Summary - Social policies to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda: Promoting civic engagement and community participation

Commission for Social Development, 62nd session
ICSW and IASSW sponsored virtual side-event
Event held on 7 February 2024, 9 am-10.15 am EST

This side-event discussed how social policies could be made more effective and help to create a fairer, more equitable, inclusive, and humane society where the needs and aspirations of individuals are at the forefront of the drive to implement the 2030 agenda. The roles of civic engagement and community participation are emphasized along with the importance of policy coherence.

Speakers:

  • Prof. Lynne M. Healy, Main Representative to the UN, International Association of Schools of Social Work.
  • Mr. Christopher Dapaah, Coordinating Director at Resource Link Foundation, Ghana
  • Dr. Suresh Pathare, Professor and Director of BPHES’ Centre for Studies in Rural Development - Institute of Social Work and Research, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India.
  • Dr. Peta-Anne Baker, Social Development Specialist, Independent Scholar and Joint Editor, Caribbean Journal of Social Work 
  • Dr. Sergei Zelenev, Special Representative of International Council on Social Welfare to the UN

Moderator:

  • Professor Cudore Snell, School of Social Work, Howard University, Washington, DC

As the lead-off speaker, Lynne Healy grounded her presentation in the reality that social policies to address the sustainable development goals are falling seriously short. She argued that policies will only be truly effective by involving those who will be affected by the policies. Participation must also be genuine, based in an intent to listen and use input received. Initiatives to identify and engage those most likely to be left behind are particularly needed. Yet, governments and UN agencies struggle to identify and reach people at the grassroots. More partnerships between governments and civil society organizations including those active at the grassroots level, are essential.

Continuing the discussion Suresh Pathare shared his thoughts on importance of cultural dimensions in social policy formulation and community engagements, linking his examples to rich history and culture of India. He underscored such values as interconnectedness and the quest for universal happiness in community and society as vitally important in the context of civic engagement and public action. Community involvement and engagement may be seen as guiding principles when social policies are conceived while promoting welfare for all should stay as the ultimate goal.

In her presentation Peta-Anne Baker noted the approaching 30th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development. She discussed the transition of the 10 Commitments made in Copenhagen to the Sustainable Development Goals. She highlighted economic and political changes taking place and expressed concern at the cooptation and misuse of the principles of citizen participation by conservative forces. Acknowledging that very few SDGs will be achieved by 2030, she stressed that some earlier advances had been eroded. She urged the Commission to focus its work on strengthening political will; promoting greater collaboration, and enlarging the voices of those labelled vulnerable instead of being acknowledged as full persons.

Christopher Dapaah stressed that social policies are essential for developing human potential. He emphasized that social justice and human rights should be the guiding principles when social policies are conceived, underscoring that the involvement of the people who are affected by such policies in the design, implementation and evaluation should be a concern. Social policies become effective when they are well integrated with economic, environmental and foreign policy considerations and are aimed at promoting dialogue, participation, inclusion and diversity. Fostering social cohesion and solidarity among different sectors of society is a way to build trust, cooperation and mutual support, and to prevent conflicts and violence.

Sergei Zelenev advocated for a comprehensive and inclusive approach when conceptualizing social policies at all levels. Building community awareness regarding the existing socio-economic options and their interconnected nature is essential. The expansion of social protection programs and the benefit coverage has proved its values in reducing poverty and inequality. Political nature of many social issues due to differences in group values and existing resource constraints makes community engagement even more important. Social policy innovations have a chance to succeed only when government efforts enjoy a wide popular support.

A video recording of the event is available for viewing or download here.