PAWSSD Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Social Integration

Basis for action and objectives

66. The aim of social integration is to create “a 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 respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural and religious diversity, social justice and the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, democratic participation and the rule of law. The pluralistic nature of most societies has at times resulted in problems for the different groups to achieve and maintain harmony and cooperation, and to have equal access to all resources in society. Full recognition of each individual’s rights in the context of the rule of law has not always been fully guaranteed. Since the founding of the United Nations, this quest for humane, stable, safe, tolerant and just societies has shown a mixed record at best.

67. Nevertheless, progress has been noted, as shown in the continuation of the ongoing process of decolonization; the elimination of apartheid; the spread of democracy; wider recognition of the need to respect human dignity, all human rights and fundamental freedoms and cultural diversity; the unacceptability of discrimination; increasing recognition of the unique concerns of indigenous people in the world; an expanded notion of collective responsibility for all members of a society; expanded economic and educational opportunities and the globalization of communication; and greater possibilities for social mobility, choice and autonomy of action.

68. Notwithstanding the instances of progress, there are negative developments that include social polarization and fragmentation; widening disparities and inequalities of income and wealth within and among nations; problems arising from uncontrolled urban development and the degradation of the environment; marginalization of people, families, social groups, communities and even entire countries; and strains on individuals, families, communities and institutions as a result of the rapid pace of social change, economic transformation, migration and major dislocations of population, particularly in the areas of armed conflict.

69. Furthermore, violence, in its many manifestations, including domestic violence, especially against women, children, older persons and people with disabilities, is a growing threat to the security of individuals, families and communities everywhere. Total social breakdown is an all too real contemporary experience. Organized crime, illegal drugs, the illicit arms trade, trafficking in women and children, ethnic and religious conflict, civil war, terrorism, all forms of extremist violence, xenophobia, and politically motivated killing and even genocide present fundamental threats to societies and the global social order. These are compelling and urgent reasons for action by Governments individually and, as appropriate, jointly to foster social cohesion while recognizing, protecting and valuing diversity.

70. There is therefore an urgent need for:

  • Transparent and accountable public institutions that are accessible to people on an equal basis and are responsive to their needs;
  • Opportunities for all to participate in all spheres of public life;
  • Strengthened participation and involvement of civil society in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of decisions determining the functioning and well-being of societies;
  • Publicly available objective data to enable people to make informed decisions;
  • Maintenance of social stability and promotion of social justice and progress;
  • Promotion of non-discrimination, tolerance and mutual respect for and the value of diversity;
  • Equity and equality of opportunity and social mobility;
  • Gender equality and equity and empowerment of women;
  • Elimination of physical and social barriers with the aim of creating a society accessible for all, with special emphasis on measures to meet the needs and interests of those who face obstacles in participating fully in society;
  • Giving special attention to the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and to health as a factor of development;
  • Promoting the principle of caring for one another’s well-being and fostering the spirit of mutual support, within the context of human rights education;
  • While acknowledging legitimate national defence needs, recognizing and addressing the dangers to society of armed conflict, and the negative effect of excessive military expenditures, trade in arms, especially of those arms that are particularly injurious or have indiscriminate effects, and excessive investment for arms production and acquisition. Similarly, the need to combat illicit arms trafficking, violence, crime, the production, use and trafficking of illicit drugs, and trafficking in women and children should be recognized and addressed;
  • The elimination of all forms of violence and the full implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. 16/


A. Responsive government and full participation in society

71. Governments should promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, bearing in mind the interdependent and mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy, development and respect for human rights, and should make public institutions more responsive to people’s needs by:

(a) Ensuring that decisions are based on accurate data and are taken with the participation of those who will be affected, keeping under review, within each country’s constitutional framework, the responsibilities of the different levels of government and the administrative arrangements for organizing and delivering services;

(b) Keeping under review, within each country’s constitutional framework, the national, provincial, municipal and local capacity and capability in raising revenue, and allocating resources to promote local initiatives in maintaining and increasing community cohesion;

(c) Simplifying administrative regulations, disseminating information about public policy issues and initiatives for collective interests, and facilitating maximum access to information;

(d) Opening channels and promoting full confidence between citizens and government agencies, and developing affordable recourse procedures accessible to all people, especially those who have no access to channels and agencies of communication to seek redress of grievances;

(e) Encouraging the production of relevant studies/research to assess the consequences of global and technological changes on social integration and the production of evaluations of the policies and programmes put in place to achieve the various components of social integration; and encouraging national and international exchanges and dissemination of information on innovative models and successful practices;

(f) Requiring accountability for the honest, just and equitable delivery of public services to the people from all public officials;

(g) Making their services accessible to all citizens and taking special care to ensure that the services are provided to all persons in need;

(h) Strengthening popular political participation, and promoting the transparency and accountability of political groupings at the local and national levels;

(i) Encouraging the ratification of, the avoidance as far as possible of the resort to reservations to and the implementation of international human rights instruments aiming to eliminate barriers to the full enjoyment of all human rights.

72. Encouraging the fullest participation in society requires:

(a) Strengthening the capacities and opportunities for all people, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, to establish and maintain independent organizations representing their interests, within each country’s constitutional framework;

(b) Enabling institutions of civil society, with special attention to those representing vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, to participate in the formulation, on a consultative basis, implementation and evaluation of policies related to social development;

(c) Giving community organizations greater involvement in the design and implementation of local projects, particularly in the areas of education, health care, resource management and social protection;

(d) Ensuring a legal framework and a support structure that encourage the formation of and constructive contributions from community organizations and voluntary associations of individuals;

(e) Encouraging all members of society to exercise their rights, fulfil their responsibilities and participate fully in their societies, recognizing that Governments alone cannot meet all needs in society;

(f) Establishing a universal and flexible social safety net that takes into account available economic resources and encourages rehabilitation and active participation in society;

(g) Facilitating the access of disadvantaged and marginalized people to education and information, as well as their participation in social and cultural life;

(h) Promoting equality and social integration through sports and cultural activities.

B. Non-discrimination, tolerance and mutual respect for and value of diversity

73. Eliminating discrimination and promoting tolerance and mutual respect for and the value of diversity at the national and international levels requires:

(a) Enacting and implementing appropriate laws and other regulations to combat racism, racial discrimination, religious intolerance in all its various forms, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination in all walks of life in societies;

(b) Encouraging the ratification of the avoidance as far as possible of the resort to reservations, and the implementation of international instruments, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 17/ and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; 18/

(c) Taking specific measures, in the context of the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, 19/ to remove long-standing legal and social barriers to employment, education, productive resources and public services; assist women in becoming aware of and realizing their rights; and ensure the elimination of intra-family discrimination for the girl child, especially in regard to health, nutrition and education;

(d) Ensuring gender equality and equity through changes in attitudes, policies and practices, encouraging the full participation and empowerment of women in social, economic and political life, and enhancing gender balance in decision-making processes at all levels;

(e) Reviewing with a view to changing legislation, public codes and practices that perpetuate discriminatory practices;

(f) Disseminating information in plain language to all groups in society about people’s rights and the means available to redress complaints;

(g) Strengthening or establishing machinery for monitoring and resolving disputes and conflicts related to discriminatory practices, and developing arbitration and conciliation procedures at the local and national levels;

(h) Setting an example through State institutions and the educational system to promote and protect respect for freedom of expression; democracy; political pluralism; diversity of heritage, cultures and values; religious tolerance and principles; and the national traditions on which a country has been built;

(i) Recognizing that the languages spoken or used in the world should be respected and protected;

(j) Recognizing that it is of utmost importance for all people to live in cooperation and harmony, and ensuring that the traditions and cultural heritage of nations are fully protected;

(k) Encouraging independent communication media that promote people’s understanding and awareness of all aspects of social integration, with full respect for freedom of information and expression.

C. Equality and social justice

74. Governments should promote equality and social justice by:

(a) Ensuring that all people are equal before the law;

(b) Carrying out a regular review of public policy, including health and education policies, and public spending from a social and gender equality and equity perspective, and promoting their positive contribution to equalizing opportunities;

(c) Expanding and improving access to basic services with the aim of ensuring universal coverage;

(d) Providing equal opportunities in public-sector employment and providing guidance, information and, as appropriate, incentives to private employers to do the same;

(e) Encouraging the free formation of cooperatives, community and other grass-roots organizations, mutual support groups, recreational/sports associations and similar institutions that tend to strengthen social integration, paying particular attention to policies that assist families in their support, educational, socializing and nurturing roles;

(f) Ensuring that structural adjustment programmes are so designed as to minimize their negative effects on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and communities while ensuring their positive effects on them by preventing their marginalization in economic and social activities, and devising measures to ensure that such groups and communities gain access to and control over economic resources and economic and social activities. Actions should be taken to reduce inequality and economic disparity;

(g) Promoting full access to preventive and curative health care to improve the quality of life, especially by the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, in particular women and children;

(h) Expanding basic education by developing special measures to provide schooling for children and youth living in sparsely populated and remote areas, for children and youth of nomadic, pastoral, migrant or indigenous parents, and for street children, children and youth working or looking after younger siblings and disabled or aged parents, and disabled children and youth; establishing, in partnership with indigenous people, educational systems that will meet the unique needs of their cultures;

(i) Ensuring that the expansion of basic education is accompanied by improved quality, appropriate attention to children of different abilities, cooperation between family and school, and a close link between the school curriculum and the needs of the workplace;

(j) Evaluating school systems on a regular basis by results achieved, and disseminating research findings regarding the appropriateness of different methods of evaluation;

(k) Ensuring that all people can have access to a variety of formal and non-formal learning activities throughout their lives that allows them to contribute to and benefit from full participation in society; making use of all forms of education, including non-conventional and experimental means of education, such as tele-courses and correspondence courses, through public institutions, the institutions of civil society and the private sector, to provide educational opportunities for those who in childhood missed necessary schooling, for youth in the process of transition from school to work, and for those who wish to continue education and upgrade skills throughout their lives;

(l) Providing equal access for girls to all levels of education, including non-traditional and vocational training, and ensuring that measures are taken to address the various cultural and practical barriers that impede their access to education through such measures as the hiring of female teachers, adoption of flexible hours, care of dependants and siblings, and provision of appropriate facilities.

D. Responses to special social needs

75. Governmental responses to special needs of social groups should include:

(a) Identifying specific means to encourage institutions and services to adapt to the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups;

(b) Recognizing and promoting the abilities, talents and experience of groups that are vulnerable and disadvantaged, identifying ways to prevent isolation and alienation, and enabling them to make a positive contribution to society;

(c) Ensuring access to work and social services through such measures as education, language training and technical assistance for people adversely affected by language barriers;

(d) Supporting by legislation, incentives and other means, where appropriate, organizations of the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups so that they may promote the interests of the groups concerned and become involved in local and national, economic, social and political decision-making that guides society as a whole;

(e) Improving the opportunities for people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable to seek positions in legislatures, Governments, judiciaries and other positions of public authority or influence;

(f) Taking measures to integrate into economic and social life demobilized persons and persons displaced by civil conflict and disasters;

(g) Promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering them to make choices that enable them to retain their cultural identity while participating in national, economic and social life, with full respect for their cultural values, languages, traditions and forms of social organization;

(h) Implementing the Plan of Action adopted by the World Summit for Children in 1990 and ratifying, as appropriate, and implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

(i) Encouraging youth to participate in discussions and decisions affecting them and in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes; ensuring that youth acquire the skills to participate in all aspects of life in society and to lead self-sufficient lives through the provision of relevant and innovative educational programmes; and establishing laws and measures that ensure the protection of youth against physical and mental abuse and economic exploitation;

(j) Adopting specific measures to equip young people for responsible adulthood, particularly out-of-school youth and street children;

(k) Promoting the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities 20/ and developing strategies for implementing the Rules. Governments, in collaboration with organizations of people with disabilities and the private sector, should work towards the equalization of opportunities so that people with disabilities can contribute to and benefit from full participation in society. Policies concerning people with disabilities should focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities and should ensure their dignity as citizens;

(l) Within the context of the United Nations Principles for Older Persons 21/ and the global targets on ageing for the year 2001, 22/ reviewing or developing strategies for implementing the International Plan of Action on Ageing 23/ so that older persons can maximize their contribution to society and play their full part in the community;

(m) Facilitating the implementation of the guidelines for further planning and suitable follow-up in the field of youth 24/ with a view to promoting the integration of youth into societies;

(n) Taking measures to enable persons belonging to minorities to participate fully and contribute to the development of their society.

E. Responses to specific social needs of refugees, displaced persons and asylum-seekers, documented migrants and undocumented migrants

76. In order to address the special needs of refugees, displaced persons and asylum-seekers:

(a) Governments are urged to address the root causes of movements of refugees and displaced persons by taking appropriate measures, particularly with respect to conflict resolution; the promotion of peace and reconciliation; respect for human rights, including those of persons belonging to minorities; and respect for the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of States. Governments and all other entities should respect and safeguard the right of people to remain in safety in their homes and should refrain from policies or practices that force people to flee;

(b) Governments are urged to strengthen their support for international protection and assistance activities on behalf of refugees and, as appropriate, displaced persons, and to promote the search for durable solutions to their plight. In so doing, Governments are encouraged to enhance regional and international mechanisms that promote appropriate shared responsibility for the protection and assistance needs of refugees. All necessary measures should be taken to ensure the physical protection of refugees, in particular that of refugee women and refugee children and especially against exploitation, abuse and all forms of violence;

(c) Adequate international support should be extended to countries of asylum to meet the basic needs of refugees and to assist in the search for durable solutions. Refugee populations should be assisted in achieving self-sufficiency. Refugees, particularly refugee women, should be involved in the planning of refugee assistance activities and in their implementation. In planning and implementing refugee assistance activities, special attention should be given to the specific needs of refugee and displaced women and children. Refugees should be provided with access to adequate accommodation, education, health services, including family planning, and other necessary social services. Refugees should respect the laws and regulations of their countries of asylum;

(d) Governments and other relevant actors should create comprehensive conditions that allow for the voluntary repatriation of refugees in safety and dignity, and the voluntary and safe return of internally displaced persons to their homes of origin and their smooth reintegration into society;

(e) Governments are urged to abide by international law concerning refugees. States that have not already done so are invited to consider acceding to the international instruments concerning refugees, in particular the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 25/ and the 1967 Protocol to the Convention. 26/ Governments are furthermore urged to respect the principle of non-refoulement, that is, the principle of no forcible return of persons to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Governments should ensure that asylum-seekers in the Government’s territory have access to a fair hearing and should facilitate the expeditious processing of asylum requests, ensuring that guidelines and procedures for the determination of refugee status are sensitive to the particular situation of women;

(f) Governments and relevant actors should respect the right of people to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

77. To promote the equitable treatment and integration of documented migrants, particularly documented migrant workers and members of their families:

(a) Governments should ensure that documented migrants receive fair and equal treatment, including full respect of their human rights, protection of the laws of the host society, appropriate access to economic opportunities and social services; protection against racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia; and protection from violence and exploitation. Language training should be provided, in recognition of the centrality of language acquisition to the effective integration of documented migrants, including those not destined for the labour market, in so far as resources permit. Early integration is the key to allowing documented migrants to contribute their skills, knowledge and potential to the development of countries of destination, and involves mutual understanding by documented migrants and the host society. The former need to know and respect the values, laws, traditions and principles of the host society, which in turn should respect the religions, cultures and traditions of documented migrants;

(b) Governments of receiving countries are urged to consider giving to documented migrants having the right to long-term residence, civil and political rights and responsibilities, as appropriate, and facilitating their naturalization. Special efforts should be made to enhance the integration of the children of long-term migrants by providing them with educational and training opportunities equal to those of nationals, allowing them to exercise an economic activity and facilitating the naturalization of those who have been raised in the receiving country. Consistent with article 10 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 27/ and all relevant universally recognized human rights instruments, all Governments, particularly those of receiving countries, must recognize the vital importance of family reunification and promote its integration into their national legislation in order to ensure protection of the unity of the families of documented migrants. Governments of receiving countries must ensure the protection of migrants and their families, giving priority to programmes and strategies that combat religious intolerance, racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and gender discrimination, and that generate the necessary public sensitivity in that regard;

(c) Governments and relevant actors should encourage the international exchange of information on educational and training institutions in order to promote the productive employment of documented migrants through greater recognition of foreign education and credentials;

(d) Governments should encourage interracial harmony and cross-cultural understanding through educational programmes, where appropriate, including alternative dispute resolution and conflict prevention training in schools.

78. In order to address the concerns and basic human needs related to undocumented migrants:

(a) Governments are urged to cooperate in reducing the causes of undocumented migration, safeguarding the basic human rights of undocumented migrants, preventing their exploitation and offering them appropriate means of appeal according to national legislation, and punishing criminals who organize trafficking in human beings;

(b) Countries of destination, countries of transit and countries of origin should cooperate, as appropriate, to manage immigration flows, prevent undocumented migration, and, if appropriate, facilitate the return of migrants and their reintegration in their home communities;

(c) Governments are urged to cooperate to reduce the effects of undocumented migration on receiving countries, bearing in mind the special circumstances and needs of such countries, in particular developing countries;

(d) Governments are urged to promote effective measures to protect all undocumented migrants and members of their families against racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia.

F. Violence, crime, the problem of illicit drugs and substance abuse

79. Addressing the problems created by violence, crime, substance abuse and the production, use and trafficking of illicit drugs, and the rehabilitation of addicts requires:

(a) Introducing and implementing specific policies and public health and social service programmes to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence in society, particularly to prevent and eliminate domestic violence and to protect the victims of violence, with particular attention to violence against women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities. In particular, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women should be implemented and enforced nationally. In addition, the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be respected;

(b) Taking full measures to eliminate all forms of exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, in particular domestic violence and rape. Special attention should be given to violence resulting from harmful traditional or customary practices and all forms of extremism, which implies both preventive actions and the rehabilitation of victims;

(c) Implementing programmes that channel the energy and creativity of children and youth towards improving themselves and their communities in order to prevent their participation in crime, violence, and drug abuse and trafficking;

(d) Improving mechanisms for resolving conflicts peacefully and reintegrating society following conflicts, including efforts towards reconciliation and confidence-building between the conflicting groups, training in non-violent conflict resolution at all levels of education, the reconstruction of social institutions that have been destroyed, the reintegration of displaced and disabled persons, and the re-establishment of the rule of law and respect for all human rights;

(e) Establishing partnerships with non-governmental organizations and community organizations to make adequate provision for the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of offenders, especially young offenders; measures will include efforts to maintain links with their families during detention and to reintegrate them into productive employment and social life after their release from detention;

(f) Strengthening international cooperation and coordination in devising strategies, policies, legislation and other measures in combating national and transnational organized crime and the use of violence and terrorism;

(g) Adopting effective and environmentally sound national strategies to prevent or substantially reduce the cultivation and processing of crops used for the illegal drug trade, paying particular attention to national and international support for development programmes that create viable economic alternatives to drug production and promote the full integration of the social groups involved in such activities;

(h) Combating drug and substance abuse and drug trafficking, corruption and related criminal activities through national and internationally coordinated measures, while strengthening integrated, multisectoral programmes to prevent and reduce the demand for consumption of drugs in order to create a society free of illicit drugs. In cooperation with the institutions of civil society and the private sector, drug abuse prevention should be promoted as well as preventive education for children and youth, rehabilitation and education programmes for former drug and alcohol addicts, especially children and youth, to enable them to obtain productive employment and achieve the independence, dignity and responsibility for a drug-free, crime-free, productive life;

(i) Working nationally and internationally to identify narcotics trafficking and money laundering networks, prosecuting their leaders and seizing assets derived from such criminal activities;

(j) Supporting comprehensive drug interdiction strategies and strengthening efforts to control precursor chemicals and firearms, ammunition and explosives in order to prevent their diversion to drug trafficking and terrorist groups;

(k) Combating trafficking in women and children through national and internationally coordinated measures, at the same time establishing or strengthening institutions for the

81. Helping the family in its supporting, educating and nurturing roles in contributing to social integration should involve:

rehabilitation of the victims of the trafficking of women and children.

G. Social integration and family responsibilities

80. The family is the basic unit of society and as such should be strengthened. It is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support.

In different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses, and husband and wife should be equal partners.

(a) Encouraging social and economic policies that are designed to meet the needs of families and their individual members, especially the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members, with particular attention to the care of children;

(b) Ensuring opportunities for family members to understand and meet their social responsibilities;

(c) Promoting mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation within the family and within society;

(d) Promoting equal partnership between women and men in the family.


16/ General Assembly resolution 48/104.

17/ General Assembly resolution 2106 A (XX), annex.

18/ General Assembly resolution 34/180, annex.

19/ Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.85.IV.10), chap. I, sect. A.

20/ General Assembly resolution 48/96, annex.

21/ General Assembly resolution 46/91, annex.

22/ See A/47/339, sect. III.

23/ See Report of the World Assembly on Ageing, Vienna, 26 July- 6 August 1992 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.82.I.16), chap. VI.

24/ See General Assembly resolution 40/14 and A/40/256, annex.

25/ United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189 (1954), No. 2545.

26/ Ibid., vol. 606 (1970), No. 8791.

27/ See General Assembly resolution 44/25, annex.

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