradicate extreme poverty and tackle inequality? This paper argues that inclusive growth emphasises creation of, and equal access to opportunities; and that unequal opportunities arise from social exclusion associated with market, institutional, and policy failures. Thus, the ADB should modify its vision, mission and operational priorities to make inclusive growth its overarching goal.
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Hatlebakk, M., 2008, ‘Inclusive Growth in Nepal’, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen
How can inclusive growth be promoted in Nepal? This paper examines pathways out of poverty in Nepal between 1995 and 2003 and proposes ways in which the government, non-governmental organisations and international donors can help foster future inclusive growth. Targeted education and training schemes for the poor and for excluded groups, subsidised health care and investment in infrastructure are key areas of intervention.
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Scott, Z., 2009, ‘Gender and Growth in China’, GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
The first half of this helpdesk research report provides case studies examining the links between economic growth and gender equality in China. Most resources focus on the economic reforms associated with WTO accession and examine their gendered impacts. They all find that China’s impressive economic growth has failed to benefit men and women proportionately. Several authors argue that growth has actually increased inequality, or has created new gender inequalities. Women now generally occupy lower paid and lower status jobs than men. The second half of this report highlights resources on growth and gender in other countries, predominantly in Sub-Saharan Africa, this time focussing on the impact of gender inequality on growth. The resources on Africa offer more of a consensus in arguing that gender inequality has a negative effect on growth. The following are identified as particular barriers to African women fully participating in economic activity:

  • high fertility rates
  • gender gaps in education
  • lack of access to formal employment
  • gender gaps in access to assets and inputs in agriculture.

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Service provision

Excluded groups often lack access to services entirely and or only have access to lower-quality services. This can limit their capacity to benefit from opportunities available to other members of society. Access to education is a particularly important service because of its effect on the earning capacity of an individual, as well as on his/her ability to participate in their social and political environment. Early intervention in the field of education can play a critical role in reducing inequalities, but relies upon strong policy engagement, strategic planning and investment.

Institutional factors are extremely important in determining equitable access to services. These factors include the processes by which decisions are made on the allocation of resources, the incentives given to service providers to serve specific groups, and the ability of different groups of users to demand specific services. Depending on these factors, institutions (both formal and informal) can be inclusive – in that they promote the participation of the weak – or they can be exclusionary.

The resources below outline various projects aimed at increasing excluded groups’ access to services, and highlight best practice and lessons learned.

Gardener, J. and Subrahmanian, R., 2006, 'Tackling Social Exclusion in Health and Education: Case Studies from South Asia', Report prepared for the Department for International Development
In many Asian countries, poverty reduction is undermined by inequality and insecurity. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in these countries requires effort from governments and development agencies to help excluded groups access health and education services. This paper from GHK International and the Institute of Development Studies uses examples from across Asia to identify ways of tackling social exclusion. Case studies from India, Nepal and Bangladesh show how ethnic minorities, disadvantaged castes, the ultra-poor, women and migrants are excluded from education and health provision. Projects across Asia have sought to understand processes of exclusion and find ways of including these groups.
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Moreno-Torres, M., 2005, ‘Service Delivery in a Difficult Environment: the Child-friendly Community Initiative in Sudan’, Department for International Development, London
The UNICEF-sponsored Child-Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI) represents an integrated, multi-sectoral and community-driven approach for the delivery of basic services to poor and vulnerable people in Sudan. What are the main achievements of CFCI? How does it differ from other donor interventions aiming to enhance service delivery? This case study examines the effectiveness of the CFCI approach in Sudan and attempts to draw lessons for donors on service delivery in other fragile states.
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Pinnock, H. et. al., 2008, 'Making Schools Inclusive: How Change Can Happen', Save the Children UK, London
What can NGOs do to promote inclusiveness in the school systems of developing countries? This book uses the experience of Save the Children UK and its partners to identify what changes are needed for school systems to become inclusive of all children, and how these can be leveraged. The experience of national education teams working for Save the Children provides insight into the approaches that have worked best.
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Samuels, F., James, V. and Sylvester K., 2009, ‘Beyond Basic Needs: Programming for Marginalised and Vulnerable Groups – The Australian Partnerships with African Communities (APAC) Programme’, Overseas Development Institute, London
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Woodhead, M., Ames, P., Vennam, U., Abebe, W., and Streuli, N., 2009, ‘Equity and Quality? Challenges for Early Childhood and Primary Education in Ethiopia, India and Peru’, Working Paper 55, Studies in Early Childhood Transitions, Bernard van Leer Foundation, The Hague
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The following paper highlights the disparities between men and women in terms of their access to agricultural resources, (such as land, technology and equipment, credit, and markets), and explores intervention strategies needed to address the constraints in accessing such resources.

Quisumbing, A. and Pandolfelli, L., 2009, ‘Promising Approaches to Address the Needs of Poor Female Farmers’, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC
What are the key strategies for closing the gender gap in agricultural production? This paper reviews attempts to increase poor female farmers’ access to, and control of, productive resources in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Consideration of the literature of the past decade indicates that while promising new approaches to meeting the needs of female farmers are emerging, few have been rigorously evaluated. Future interventions need to consider, among other factors: interactions among resource inputs; the trade-offs between practical and strategic gender needs; and the culture and context specificity of gender roles.
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Further resources on service delivery and equity of access are available in the GSDRC Service Delivery guide.

Social protection

Social assistance has come to be seen as an important tool for reducing poverty and social exclusion. In developing countries, new social assistance programmes aim to invest in the productivity and resilience of poor and vulnerable households with children, particularly those left outside of traditional social insurance assistance programmes. For example, governments in a number of Latin American middle-income states have adopted conditional cash transfers in order to encourage poor families to send their children to school, and ensure that they access healthcare services. These programmes aim to reduce vulnerability in the short-term and, in the long-term, to contribute to disrupting the intergenerational cycle of poverty by enabling children to become full and productive members of society. The paper below also argues that an important and often neglected aspect of social protection programmes is the changing accountability relationships between governments, service providers and poor households that can result.

However, many social protection programmes have not been in existence long enough to enable evaluation of their success in achieving long-term poverty alleviation goals. The few evaluations that have taken place have highlighted the limited scope of many of these programmes, and the potential for badly-designed programmes to reinforce rather than overcome societal divisions. As a result, there remains some debate about the potential contribution of social protection to addressing social exclusion.

Carroll, K., 2011, ‘Addressing Inequality: Framing Social Protection in National Development Strategies’, IDS Bulletin, vol. 42, no. 6, pp.89-95
How can social protection reduce inequalities? This paper suggests that social protection should be integrated in a coherent national development strategy (NDS), which provides a framework for policy formulation and linkages. Policies should be rooted in solid analysis to enable them to target specific inequalities. ActionAid's NDS project is provided as an example of how to advance redistributive and transformative social protection.
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De la Briere, B. and Rawlings, L. B., 2006, ‘Social Protection and Inclusion: Experiences and Policy Issues’, in Strategies and Tools Against Social Exclusion and Poverty (STEP), ‘Social Protection and Inclusion: Experiences and Policy Issues’, International Labour Organization, Geneva
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Kabeer, N., Mumtaz, K., and Sayeed, A., 2010 ‘Beyond Risk Management: Vulnerability, Social Protection and Citizenship in Pakistan’, Journal of International Development, Vol 22, pp. 1-19
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The paper below highlights rights-based approaches to social protection. According to this conceptualisation, all people have the right to a minimum income due to their citizenship rights, and access to enough resources to allow them to live their lives in dignity. Therefore, it argues, the role of social protection is not to provide relief, but redistribution. Given that poverty and inequality result partly from lack of access to secure and adequately-paid employment, it becomes the responsibility of the state to alleviate the social consequences of market failures by providing social services, and thus to ensure the right to inclusion.

CIARIS Learning and Resources Centre on Social Inclusion, n.d. ‘Social Assistance as An Instrument of Social Inclusion: Practices and Policy Choices’, Draft background paper, International Labour Organisation, Geneva
This paper outlines the growing importance of social assistance, and reviews its place within wider social protection, labour and poverty reduction strategies. Social assistance is not a panacea against social exclusion; its limitations should be recognised and addressed through links with more comprehensive social and labour market policies.
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Social assistance schemes such as pensions can, if designed correctly, be effective in addressing the exclusion of older people.

Cristina, M. and da Coneicao, G., 2002, ‘Households and Income: Ageing and Gender Inequalities in Urban Brazil and Colombia’, Journal of Developing Societies, Volume 18, Numbers 2-3, pp. 149-168
This paper discusses the ageing process in Brazil and Colombia according to gender and socioeconomic inequalities. The ageing process is related to reforms in social policies in each country. Reforms in the pension systems show contrasting results for the family structure and income. In Brazil, the extension of pensions to rural and informal workers leads to empowering poorer elderly women and men in economic and domestic relationships. Universalising pensions allows the elderly to chose to live alone or to support adult children. On the other hand, in Colombia the reform created the individual saving system, reinforcing social exclusion and inequalities at the end of the life course. At the same time, the structural adjustments of the economy have generated new social contracts and economic order, but in different ways. The universal or individual character of the new pension system redefines in each country the profile of gender, generations, and socioeconomic inequalities. The universal reform can mitigate the economic and domestic exclusion of poorer and rural elderly, as in Brazil; and the individual reform can reinforce inequalities and, as a result, reproduce gender roles of domestic submission and dependence for poorer women in advanced ages.
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Further resources on social protection and preventing exclusion are available in the GSDRC Social Protection guide.

Challenges for international aid

Social exclusion presents various challenges for donors. There is considerable variation amongst developing countries in the availability of information, as well as important contextual differences in terms of the nature of exclusion and if/how the concept is understood. National level census and survey data and poverty monitoring often fail to provide much information on excluded groups. Donor organisations are also usually large and dispersed, and need time to embed social exclusion approaches across their work.  Developing indicators for and monitoring and evaluating programmes is also a challenge.

Gaynor, C., and Watson, S., 2007, 'Evaluating DFID's Policy on Tackling Social Exclusion: Baseline, Framework and Indicators', Report Prepared for the Department for International Development Department, Performance Assessment Resource Centre (PARC), Edinburgh
How can DFID improve its strategy to address social exclusion in its planning, partnerships and programmes? This paper develops a framework for assessing progress on social exclusion against planned commitments, and lays the ground for a fuller evaluation of the results of DFID’s work.
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In addition to developing programming that directly targets social exclusion, donors must ensure that their general interventions do not serve to exacerbate processes of social exclusion. The article below argues that the donor-supported state reform programme in Sri Lanka, which focussed on promoting a market economy and the devolution of power, did not adequately consider the impact of these reforms on socially excluded groups.

Bastian, S., 2009, ‘Politics of Social Exclusion, State Reform and Security in Sri Lanka’, IDS Bulletin, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp. 88-95
How can the interests of the socially excluded be better addressed through state reforms in Sri Lanka? Making use of the two dimensions of capital and coercion, this article analyses the processes of state reform that have ensured the social exclusion of large sections of the population and set the stage for conflict. It argues that the current orthodoxies of state reform – supported by the international community – do not address issues of social exclusion and need to be rethought in order to avert violence and ensure long-term stability and security.
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The following paper analyses the first hand experience of an aid agency staff member and a national consultant involved in designing a project to tackle social exclusion. It argues that donors failed to create meaningful space for civil society to influence emerging relationships between government and development aid. As a result, the architecture of participatory institutions and institutional norms that emerged could not overcome the deficiencies of many social services, nor could it tackle the social exclusion that is reproduced through the administrative management of the state, the instruments of politics and its styles of implementation.

Eyben, R. and Leon, R. 2005 'Whose Aid? The Case of the Bolivian Elections Project' in Mosse, D. and Lewis, D. (eds.), 'The Aid Effect: Giving and Governing in International Development', Pluto Press, London
This chapter explores the ambiguities of aid and its influence in national politics through a case study from Bolivia. The authors reflect on their involvement in a donor-funded civil society project to increase the participation of socially excluded groups in Bolivia’s 2002 national elections. This project highlighted the dilemmas of ‘national ownership’ amidst government objections to a programme arguably seen as a threat to the power of elites. The authors suggest that aid may be understood as a gift, problematic and ambiguous in meaning, in which relations of power are imbued with moral purpose
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An earlier version of this text is available online:

Eyben , R,. and Leon, R., ‘Who owns the gift? Donor-recipient relations and the national elections in Bolivia. Paper presented at EIDOS Workshop, “Order and disjuncture: The organisation of aid and development,” SOAS, London
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Similar concerns are noted in the following volume. It finds that success in reducing embedded horizontal inequalities in seven post-conflict countries has been limited, patchy and inconsistent. Further, progress towards redressing horizontal inequality in post-conflict countries may in fact be ‘offset’ by new forms of inequality generated by the introduction of economic and neoliberal reforms.

Langer, A., Stewart, F., and Rajesh Venugopal (eds.), 2011, ‘Horizontal Inequalities and Post-Conflict Development’, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke
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Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSPs)

The extent to which excluded groups have been included in Poverty Reduction Strategy consultation processes has been heavily scrutinised, particularly by civil society organisations. So too has the inclusion of issues relating to excluded groups in PRSP documents. Questions have been raised about whether inclusive consultation processes are enough to ensure that excluded groups’ interests are adequately represented.

In some cases, donor support has helped governments build measures for social inclusion into their PRSPs. In the case of Nepal, for example, preliminary work by DFID and the World Bank helped identify the excluded through a national Gender and Social Exclusion Assessment (GSEA).  In other cases, attention to issues of exclusion has been the direct result of lobbying by civil society organisations representing excluded groups.

Booth, D., and Curran, Z., 2005, ‘Aid Instruments and Exclusion’, Overseas Development Institute, London
To what extent have Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) addressed exclusion issues? How can the new aid modalities be used to encourage anti-exclusion policies in the developing world? This paper surveys PRSPs worldwide to ascertain the responsiveness of the new aid modalities to excluded groups. It argues that donor countries should promote participatory consultations and national ownership of anti-exclusion policies in PRSPs, while monitoring the use of new funding instruments to encourage action on exclusion.
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Dube, A. K., 2005, ‘Participation of Disabled People in the PRSP/PEAP Process in Uganda’, Disability Knowledge and Research Programme, London
What are the lessons learnt from disabled people’s participation in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) process in Uganda? This paper finds that time constraints, among other things, limited the involvement of Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) in the PRSP process. Sustaining a policy environment conducive to disabled people’s involvement requires substantial capacity building of DPOs, including recruitment of skilled staff to implement strategic programmes.
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Tomei, M., 2005, ‘Indigenous and Tribal Peoples: An Ethnic Audit of Selected Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers’, International Labour Office, Geneva
How effectively have Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) addressed the needs of indigenous and tribal peoples (ITPs)? This paper surveys 14 PRSPs from countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to evaluate the extent to which they address the varieties of economic, social and political exclusion faced by these communities. It argues that improved targeting, data-collection and ITP participation in PRSPs are required if they are to tackle poverty more successfully.
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The role of civil society and social movements

Civil society organisations (CSOs) can provide both immediate relief and longer term transformative change – by defending collective interests and increasing accountability; providing solidarity mechanisms and promoting participation; influencing decision making; directly engaging in service delivery; and challenging prejudice. In this way, excluded groups can be effective drivers of their own change by forming or participating in organisations that represent group interests. CSOs also play an important role in conducting research to raise the profile of excluded groups.

However, these activities can be constrained by institutional factors, such as the type of regime they are operating in, the level of decentralisation of state institutions and various other aspects of governance. New research is recognising the importance of building alliances and platforms across the state and civil society, to connect champions of change.

Houtzager, P. P., 2003, ‘Introduction: From Polycentrism to the Polity’, in Houtzager, P. P. and Moore, M., ‘Changing Paths: International Development and the New Politics of Inclusion’, University of Michigan Press
What is the nature of the new politics of inclusion? This chapter challenges the perception that supporting uncoordinated and decentralised actions in civil society and the market is sufficient to produce improved governance outcomes. Greater inclusion will emerge instead from representative and deliberative institutions through which societal and state actors can negotiate collective solutions across the public-private divide.
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Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, 2011, ‘Blurring the Boundaries: Citizen Action Across States and Societies’, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton
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Case studies have shown that social movements can act as the first steps towards developing a sense of self-identity and citizenship, which does not necessarily emerge initially through engagement with the state. They allow individuals to turn grievances into a sense of collective injustice, and then action. The paper below argues: “A sense of citizenship normally starts with people’s own agendas – they create a political identity around a matter that immediately affects their lives. [...] Group membership amongst those who are marginalized and the sense of dignity and solidarity that comes with this can stimulate people to aspire as a precursor to political engagement.” (2006:19)

Eyben, R. and Ladbury, S., 2006, 'Building Effective States: Taking a Citizen's Perspective', Development Research Centre, Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton
How can a citizen-centred approach to development build effective states by improving relations between state and society? This paper gives an overview of current debates and analyses citizens’ own views on these issues. It argues that a state’s legitimacy is strengthened by civic participation, which often grows up around local issues, and can be empowered through donor support.
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Social movements have been particularly active in Latin America, where they have worked for inclusion of a wide range of marginalised groups.

Earle, L., 2008, 'Social Movements and Citizenship: Some Challenges for INGOs', International Training and Research Centre (INTRAC), Oxford
How can social movements in developing countries use concepts of citizenship to demand basic rights from the state? This report examines a social movement focusing on low-income housing in São Paulo. In Brazil, the concept of citizenship is linked to service provision. Lack of access to basic services is regarded as having 'limited citizenship'. Framing basic rights as 'citizenship rights' is a powerful weapon in social movements' state-focused campaigning. International donors can best support social movements through flexible approaches that fund communications and training.
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Jacobi, P., 2006, ‘Public and Private Responses to Social Exclusion among Youth in Sao Paulo’, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 606, Number 1, pp. 216-230
What can be done to address problems of social exclusion? This article examines programmes of inclusion in São Paulo. The dynamic practices highlighted here – such as digital inclusion and social entrepreneurship – offer different ways of reducing social exclusion. All depend significantly on local organisational capacities and potential individual mobilisation. Important changes occur when practices are implemented cooperatively by local actors, government officials, and professionals within civil society.
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Useful websites

Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing

International Labour Organisation – Strategies and Tools Against Social Exclusion and Poverty (ILO-STEP)