10.0 What is social well-being?

Social well-being is an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This end state is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.

10.1 What are the key social well-being challenges in societies emerging from conflict?
Violent conflict may create humanitarian crises and inflict tremendous harm on civilian populations. These crises involve acute water, food, and shelter shortages; large-scale population displacement; and the absence of critical health services, among many other challenges. As families struggle to survive during and after violent conflict, social fabric may be torn apart within and among communities. Disputes about land, water, harvests, pasture rights, marriage, inheritance, and other inter- and intra-community issues typically arise and may threaten a fragile peace. Schools may be shut down or destroyed. Children may have missed years of education, and many may have been denied the chance to start primary school. Essential services infrastructure may be ruined, including ports, roads, and basic utilities.621

10.2 Why is social well-being a necessary end state?
Peace cannot be sustained over the long term without addressing the social well-being of a population. Without basic necessities such as food or shelter, large-scale social instability will persist because people will be unable to resume the functions of normal life—sustaining a livelihood, traveling safely, engaging in community activities, or attending school. Without helping people return to their homes or new communities of their choice or providing a means for peacefully resolving disputes, people may not move beyond violent conflict or rebuild their lives.

10.3 What are the necessary conditions to achieve social well-being?
Access To and Delivery of Basic Needs Services is a condition in which the population has equal access to and can obtain adequate water, food, shelter, and health services to ensure survival and life with dignity. These services should be delivered in a manner that fosters reliability and sustainability.

  • Access To and Delivery of Basic Needs Services is a condition in which the population has equal access to and can obtain adequate water, food, shelter, and health services to ensure survival and life with dignity. These services should be delivered in a manner that fosters reliability and sustainability.
  • Access To and Delivery of Education is a condition in which the population has equal and continuous access to quality formal and nonformal education that provides the opportunity for advancement and promotes a peaceful society. This condition involves system-wide development and reform, and equal access to relevant, quality, and conflict-sensitive education.
  • Return and Resettlement of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons is a condition in which all individuals displaced from their homes by violent conflict have the option of a safe, voluntary, and dignified journey to their homes or to new resettlement communities; have recourse for property restitution or compensation; and receive reintegration and rehabilitation support to build their livelihoods and contribute to long-term development.
  • Social Reconstruction is a condition in which the population is able to coexist peacefully through intra- and intergroup forms of reconciliation—including mechanisms that help to resolve disputes non-violently and address the legacy of past abuses—and through development of community institutions that bind society across divisions.

10.4 General Guidance for Social Well-Being

10.4.1 Build host nation ownership and capacity. Immediately after violent conflict, international assistance may be necessary to meet the basic needs of the population, address return and resettlement for refugees and IDPs, and promote community-based development and reconciliation, as the host nation may be unable to meet those challenges alone. Participation of the host nation population—particularly at the community level—in the assessment and design of basic services helps ensure that the services are responsive to actual needs and gives people a greater stake in the success of those services. All assistance activities should maximize the potential to build the capacity of the host nation population to sustain basic services. For example, one of the key components of humanitarian assistance can and should be to complement the work of nascent and often struggling ministries or bureaucracies. International actors should work within host nation government structures to help generate legitimacy for the host nation government.

10.4.2 Act only with an understanding of the local context. The key to improving the social well-being of the conflict-affected population is to understand the context of the conflict and the living conditions of the people. A thorough assessment might include the following questions:

  • What role did the provision of basic needs play in the conflict?
  • How has the host nation population met their basic needs in the past?
  • What capacity do host nation institutions and actors have to deliver basic  services?
  • What is the relationship between the education system and the conflict?
  • What is the scope of the displacement crisis?
  • What host nation mechanisms already exist to promote dispute resolution and reconciliation?
  • Where does popular support for dispute resolution and reconciliation programming lie?

10.4.3 Prioritize to stabilize. Social well-being is diffcult to achieve even in the best of circumstances. In this environment, prioritize what is necessary for survival and for the resolution of disputes that could reignite violent conflict. Top priorities include preventing further loss of life and displacement, delivering aid and services to vulnerable populations, mitigating public health epidemics, and collecting evidence and witness statements to address the legacy of past abuses.622 Focus on meeting the immediate needs of those most affected (typically women, children, the elderly, the disabled, IDPs, refugees, minorities, and those living with disease), while keeping in mind the impact of these actions on sustainability.623 Once these priorities are addressed, focus on return and resettlement, education reform, and key aspects of social reconstruction.

10.4.4 Use a conflict lens. The provision of aid can never be entirely neutral. It inevitably involves a transfer of resources in countries where they are extremely scarce and where unequal distribution may have contributed to the conflict. With this in mind, recognize that every decision—where to locate an emergency medical facility, whether to empower a particular institution, how to deliver education in an IDP camp, or how  to select an interim health minister—has implications for the conflict and a lasting political settlement.

10.4.5 Recognize interdependence. Addressing the social well-being of a population is critical for the success of broader recovery efforts. A broken social fabric will undermine progress made in the economic, governance, and rule of law arenas. Sustainability in these areas will be lost if the population has nothing to eat; if children cannot go to school; or if communities remain divided along ethnic, religious, or political lines. Progress in the economic, governance, or rule of law spheres provides the necessary infrastructure for the success of social well-being programs.