United Nations


Economic and Social Council

24 November 1997

Economic and Social Council

Commission for Social Development
Thirty-sixth session
10-20 February 1998
Item 3(a) of the provisional agenda*
Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development

     * E/CN.5/1998/1.

         Expert Workshop on Ways and Means to Enhance Social
                Protection and Reduce Vulnerability

                    Note by the Secretary-General

1. In its resolution 1996/7, the Economic and Social Council decided on the
substantive items of the agenda for the Commission for Social Development at
its future sessions and a multi-year programme of work for the consideration
of priority subjects. The Commission discussed the eradication of poverty at
its special session in 1996; it considered productive employment and
sustainable livelihoods at its thirty-fifth regular session in 1997. At its
thirty-sixth session in 1998, the Commission will give attention
to promoting social integration and the participation of all people, including
disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and persons, with consideration of the
following specific topics:

            (a)    Promoting social integration through responsive government,
full participation in society, non-discrimination, tolerance, equality and
social justice;

            (b)    Enhancing social protection, reducing vulnerability and
enhancing employment opportunities for groups with specific needs;           

            (c)    Violence, crime and the problem of illicit drugs and
substance abuse as factors of social disintegration. 

2. In its resolution 1995/60, the Council decided that the Commission for
Social Development should establish the practice of opening its debates to
experts and the main actors of civil society so as to enhance knowledge and
understanding of social development and the exchange of information and
experience. Further, in its resolution 1996/7, the Council reaffirmed the need
for ensuring an effective partnership and cooperation between Governments and
the relevant actors of civil society, the social partners and the major       

groups as defined in Agenda 21, 1/ including non-governmental organizations
and the private sector, in the implementation of and follow-up to the
Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, and for ensuring their
involvement in the planning, elaboration, implementation and evaluation of
social policies at the national level.

3. Accordingly, in preparing for the thirty-sixth session of the Commission
for Social Development and in response to the expressed intentions of the
Economic and Social Council, the United Nations Secretariat organized an
expert workshop on ways and means to enhance social protection and reduce
vulnerability, held at United Nations Headquarters from 10 to 14 November
1997. The workshop brought together experts from all world regions and
observers from the United Nations system and civil society.

4. The report of the workshop is annexed below.


1/   In addition to the social partners (representatives of trade unions and
of business and industry), the other major groups identified in Agenda 21 are
women; children and youth; indigenous people; non-governmental organizations;
local authorities; the scientific and technological community; and farmers.


         Report of the Expert Workshop on Ways and Means to Enhance 
                Social Protection and Reduce Vulnerability, 
             United Nations Headquarters, 10-14 November 1997

Contents                                               Paragraphs     Page

  I.     Concepts and definitions . . . . . . . . . . . .   1-25        4

         A.   What is vulnerability?. . . . . . . . . . .   2-10        4

         B.   Why does vulnerability matter?. . . . . . .  11-12        5

         C.   Who is vulnerable?. . . . . . . . . . . . .  13-25        5

 II.     Causes and consequences. . . . . . . . . . . . .  26-30        6

III.     Policies and programmes. . . . . . . . . . . . .  31-84        7

         A.   Diversity and universality. . . . . . . . .  31-33        7

         B.   Strategic principles. . . . . . . . . . . .  34-69        8

         C.   Examples. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  70-82       12

         D.   Reducing vulnerability through enhanced 
              employment opportunities for groups and 
              persons with specific needs . . . . . . . .  83-84       14

 IV.     Tools and priorities for follow-up . . . . . . .  85-110      15

         A.   An enabling environment for reducing 
              vulnerability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  87-92       15

         B.   Adopting a long-term strategic approach . .    93        16

         C.   Increasing empathy. . . . . . . . . . . . .    94        17

         D.   Mechanisms for partnership. . . . . . . . .  95-99       17

         E.   Reconsidering resource issues . . . . . . . 100-102      18

         F.   Social impact assessments . . . . . . . . . 103-105      18

         G.   Network poverty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106-107      19

         H.   Reducing vulnerability by promoting peace 
              and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. . 108-110      19

Annex - List of participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     20

                          I.     Concepts and definitions

1.   Enhancing social protection and reducing vulnerability are important
goals of the World Summit for Social Development, which recommended a rich
menu of activities to advance those goals. The actions that are proposed and
the terminology used, however, are not always free from ambiguity. Some
clarification of terminology and concepts would facilitate discussion and
agreement on what issues need priority attention in specific local and
national situations. One key concept that is subject to different
interpretations is "vulnerability", particularly in relation to another
important concept,"disadvantage".

                           A.     What is vulnerability?

2.   Vulnerability is a part of the human condition; some might say it is our
vulnerabilities that make us human. No one is without vulnerability, and even
those who live in physical and material security live in fear of what might
afflict them or those closest to them. There are degrees of vulnerability and
specific circumstances of it, which need to be addressed. 

3.   A condition that afflicts the species is difficult to legislate for in
specific policy terms. Trying to rid the world of vulnerability might be
considered the social equivalent of eugenics. But while few would support
eugenics, even fewer would argue that we should not use medical science to rid
the world of the great scourges to physical health.  Similarly, the fact that
it is our vulnerabilities that make us human should not prevent us focusing on
the avoidable -- often socially constructed -- consequences of vulnerability. 
We need to create societies in which the concept of vulnerability is
understood, in which the experience of vulnerability is respected, and in
which the consequences of vulnerability are cushioned by communal
understanding and relevant action.

4.   In every society -- regardless of geography, social structure, or
political and economic system -- people are exposed to a wide variety of
risks. Some of those risks may result from acts of nature, whereas others are
caused by human action.

5.   Risks in any society are not evenly distributed among the general
population; hence people are not equally exposed. Certain individuals and
groups have a much higher exposure to risk than others, because of
socio-demographic characteristics, economic status, physical or mental
condition, lifestyle, and so forth. Vulnerability is a state of high exposure
to certain risks, combined with reduced ability to protect or to defend
oneself against those risks and to cope with the negative consequences that
ensue when the risks occur.

6.   The degree of exposure to risks and the ability to cope with their
negative consequences do not remain constant throughout the life span but vary
from one stage of life to another. Also, types of risk can change according to
situations and circumstances. Therefore, vulnerability is a dynamic and
relative concept, varying over time and across space.

7.   Since vulnerability stems from numerous sources, certain individuals and
groups can suffer from multiple or cumulative vulnerabilities. Thus, one may
distinguish between, for example, ecological vulnerability (living in
high-risk areas); structural (including status) vulnerability (arising from
such attributes as sex, race, occupation, or social class); and role
vulnerability (stemming from relationships from which the individual cannot
readily or easily withdraw, such as marriage and tenancy).

8.   Vulnerability, then, is rarely a one-dimensional condition. At least
three dimensions of vulnerability have been identified:

     (a)     Risk dimension, considered in terms of a greater risk or
probability of victimization and implying that those who are vulnerable have a
greater likelihood of being victimized than others;

     (b)     State of mind dimension, rendering those who are vulnerable more
afraid of victimization and its consequences than those who are not

     (c)     Impact dimension, considered in terms of the impact victimization
is likely to have on the victim, in the sense that the greater the
vulnerability, the stronger and more serious the impact.

9.   Although vulnerability and disadvantage are often used as if they were
interchangeable, they are distinct. By "disadvantaged", we refer to all groups
that encounter structural obstacles (i.e., obstacles created by society) to
access to resources, benefits and opportunities. Those obstacles derive from
the relationships of power which exist in all societies and the relative value
which society gives to each group. The effects for any one group may differ
depending on the societal context, but the result in all cases is increased
vulnerability to poverty, oppression and exploitation. They can also compound
other vulnerabilities, where they exist. The structural causes that underlie
disadvantage include race, ethnicity, gender, religion, indigenous or national
origin, and socio-economic status. 

10.  An exclusive focus on economic status as a means of judging disadvantage
is outdated. While it is true that persons or groups who are vulnerable are
also frequently disadvantaged and are often particularly vulnerable because
they are disadvantaged, many may be vulnerable in the absence of any economic
disadvantage. For example, prosperous immigrants, wealthy older persons,
successful women, though not economically disadvantaged, may be vulnerable to
various forms of victimization, discrimination, or exploitation.

                B.     Why does vulnerability matter?

11.   It is important to the well-being and cohesion of society to take
measures to protect all its members from the risks they face at different
stages in life and to overcome the disadvantages that they confront because of
gender-based assumptions or by reason of their membership in a particular
race, class or group. When individuals are forced by circumstance to become a
burden on their families and communities, the loss to society is obvious. When
individuals cannot reach their full potential, it is not only they who lose;
society loses also. Both individuals and society are strengthened when all
people contribute to their maximum potential. But, ultimately, any society
must be judged by its attitude to those in situations of greatest
vulnerability and by the barriers it erects which prevent individuals and
groups from participating fully in the life of the community.

12.   Social justice requires the institution of remedies to eliminate all
forms of disadvantage. Social harmony, maximizing everyone's potential,
requires the development of policies, measures and means to reduce
vulnerability and to enhance the protection of those who are vulnerable.

                      C.     Who is vulnerable?

13.   Vulnerability can be linked to specific stages in the life span,
involving risks intrinsic to different periods of life. The concept of risk
which is associated with vulnerability implies susceptibility by an individual
to biological, psychological and social factors, and a high probability that
those will cause problems in different life circumstances. It follows that
this vulnerability, if not counteracted, could hinder personal development and
lead to the creation of disadvantage for the individual with regard to his or
her current environment and future prospects.

14.   Although it is difficult to define exactly which age limits separate one
period of life from another, for the purpose of this report, certain
identifiable periods bring particular risks: pre-natal period; birth and
peri-natal; infancy; childhood; adolescence and youth; adulthood; and old age.

15.   Pre-natal risks mainly result from the knowledge, situation and
conditions of parents, and particularly relate to the health of mothers, their
nutrition and the habits they follow during pregnancy. 

16.   At birth, human beings experience one of the most critical periods of
life. Careful treatment of the mother and the child during this period is
essential for preventing several disabilities. During the peri-natal period, a
nurturing environment is essential. Also, early screening and intervention can
reduce risks or compensate deficient conditions, thus helping to prevent the
onset of disease or disability. Infancy is an extremely critical period, when
physical, emotional and cognitive developments are imprinted. Lack of
stimulation, lack of affection, poor nutrition, abandonment, abuse or neglect
are serious risk factors which can lead to stunted development and
irreversible future disadvantage.

17.   Children are prone to various internal and external sources of stress,
with the age of three years being considered a particularly critical time.
Children in different situations of risk may be distinguished, including
children left in institutions or abandoned or children fending for themselves
in the streets. Although such children are often born to families of lower
socio-economic status, the risks relating to physical and mental abuse of
children, and some kinds of abandonment or neglect, can be found in families
at all socio-economic levels.

18.   Adolescence can be a turning point in life, when decisions and actions
taken can have profound implications for the future. During this period of
life, risks include insecurity resulting from family disintegration; lack of
sufficient frameworks for establishing self-identity or points of reference;
lack of access to good health and educational services; and self-imposed risks
connected with experimentation with alcohol or drugs. Peer pressure and the
need for acceptance may take on exaggerated importance and affect
decision-making regarding behaviour and shaping intergenerational
relationships. Unwanted pregnancy and prostitution are among other major risks
to which this age group is exposed.

19.   Many risks come with adulthood, as people prepare to form households and
take on family and other responsibilities, including work. Difficulties in
obtaining adequate housing and employment and family violence are common or
prevalent risks.

20.   Old age can bring significant risks such as declining health,
abandonment by the family, institutionalization, alienation and the loss of a
meaningful social role. Even in countries where older persons have
traditionally enjoyed great respect and influence, many older persons now face
situations in which their families do not have the housing and economic
resources to take care of them.

21.   Combining any of these age-related vulnerabilities with other
conditions, such as disability or membership in a minority group, can result
in an accumulation of risks, which can, in turn, lead to greater
discrimination and segregation. The accumulation of risks has implications
which go far beyond what the policies aiming to counter any single
vulnerability are designed to handle. Likewise, poverty or difficulties
brought on by economic transition or adjustment, when combined with the
age-related vulnerabilities, may further magnify the risks people confront,
because they reduce the options at their command, which may then compound
their vulnerability. 

22.   Women and various social groups suffer structural disadvantage resulting
from the nature of the societies in which they live, which have compounded
vulnerabilities by hindering or denying them access to resources, benefits and
opportunities, and minimized their capacities to achieve sustainable
livelihoods. Because gender-based roles and responsibilities continue to
proscribe their choices in most places, women are particularly at risk and
deserve particular attention. In addition, social groups which can be
identified include: ethnic and religious minorities; indigenous people;
refugees and displaced persons; migrants and migrant workers, both legal and
illegal, and family members left behind; prisoners and ex-offenders; addicts
and former addicts; squatters; street children; people living in extreme
poverty; and landless rural workers. 

23.   Moreover, people in vulnerable situations run a very high risk of
becoming victims of various kinds of violence, both within and outside the
family. Violence affects women, children, disabled persons, older persons and

24.   Not only can individuals and groups be vulnerable, but communities --
and indeed countries -- can be considered vulnerable as well. Those
communities usually experience adverse structural conditions which create a
high degree of vulnerability for their members. The economic difficulties
faced by a community or a country may also be coupled with a low level of
public resources and consequently low social transfers which aggravate the
economic vulnerability. Economic vulnerability in a community is produced by a
combination of factors, some of which may be briefly stated:

      (a)     Few opportunities for employment, resulting in work capacities
that cannot find productive use and therefore cannot generate sufficient

      (b)     Low incomes derived from the work that is available, because of
low productivity or the nature of the economic environment. This results in a
bad "exchange rate" between work and income and results in cases where even
strenuous work for long periods cannot produce a minimum level of income;

      (c)     Low levels of public transfers of resources to particular
members of the community and to the community as a whole. It may be that the
social security system does not offer minimum coverage for those at risk, or
that unemployment benefits, pensions, social benefits, and child and family
allowances are insufficient to meet people's needs;

      (d)     Public investment for infrastructure is low, threatening the
community's social and economic life and contacts with the outside world;     

      (e)     An inability within the community to mobilize its internal
resources (including the work force and natural resources) to overcome the
structural economic problems;

      (f)     Scarce natural resources or an inability to use available
resources efficiently;

      (g)     Outdated education or training and professional skills which,
when accumulated at the level of the community, result in a lack of initiative
and economic imagination.

25.   Economic vulnerability at the community level may result in internal
social and ethnic conflicts which can further reduce prospects for
development. Generally, a low degree of community integration and cooperation
makes an already negative condition worse. Economically vulnerable communities
may be found in all countries, although they are more prevalent in developing
countries and countries with economies in transition.

                       II.     Causes and consequences

26.   The interconnection of world history, politics and economics renders
some regions and countries structurally disadvantaged, placing their
populations at greater risk of vulnerability to forces such as globalization,
market liberalization and cultural imperialism. 

27.   There is a continued perception that economic measures -- such as
technological advance, industrialization and modernization -- represent
progress,in spite of the massive social costs, including disorientation,
alienation and destruction of the traditional social and cultural fabric, that
they have caused and that have given rise to wide-scale displacement. Many
places have witnessed the weakening, if not outright eradication, of the
cultural base, which has stripped individuals and groups of traditional social
safety nets and networks, leaving them exposed to exploitation. Jobs have been
created at the expense of labour rights; the marginalization of women has led
to the feminization of poverty; the imposition of hierarchical structures that
pit indigenous peoples against each other has created a "fourth world" within
some societies. The quest for work has forced workers to leave their homes and
families to seek employment in foreign and sometimes hostile environments. The
explosion of violent crime has forced most countries to spend more money on
imprisoning criminals than establishing preventive measures by contributing to
their social and economic development. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is
the extraordinary sums invested in crime-fighting strategies and in the social
rehabilitation of addicts and offenders, while the drug trade becomes
entrenched in the highest and most acceptable levels of international

28.   Many have argued that the inequity inherent in the current prevailing
model of development has been the main cause of the social, economic and
cultural degradation experienced in so many societies and is the cause of
the increasing vulnerability of many social groups. They perceive a structural
vulnerability that Governments -- intentionally or not -- impose on
disadvantaged groups who do not require a doctorate in economics to know that
poverty has increased and standards of living have declined. Ethnocentric and
dominating models of development have shaped development institutions to the
detriment of developing-country realities. Development, as practised, has
fostered a way of conceiving social life as a technical problem, as a matter
of rational decision and management to be entrusted to that group of people --
the development professionals -- whose specialized knowledge allegedly
qualifies them for the task. Change was thus not seen as a process rooted in
the interpretation of each society's history and cultural tradition.
Development professionals sought to devise mechanisms and procedures to make
societies fit a pre-existing model that embodied the structures and functions
of modernity. The argument is that developing countries are perceived so
completely through Western forms of knowledge and power that many of their
citizens have begun to accept and absorb the label of "underdeveloped", which
carries the sense of being ignorant and hopeless, and invalidates indigenous
culture and strategies as means for citizens to solve their own challenges.

29.   The separation of economic conditions from their social and cultural
contexts prevents the achievement of a holistic conceptualization of
development. It sidelines and undermines social and cultural traditions which
undergird societal values and attitudes, and affects legislation and policies.
Reliance on economics and econometric glimpses of societal distress continues
to produce intimidating graphs and charts, without putting the flesh and the
faces behind those charts and graphs. It masks, too, the level of human
suffering caused by inappropriate policies and disjointed programmes. The
social and cultural dimensions of vulnerability are critical to the fulfilment
of the basic human rights of individuals and populations. For example,
attitudes, prejudices, policies, legislation and professional and
institutional practices that prevent full inclusion, integration and
participation in society result in higher degrees of discrimination which
further aggravate individual and collective vulnerability.

30.   The exclusion of individuals or groups reduces the investment of human
capital and robs society of certain knowledge, experience, perceptions and
solutions which might widen creative capacities and provide fresh solutions to
societal challenges. In addition, it nurtures societal paranoia,
fragmentation, distrust and threats to personal, community and national
security and well-being. Moreover, it threatens the basic fundamental rights
to life, development and full and inclusive participation and social
integration. For example, the exclusion of women and people with disabilities
not only prohibits their participation but also denies society of the full and
rich contribution of diverse experiences.  Additionally, the denial to
children and youth of relevant and appropriate education stunts the creative
growth and development of an important segment of society and places desired
long-term goals and an efficient renewal of societies at risk.

                          III. Policies and programmes

                        A.     Diversity and universality

31.   The Workshop recognized early in its deliberations the variety of
situations that exist in different countries and hence the inadvisability of
discussing detailed or country-specific solutions to the problems of
vulnerability, except as examples. Therefore, a number of general principles
which are of global or very wide relevance were the main focus of the

32.   One such principle is that the notion of development must be broader
than merely economic. The purpose of development should not be only to
increase per capita GDP but to do so while directly improving social
conditions, including reducing vulnerability and its consequences and
promoting social justice. In other words, the goal of development policy must
be human-centred, placing economies at the service of human beings, and not
the reverse, in order to achieve societies which value and protect human
dignity and which promote sustainable development.

33.   While the direct experience of poverty might be specific to particular
circumstances, places and periods of time, its overall consequences and
effects are universal.  When one person is condemned to live in poverty, all
people are at risk. Therefore, while programmes to combat vulnerability might
be situational, the definition and the general analysis are universal. There
are networking possibilities and strengths in accepting the universality
of vulnerability.

                         B.     Strategic principles

1.    The human rights approach

34.   An inclusive society can be promoted through the development and
implementation of policies that promote social integration on the basis of a
certain social framework which may be called a human rights or inclusion
framework. It is also a society that respects the rights of its people to
life, to development and to full participation.

35.   The human rights approach is coming to be recognized as the standard
of legitimacy for political systems and as an instrument for shaping public
policies.  Inclusion implies that policies, programmes and social services
should be organized, planned, developed or adapted in a way that makes
possible the full development of all citizens in a context of freedom,
independence and full access to basic services. Moreover, services should be
less fragmented and segregated (that is, universal), based in the community
and allowing for the participation of people in the decision-making that
affects their lives.        

Values framework

36.   A values framework involves a set of values and strategic principles
that focus attention on the essentials affecting populations: respect for the
right to life and development; respect for the value of health, education and
social protection; respect for the value of human differences and diversity;
respect for personal and cultural identities, within a context that reflects
universal standards of well-being; the value of ethics, both for individuals
and within professional and institutional settings; the value of solidarity;
the value of networks that provide support to individuals, such as families or
community organizations; the value of indigenous knowledge and experiences.   


37.  The strategic principles are the following:

     (a)    The social well-being of citizens should be a country's concern
and not only the concern of the Government of the day: priorities and policies
should be designed and implemented to cover periods beyond the life of a
particular Government or administration;  

     (b)     Policies should focus on the best interests of the people as
subjects and not objects of rights, while putting this interest above any
cost-benefit consideration or particular sectional interest;

     (c)     Policies should aim to strengthen networks and organizations in
the community, recognizing the essential support they can provide;            

     (d)     A global vision should guide social policy action, even at the
local level (based on the motto, "Global vision/local action");              

     (e)     Interdependency is stressed, giving particular value to the
interrelationship, articulation and coordination of three actors in society:
the Government, the private sector, and the civil society, or voluntary

     (f)     Organizations of civil society, especially at the community
level, should be actively involved in the design and implementation of
policies, and in their monitoring and evaluation.

38.   Implementing this framework involves creating policy-making groups
composed of governmental officials,independent professionals, representatives
of organizations of civil society, members of the private sector and
representatives of intergovernmental organizations who will participate in the
identification of needs and problems, in the determination of priorities,
strategies and actions, and in their implementation and evaluation. The focus
is on developing community-based, decentralized strategies that allow for the
participation of different actors of society.They become partners and grow and
work together to achieve outcomes that balance the needs and responsibilities
of different groups, within a framework of human rights and inclusion. Each
actor will have different roles and responsibilities in the different phases
of the process.

39.   Voluntary organizations and the social organization of community members
and families can best represent their own needs and interests. Governments
have responsibility for overall policy and for achieving balance among
different interests; professionals provide the technical know-how; the private
sector is responsible for providing resources and space for the development of
people. To be successful the process relies on recognition,mutual respect and
wisdom, and rules that reinforce the need for balance in a system of which
they all form part.

40.   One risk connected with this process is the danger that one or more of
the actors will not respect the "rules of the game". Another risk derives from
the speed at which the process progresses: when it is too quick, codes or
cultural realities may be disrupted without allowing time for the necessary
process of transition and understanding. Finally,there is a danger that
institutional or corporate interests may take precedence over the
interests of persons whom they are supposed to serve.

2.    Principles for community-level coping strategies

41.   As countries have sought, or been driven, to integrate more closely into
the global, market-based economy,various local or community-level developments
have eased what has for many been a difficult and disruptive transition.With
the realization that for many countries a successful integration into the
global economy will take much longer than earlier believed, more attention is
being given to measures at the community level to produce the means of life
through non-market mechanisms. That means basically two things:

      (a)     Improving the capacities of people to use their own labour and
natural resources to produce, directly for their own consumption, a portion of
the goods and services they need. Many communities are made vulnerable by a
sudden change in their traditional life strategies, and they have to be helped
to develop new strategies to cope with change and to decide how to react -- 
through action,resistance or adjustment -- to the new environment. This very
often involves not an individual but a collective learning process. Very
often, opportunities for income-generating activities are invoked, but there
are other, non-market welfare-generating activities that should also be
considered. Small-scale local resources, not at all interesting for market
activity, could, with additional support, contribute to sustainable

      (b)    Improving people's capacities, through community action, to build
economic and social infrastructure (roads, irrigation systems, schools) and to
empower the community to avoid social conflicts and exploitation.
Community-based development requires a much better use of scarce resources
available through transfers from the central Government. By adding their own
resources, communities can increase significantly the productive impact of
those transfers. Community works and public works are thus not only means for
creating jobs but also means for enhancing community empowerment and welfare.

42.   In this framework, development of the private sector is seen in a more
diversified way: alongside the classic private employer, other arrangements
could contribute to the economic development of communities, including
self-employment, cooperatives and employee-owned firms. The so-called "third
sector" is seen not only as something apart from the economy but also as
an important factor for economic regeneration. 

43.   Community-level development also has to be considered as part of an
evolution of local government,making it more transparent, more participative,
more accountable.

3.     An integrated, or comprehensive, approach

44.    In formulating policies, attention should be given not only to
preparing individuals to cope with and function in society and to participate
more fully in the social and economic development of the country but also to
making the economic, social and physical environment friendlier to those with
specific and special needs. Brief examples of how this principle applies to
three groups -- people with disabilities, women and young people -- are given

45.   The integration of the disabled in the work place cannot be accomplished
simply by providing appropriate training for existing jobs unless the training
is accompanied by measures that make the work place accessible and operational
for the disabled, and that show employers the advantages of hiring disabled

46.   In order to facilitate the entry of women into the labour market, it may
not be sufficient to train them for available jobs; in some instances it may
be necessary to adapt working conditions to the needs of working mothers,by
the adoption, inter alia, at the national level, of legislation encouraging
the establishment of return-to-work schemes and the adaptation of the job
conditions to the needs of the family. (Job-sharing and flexible hours are
steps in that direction.) Research on how best to implement such schemes
should be encouraged by all concerned.

47.   In most countries, young people experience unemployment at a rate from
two to four times greater than the national average. One reason for the very
high differentials is that new entrants to the labour force have greater
difficulty locating jobs in their fields of competence than people already in
the work force. In order to reduce the differential, therefore, it is
necessary, first, to develop a job market, through public and private
employment services and other means of informing young entrants to the labour
force about available work opportunities. Secondly,there may be a need to
adjust the educational system to the economic needs of the market to make the
type of education provided relevant to existing demands for labour. This can
be done most appropriately through a human resources planning exercise in
which supply and demand for labour are estimated for some years in the future.

48.   Finally, policies and programmes should be formulated that encourage
youth to enter self-employment and to exercise their entrepreneurial talents.
Entering self-employment not only reduces unemployment but can also create
additional jobs which are more likely to be filled by other young people.
Measures to encourage and sustain youth self-employment may include management
training, mentoring, and the establishment of credit facilities and liberal
laws and procedures conducive to the formation of small businesses.

49.    Because of their particular vulnerability and because they are at a
stage in life when future intellectual, emotional and social skills are
developing, there is a clear need to enhance and protect the rights of
children to a sustainable life and development and to reduce their exposure to
circumstances that can lead to physical, social or environmental risk.
Societies should not just protect children, however; they should also offer
children opportunities to express and contribute their unique perspectives of
the world. Children can make important contributions to the societies in which
they live. They represent a tremendous potential resource of hope for creative
thinking and problem-solving, largely unencumbered by cynicism or

4.    Entrenched vulnerable ethnic groups

50.   The marginalization and exclusion of certain racial and ethnic groups is
not always the result of discrimination and segregation alone. Sometimes it is
combined with economic, social and cultural vulnerability. The situation of
gypsies, as of many indigenous people, is a common example. It is important
for societies to improve their capacity to understand the types of
vulnerability that can arise from ethnic differences and to enhance their
support in an appropriate manner.

51.   In the past, emphasis was given to encouraging the acceptance of
diversity, including respect and support for cultural differences. This is a
crucial starting principle, but it is no longer sufficient. In a world of
interdependence,dominated by rapid change in many conditions of life, some
groups could be pushed into chronic crisis by trying to maintain their
traditional life strategies. Such groups should be supported in developing
their capacities to adapt to the changed environment while maintaining their
cultural integrity, to be open to self-development, to take control of their
own lives and to interact positively with people outside their group, thus
empowering them and enabling them to build their own future in a
continuously changing environment.

5.     The role of civil society or the "third sector"

52.    The State, the private sector and the third sector (civil society)
provide the three legs for the construction of a society for all. It is
necessary to implement policies that create synergy among the three sectors
for addressing human needs. Decreasing the vulnerability of human beings can
become a common objective of the three sectors. 

53.    Organizations of civil society have the singular characteristic of
being privately conducted but having a public purpose. More and more people
are discovering that they can work directly for the construction of a better

54.    An objective of efforts to strengthen civil society and its
organizations is to give them an identity, as a "sector"or movement, active in
shaping the future of society.  In this way, organizations of civil society
can act to balance the power of the other two sectors   the State and the
private sectors. To fortify organizations of civil society means to strengthen
the roots of a democratic society.  Citizens discovered long ago that it is
not necessary to wait for the State to solve social problems. Working through
organizations, citizens can take action into their own hands.But in many
countries, until recently, they felt isolated and without an identity. Many
leaders of civil society were surprised to learn that their organizations
belonged to abroad social movement.

55.   There are already situations in society that bring the three sectors
together into win/win situations. For instance,violence makes everybody
vulnerable; partnerships of the State, the private sector and civil society
have proved effective in some countries in decreasing violence.

56.   In order to build a society for all, actors in the three sectors have to
recognize the potential to achieve a win/win situation. To do so, they must
depend on one another.Governments all over the world are embarking on
efforts to redefine or reinvent their role in ensuring human well-being. Many
have focused on their role in designing policy initiatives rather than
delivering services. Often, they come to depend on organizations of civil
society to reach communities, to deliver services and to increase
credibility within the population: those organizations know better than anyone
else what the needs of local populations are.

57.   The private sector, encouraged by a more "consumer-driven" marketplace,
is beginning to shift from a mentality of "business for business sake" to one
that seriously considers and integrates issues of business ethics and codes of
conduct into decision-making and dealings. The private sector needs the
development of communities to expand markets for its products, and the third
sector can help greatly in this task. At the same time, as new
technologies eliminate jobs, there is a danger that consumer buying power will
be diminished. While large private-sector employers and the Government are
reducing their workforces everywhere, the organizations of civil society
are hiring people. To overcome the contradiction between that explosion and
the decrease in consumption (because of unemployment), it is necessary to
promote the growth of markets elsewhere. Thus, the third sector has an
important economic role in modern societies in terms of the amount of
resources it can mobilize and of the employment it generates. 

58.   If competition prevails in the private sector   encouraging productivity
but also egotistic behaviour  and if corruption is a sin in government, the
third sector offers to all the opportunity to become more humane. It extends
an opportunity to all to work to improve the lives of others and thus to be
able to show empathy and compassion, qualities that do not belong to the world
ruled by market laws and that are all too rarely found among the rules of
government. If the competitive rationale of the market economy and the
bureaucratic rules of governmental institutions bar people from working with
their hearts, it is in the third sector that their hearts can function. This
feeds people with good feelings, which may be one explanation for the fact
that so many business people are becoming involved directly in voluntary work
in social organizations.

59.   However, the organizations of civil society need resources to do their
work. They survive mainly through donations  and increasingly through
contractual arrangements with Governments or donors  which means that they
depend on the good will of families, private enterprises,Governments and
international organizations for resources to support their activities.
Increasingly, the organizations of civil society are expected to be
self-supporting and, to survive, some have ventured into income-generating
activities or implemented donor-generated programmes and projects. This
creates a dilemma for many organizations between pursuing social objectives
and pursuing financing to continue to exist. Governments,with their power to
legislate, can facilitate the transfer of resources to the third sector.

60.     For the three sectors to work together to reduce vulnerability
requires, first, an identification of the causes of vulnerability at the
community level. Organizations of civil society are particularly well placed
to accomplish this task: they are everywhere. As the nature of the risks and
the specific population or group concerned are identified, it will be possible
to work together to establish specific policies to diminish those risks.
Depending on the nature of the risks, each community will have a specific
profile of vulnerability, and the three sectors can work together to design an
appropriate strategy. Thus, the nature of the problem will define the degree
to which each sector will contribute to its solution. The nature of the
problem will also define the level at which programmes will be formulated,
implemented and financed, and establish responsibility for who is to finance

61.   Development is a social responsibility. Government,the private sector
and civil society share this social responsibility. It must, however, be noted
that sometimes governments wish to realize their direct contribution to
poverty eradication and social development in isolation.There are instances
where governments do not make budgetary provision to assist non-governmental
and other organizations of civil society to carry out their social development
agendas. In fact, most governments do not need to allocate tax-payer money to
these organizations. All that governments need to do is to pave the way for
them to raise their own funds. Some governments adopt practices which are
essentially antagonistic to non-governmental organizations and community-based
organizations (practices which are often denied in public). This is
particularly the case when it comes to the utilization of funds from
international non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies.

62.   Finally, it is necessary to identify at the local level all
organizations (governmental, private sector, civil society and international)
that are working to the improve the human condition. Information is vital, for
it provides an important instrument to reduce vulnerability. People often do
not know the organizational support available to them.

6.    Prevention and promotional measures

63.   While each person is potentially at risk, a number of factors determine
whether people are able to steer clear of or are pushed into unfavourable
situations. These may be classified as underlying, or predisposing, factors
and enabling factors. How potential risk translates into actual outcome is the
result of both the underlying and the enabling factors.

64.   A premature birth, for instance, is the underlying factor, or
predisposition, to impairment. If, however, good post-natal care, including
services for infancy and early childhood, is available, impairment very likely
will not result. Conversely, the lack of good pre-natal care or services for
infancy and early childhood would be the enabling factor causing impairment.
Both the underlying factor and the enabling factor are, in certain situations
and to an extent, preventable. Therefore, prevention and promotional measures
should be given primary importance in any strategy to counteract

65.   There are three levels of prevention and promotional measures:          

      (a)     First-level prevention addresses the underlying factor (Good
pre-natal care is a prevention measure taken to reduce the occurrence of

      (b)     Second-level prevention addresses both the underlying and the
enabling factors (Good post-natal care,infant care and early childhood care
are prevention measures taken against the consequences of the underlying
factor, prematurity.);

      (c)     Third-level prevention addresses the consequences of the
underlying factor (Steps are taken to prevent the premature baby or child from
becoming disabled.).

                    Family and community-based approaches

66.   The first-level prevention and promotional measures can be implemented
at the family and community level,normally through existing organizations.
Social extension and awareness campaigns may be necessary to make individuals,
groups and the community aware of the risks faced by various members and of
the potential that exists within the local community to provide protection
against those risks.

67.   A community-development approach has proved successful in a number of
countries. It has emphasized extension services and awareness campaigns,
training of local workers and the provision of field supervisors from relevant
governmental development agencies.    

                         Network and referral systems

68.   In order to provide ready access to more advanced and specialized
technical and human resources and to financial support, network
and referral systems are particularly useful. Such systems comprise components
from the broader civil society and governmental agencies and typically involve
the next highest level of public administration -- for instance, the
subdistrict or submunicipal level. Facilitating organizations from the broader
civil society (those with different backgrounds  i.e., cultural, religious,
ethnic), and specialized agencies of local government could best be utilized
to support such network and referral systems.

                        Integration and mainstreaming 

69.   As mentioned above, government, the private sector and civil society are
in the process of transforming or redefining their respective roles in the
community. These three primary development actors are now realizing their
additional mission in coping with the increasing vulnerability of the
community. Coordination among the three actors has to be promoted. The best
way to implement the integrated and mainstreaming approach is to start at the
micro and community level. The model could gradually be extended and promoted,
once there was evidence of its success.     

C.   Examples 

70.  Members of the expert workshop provided examples,drawn from their
experience, of policies or programmes that serve to reduce vulnerability.
These examples illustrate the kinds of actions governments might consider.    

1.   Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme 

71.  This programme, undertaken in Trinidad and Tobago, represents a
partnership of the Government, the private sector, individuals and
communities. Partially funded by the World Bank, it is a governmental response
to the situation of increasing unemployment in the country, particularly among
young people. It targets unemployed, out-of-school youth between the ages of
15 and 30.

72.   The programme model includes a series of activities: motivational
training; career enhancement; vocational skills training; work experience; and
entrepreneurial support training.

2.    A mechanism for the development of appropriate policies 

73.   In the Latin America and Caribbean region, a strategy for the design and
development of policies was developed under the direction of the
Inter-American Children's Institute and the Inter-American Federation of
Inclusion International. The strategy is currently being put into practice in
several countries, including Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic and
Ecuador. Particular attention is given to specific policies for education or
general social policies.

74.   The strategy involves the creation of policy-making groups composed of
governmental officials, professionals,and representatives of non-governmental
organizations, private-sector firms and intergovernmental organizations.The
aim of the groups is to identify needs and problems, to determine priorities,
strategies and actions, and to implement programmes and evaluate them. The
focus is on strengthening community-based, decentralized strategies that allow
for the participation of different actors of society.A framework based on
human rights and inclusion is used.

75.   The model includes components for training and planning, undertaking
research and providing information to individuals, communities and society at
large. It involves coordination within and among different sectors as well as
among different institutions and articulation at both national and
international levels.

76.   Different actors participate in community development, training and
policy planning activities. The research component, conducted by professional
researchers who work with the targeted community or group, involves gathering
and analysing information on needs, obstacles, existing legislation, data,
policies, plans and services. It then identifies where risks for vulnerability
or discrimination may exist or where additional information may be needed for
focusing programme priorities. All the actors involved thus participate in the
reform of legislation,policies and programmes. A system for managing
information and a bibliographic information programme have been developed, and
a network has been established at the regional and international levels to
support different aspects of the process.

77.   A component has been created to ensure continuous evaluation and
monitoring of the implementation of the strategies.   

3.    Economic status and vulnerability 

78.   Botswana, a country which, at independence, was one of the poorest and
least developed in the world, has established a shining example of democracy
and created an economic miracle. With the discovery of diamonds during the
post-independence period, development initiatives were accelerated. The
Government invested heavily in the development of the economy and in the lives
of its people.Education, health, access to safe drinking water, and
agricultural and infrastructural development were given priority, and the
results were marked and commendable improvements throughout the country.
Diamonds and beef became and remain the leading exports of Botswana;earnings
have contributed markedly to the country's foreign reserves and raised per
capita income. Unlike most developing nations, Botswana has an insignificant
debt burden. 

79.   Largely because, at independence, the country opted for a fast-paced
development process, it now finds itself with an insufficiently developed
human resource base. The educational system did not pay due attention to the
changing needs of the economy and has done a disappointing job of preparing
young people for the job market. Because the Government was from the outset
the driving force behind development initiatives, many rural communities
continue to look to it to "bring development"to them. The approach to rural
development has been top-down and has disempowered many communities, since
they have come to expect that responsibility for development rests with the
Government. At the same time, the Government has expended a significant
proportion of national resources on policies and programmes to enhance rural
development. The impact of these policies and programmes has been illuminating
not because of their success (unfortunately) but because of their failure to
foster sustainable rural development and improve the quality of life of the
majority of people. Income disparity is very high,and the biggest challenge
for government and civil society is to address rural poverty. 

80.   The lesson from Botswana is that people's active participation in the
economy is paramount in shaping and influencing their lives. The economic
position of individuals, nations, communities, economic sectors and regions
can be important determinants of their vulnerability. Individuals and groups
need to understand in simple and basic terms what economics is all about, how
to manage money, and how the marketing chain functions. Trade communities need
information and knowledge on how they fit into the larger economic picture and
strategies to promote local (community-level) economic development. Policies
and programmes that facilitate processes and interventions at the community
level are needed to assist members, to understand the changes that are taking
place around them and to take steps to reduce vulnerability through informed

4.    A model for promoting youth self-employment at the village level

81.   In Indonesia, a greater number of young people remain uneducated or drop
out of school than graduate.Those who leave school often find it extremely
difficult to obtain employment. In order to reduce unemployment among young
people, it was decided to try to encourage development of their
entrepreneurial and self-employment capacities. Programmes were designed in
various localities and villages. The establishment of Karang Taruna(Platform
for Youth) clubs in 70,000 villages has been successful in developing
self-employment among youth.Young people are provided with vocational training
in animal husbandry, mixed farming and handicrafts. The embryos of micro
businesses are also established at the village level, under the supervision of
field social workers.The micro business is integrated into the village
cooperative, which provides support for the marketing of the products. The
best performing Karang Taruna members from each province are invited by the
President to attend the national day commemoration at the Presidential
Palace.This has encouraged a spirit of competition among youth club members.  

5.    A model of community-based rehabilitation services for people 
      with disabilities 

82.   A model which promotes decentralized, community-based responsibility and
involvement in the rehabilitation of people with disabilities has been
developed in many countries. It contains the following components:            

      (a)    Training for the indigenous community development cadres and
vocational training for the disabled, conducted at the village level;         

      (b)    Establishment by the trainers of their respective"small business
group" of people with disabilities;

      (c)     Coordination and assistance to the "small business groups",
provided by a community-based sheltered workshop which is established at the
subdistrict level; 

      (d)     A mobile rehabilitation team, also established at the provincial
level, which is available to provide additional rehabilitation and vocational
services at the village and subdistrict levels, as required;

      (e)    Provincial rehabilitation centres, established to provide
referral services required by people with disabilities from the villages.     

D.    Reducing vulnerability through enhanced employment opportunities for
      groups and persons with specific needs 

83.   Employment creation is an essential component of any policy or programme
that addresses poverty and aims to achieve social integration. The goal is the
creation of freely chosen and productive employment. The role of self-managed
enterprises, micro-enterprises and the informal sector requires emphasis and
should be seriously considered in strategies aimed at promoting employment
and sustainable livelihoods, particularly in efforts to reduce vulnerability. 

84.   Reduction of vulnerability through enhanced employment opportunities
requires both policy reform and direct targeted programmes.  Direct
interventions ensure effective outreach and implementation of policy
decisions. While they can directly improve the worst manifestations of
vulnerability, they can help to bring about necessary enhancement of the
capabilities of the vulnerable groups.On the other hand, major policy and
institutional reforms are often required in order to ensure that direct
programmes achieve their objectives on a sufficiently large and meaningful
scale. Areas in which special attention and action are needed are described

      (a)     For women, it is important to promote an overall environment of
non-discrimination; to improve access to land and other assets, including
financial resources and access to credit for business enterprises, in
particular; to improve the human resource base; to expand access to wage
employment opportunities; and to extend social protection and improve
conditions of work in unregulated and unprotected jobs. It is also
important to strengthen organizational and negotiating capacities;            

      (b)     For workers in the informal sector, it is important to create an
enabling environment for a healthy growth of the informal sector. This entails
conducive macro and sectoral policies as well as a transparent and
simple regulatory framework. It is also vital to arrange for the provision of
necessary infrastructure; to improve access to credit, improved technology and
markets; to provide extension services geared towards improving product design
and quality of goods produced; and to provide support services for improved
linkages with other sectors of the economy;

      (c)     For people with disabilities, it is important to ensure respect
of equal rights, the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities
and the encouragement of a supportive social and physical environment; to
ensure integration of the disabled in education, training,employment and
society in general; to ensure that training and preparation for work are more
responsive to the needs of employers and labour markets; and to
undertake promotional measures required if the potential of new technologies
and new assistive devices is to be realized.Because of the degree of
vulnerability which can result from disability, additional policies should be
considered to encourage alternative work arrangements that reasonably
accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and ensure that they are
able to work according to their individual abilities. It is essential to
ensure that laws do not discriminate against people with disabilities; create
conditions whereby neither an employer nor an employee with disabilities will
suffer undue financial disadvantages from an employment contract; and prepare
policies that enlarge training possibilities in order to enhance their
participation in employment.

                IV.     Tools and priorities for follow-up 

85.   Development needs to be pursued by a mix of social,cultural and economic
policies. Broad participation by all the actors in society to formulate and
implement those policies is necessary. All this must of course be done in
a coordinated and orderly manner in which functions and responsibilities are
clearly identified and the means of coordination adequately set out. For this,
some institutionalization of the cooperation may be useful, at least through
the establishment of procedures for periodic consultations and exchange of
information among the three main actors: the government, the private sector
and organizations of civil society.

86.   If the negative consequences of vulnerability are largely the outcome of
the way in which people  and governments behave, they can be reduced or
eliminated by changed behaviour on the part of people and governments. While
the global community encompasses such a breadth of circumstance that universal
prescriptions need to be treated with caution, there are, nevertheless,
certain courses of action which governments should consider, in order to see
if they might be applicable to their situations.

A.    An enabling environment for reducing vulnerability 

87.   There is an urgent need for countries to formulate policies and
implement programmes that recognize and redress the existence of vulnerability
in different social,economic and political relationships. Ultimately, such
policies and programmes can help not also to reduce vulnerability but also to
promote social integration and bring about a more just society for all people.
This can be done through actions such as:    

      (a)     Assessing the nature and extent of vulnerability in each
country. Accurate assessments of situations is a precondition for effective
policy and programme interventions;

      (b)     Ensuring that a primary concern of legislation, criminal justice
systems and social services is to reduce the incidence of violence against
groups and people who are disadvantaged or at risk;

      (c)     Creating an environment in which cooperative and other people's
organizations can be created and ensuring the support system that can
strengthen the capacity of such organizations to adopt wider developmental

      (d)     Promoting the establishment of democratic, transparent and
accountable organizations at the community level; 

      (e)     Promoting the sharing of experiences among community
organizations with regard to successful socio-economic projects, especially
those which result in reduced vulnerability;           
      (f)     Compiling the relevant information and making it easily
available would contribute. It should be possible to create an easy-to-use
directory of all the organizations working to support vulnerable people, to
help them reduce their vulnerability at relatively low cost;

      (g)     Promoting empowerment processes at the local level and
developing projects that have as components income and employment creation,
development and strengthening of community organizations, sustainable
utilization of resources, and assertiveness or empowerment for vulnerable

      (h)     Strengthen the ability of communities to negotiate social
contracts with governments, indicating the roles and responsibilities of
different development actors and those of the community;

      (i)     Formulating policies that provide a framework for the work of
non-governmental organizations; making resources available for
non-governmental organization work without excessive control or regulation;

      (j)     Encouraging non-governmental organizations to develop, through
broad consultation, a "code of conduct" or what constitutes good practice for
them to operate by.

88.   Governments should make provision for funding from international and
United Nations sources to their national development plans, including support
for non-governmental organizations. These must be recognized officially for
their beneficial role in areas where government may lack capacity to reach
people and promote development. This is often the case in remote, rural
settings and at local and community levels. Non-governmental organizations
should be empowered to raise external funding, via governmental mechanisms and
the private sector, where possible.

89.   Countries may further reduce vulnerability by increasing awareness,
participation and solidarity through such means as:  

      (a)     Simplifying documents (or providing simplified versions of
documents, such as constitutions, national development plans and other
documents of relevance to ordinary people) and translating them into local
languages so that people can understand national issues and make informed
decisions. Radio, television, documentaries and dramas can be used to this
end, as can any of the new forms of electronic communication and information
dissemination. Debates with wide public participation could be promoted in
communities on various issues confronting or challenging the nation;

      (b)     Reviewing laws, policies and practices that discriminate against
particular groups or in any other way increase vulnerability, through broad
consultation and research into the concerns and needs of those people and

      (c)     Highlighting the important role and contribution of all people
and groups in national development, history and culture;  

      (d)     Facilitating processes whereby ordinary people understand the
link between participation (be it in the development debate, voting or in
other ways) and the betterment of their conditions;

      (e)     Making resources available for cultural events that promote
social understanding and a spirit of togetherness and cooperation among
diverse groups of people.

90.   In developing and implementing policies, programmes and activities,
respect should be accorded to indigenous knowledge, traditions and coping
strategies. Culturally appropriate curricula should be developed, taking into
account people's language, culture, seasonal movements and other factors.
International sources of funding should support locally created radio and
television programmes which utilize and promote traditional cultural solutions
to national problems. Communities should be guaranteed full access to their
own community resources,and communities should be able to benefit directly
from the resources they have traditionally relied upon without unnecessary

91.   To ensure their welfare, people need both employment opportunities and
the protection offered by a comprehensive social security system designed to
cover various risks. A number of factors -- including low levels of
productivity, high rates of unemployment and an insufficient tax base -- can
create difficulties for countries seeking to establish a sufficient social
security system. Some countries face difficulties in sustaining existing
systems and the level of support they provide. To prevent and diminish
multiple vulnerabilities, it is important for all countries to work to develop
sustainable and comprehensive systems to provide universally a basic level of
social security. 

92.   Finally, an enabling environment to reduce vulnerability should
recognize and value spiritual aspects of development. Policies and programmes
should not seek to improve material conditions alone but should also allow for
spiritual development.     

B.     Adopting a long-term strategic approach 

93.    Borrowing from the Gender and Development (GAD) approach, which focuses
on meeting practical gender-ascribed needs in the immediate term, while
working to achieve strategic interests to transform unequal relations between
women and men in the longer term, policies and programmes designed to reduce
risk, vulnerability and disadvantage should likewise adopt a two-pronged
approach. It is important to recognize that many people at risk have immediate
needs -- often tied to survival -- which must be met, even if by doing so
their vulnerability is confirmed. Meeting the practical needs of people at
risk should not be the ultimate aim of policies and programmes, however. They
should always contain a component which seeks to remedy the conditions of
disadvantage, discrimination, exploitation or exclusion which caused the
vulnerability in the first place.   

                         C.     Increasing empathy 

94.   Reducing vulnerability will require more than programmes that seek to
reduce risk. It is also important to increase social solidarity by creating
opportunities that make it easier for people to empathize with the situations
of others and to respond positively to those situations.There are a number of
ways in which people have, over the centuries, erected obstacles that diminish
the ability to feel empathy. None of those obstacles is inevitable, and policy
initiatives to diminish or remove them are possible and would contribute
significantly to diminishing the negative consequences of vulnerability. Some
obstacles are listed below, followed by suggested policy responses:           

      (a)     Reluctance to express empathy for the "wrong"person or group,
and fear of the unfamiliar or different. The suggested policy responses are to
provide information and opportunities for different groups to learn about
others and to interact with them. Efforts should be made to ensure that young
people, in particular, grow up aware of the situation of those who come from
different backgrounds or who are less fortunate than themselves; wherever
possible, direct contact between individuals or groups with differences should
be encouraged. This could include, for example,educational programmes about
disability for everybody,integrating educational and other facilities for
children with additional requirements into the mainstream, and mixed tenure
housing schemes in which people in different situations of vulnerability live
alongside those not in those situations;

      (b)     The fact that there are limits to the empathy that most people
are prepared to demonstrate, particularly if they are called upon to make
personal, financial or career sacrifices. The suggested policy response is to
develop greater incentives for empathy, including tax incentives and allowing
employees time off for voluntary activities, and to ensure that caring
programmes recognize the efforts of the care giver by meeting her or his
legitimate expenses;       

      (c)     The fact that -- in most societies -- gender stereotypes have
resulted in situations whereby occupations associated with professional caring
have most often been considered as female, often resulting in under-valuation
of their importance and remuneration. The suggested policy response is to
promote greater reflection about the relative importance of "socially useful
work", to raise pay standards accordingly and to encourage both young men and
young women to consider such career paths. It may be necessary to increase
opportunities for young men to undergo training which emphasizes empathy and
caring and diminishes traditional stereotypes of masculinity;

      (d)     The tendency for institutions designed to care for individuals
and groups at risk -- and the people who work in them -- to become
bureaucratized, causing them to focus more on the needs and interests of the
institution than on those of the people needing care. The suggested policy
response is to introduce (where they do not already exist) regular periodic
institutional audits to check that concern for the needs of the clients
remains paramount. Such audits must involve representatives of those receiving

                  D.     Mechanisms for partnership 

95.   It is important to encourage the establishment of mechanisms to
facilitate partnerships between government, the private sector and
organizations of civil society. Such mechanisms should provide a forum for all
three sectors to come together to discuss relevant issues and development
responses to current concerns. Each sector should contribute in areas where it
has a demonstrated advantage. Government continues to wield major
responsibility for the well being of society and for setting national
development goals; organizations of civil society offer an opportunity for
people to participate and to channel their efforts in an organized manner. The
private sector should be encouraged to recognize that its responsibilities
towards achieving a society for all go beyond activities motivated solely by
profit, and its more active involvement in efforts to reduce vulnerability
should be sought, particularly with respect to providing technical assistance;
training; mentoring;information technology; credit assistance and market
information to assist micro businesses.

96.   Although partnerships between government, the private sector and civil
society can yield positive results,caution should be exercised, since the
power relations within and among the different sectors are unequal. All
partnerships must value equality, transparency and attainment of a common

97.   Partnerships could also extend beyond national boundaries, to include
subregional and regional alliances designed to make the implementation and
monitoring of policies and programmes more feasible, particularly at times
when the causes of vulnerability or disadvantage are supranational in origin
or where combined efforts are needed to respond to global threats. Such
alliances could help to facilitate the sharing of positive experience.

98.   International support and encouragement for greater collaboration among
governments, the private sector and civil society, including non-governmental
organizations,could have a significant impact in reducing vulnerability.This
support could be demonstrated, in the first instance,through allowing
increased participation by non-governmental organizations and other
organizations of civil society in the activities and forums of
international organizations. 

99.   The Commission for Social Development should consider establishing and
promoting an international network of organizations, experts and individuals
who have participated in different aspects of the process of the World Summit
for Social Development and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and
Programme of Action, 1/ in order to provide a permanent, informal mechanism
for the exchange of information and experiences and encouraging involvement in
the further implementation of strategic actions. Consideration should be given
to the potential offered via the Internet. 

                  E.     Reconsidering resource issues 

100.  Much of what is here proposed will be seen to have resource
implications. But it would be easy to overestimate them. First, resources
spent today may often lead to long-term savings. For instance, money spent on
effective youth employment initiatives will add to the ranks of tax payers and
hence tax revenue to the State, not to mention the potential long-term savings
if the likelihood that they would engage in criminal activity goes down. It is
essential for States to develop accounting tools that enable them to look at
social investment and dividends over a longer period of time than the
traditional tax or accounting year. The Commission for Social Development
might wish to initiate work to develop mechanisms of accounting appropriate to
judging the actual return on social investment.

101.  Secondly, expenditure under one heading may at times bring returns that
more than compensate under another. For instance, it has been suggested that
vulnerable families and young people in many cities would be much assisted
were they able to travel free of charge on public transport. This would
clearly cost money under one heading, but depending on the circumstances, the
city economy is likely to benefit from an increased number of family visits to
local shops, places of entertainment or education. 

102.  Thirdly, formal recognition should be given to unpaid work and socially
useful work -- most of it done by women -- and to voluntary activities -- much
of it undertaken through organizations of civil society. This would lead to
better awareness and appreciation of those important activities and to more
accurate reflection of the distribution of work in an economy. It would also
create a more thorough understanding of how the need or the desire to meet
social responsibilities can have an effect on people's vulnerability and thus
provide an invaluable tool to policy makers. Recognition would be more
readily forthcoming if those kinds of work were properly recorded in national
accounts and the gross national product. The Commission for Social Development
may wish to consider how methodological work that is being undertaken to
this end could best be supported.

                   F.     Social impact assessments 

103.  To a large extent, policies and programmes operate retrospectively --
seeking to ameliorate the consequences of vulnerability that have already come
to pass.  It would be better for governments and for people at risk to prevent
negative consequences before they occur and to replace palliative measures by
positive initiatives. In order to do this, greater awareness of the causes and
consequences of vulnerability is needed, among policy makers and by the public
at large. One way to raise awareness is to undertake "social impact
assessments" of new draft legislation, policies and programmes before they
take effect. Mechanisms should be created to examine draft legislation and
other major policy initiatives at an early stage, to predict and assess their
impact -- whether positive or negative -- for women, various groups and people
at risk. Those directly affected (and in certain cases those closest to them,
whether as families or care givers) must participate in the process of
evaluation. This participation may be best achieved through the involvement of
organizations of civil society with specialist knowledge.

104.  Those making social impact assessments should begin by gathering
information about, and providing analysis of,current conditions for people
exposed to different types of risk. This is important for two reasons: in many
places analyses based on social considerations and outcomes are rarely made;
and it is important to have an understanding of the current situation to be
able to evaluate the impact of future policy or programme implementation.

105.  Social impact assessments should include social and cultural analyses,
which permit an understanding of cultural dynamics, and the translation of
this understanding for use by decision makers. Parallel gender-based analyses
(and training) should be applied to all policies. The Commission for Social
Development may wish to support the systematic development of a methodology
for undertaking social impact analyses. 

                       G.     Network poverty 

106.  It is commonplace to note that people in vulnerable situations should be
involved in drawing attention to their circumstances and promoting public
awareness of their specific needs. This principle should be endorsed, but with
an important rider: recent research suggests that there are situations in
which vulnerable people need to connect with people in less vulnerable
situations, since it is the latter who often have the contacts and means to
assist them. For instance, if the training and support of young people without
jobs is carried out in a situation in which they simply relate to each other,
then there is evidence to suggest that a culture of unemployment is reinforced
and that their chance of finding a job is reduced -- whereas if they are
enabled to meet people with good contacts, then there is abetter chance that
they will find employment. The concept "network poverty" has been coined to
describe a situation in which vulnerable people lack connections to people
less vulnerable than they.

107.  Governments should take practical policy initiatives to ensure that the
strength and dignity that vulnerable people may find from linking with one
another and the intimate knowledge of their challenges and their own effective
coping strategies are matched by the practical help that may be available
through wider networking.

            H.     Reducing vulnerability by promoting peace 
                   and the peaceful resolution of conflicts 

108.  Everyone who lives under conditions of conflict and war is vulnerable.
To reduce vulnerability it is essential to reduce conflict and to support
mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of differences, both within and
between countries. Important measures include informational programmes to
promote greater understanding of peacekeeping issues and the training of law
enforcement and military personnel to prevent violence against people at risk
and to promote respect for their rights. 

109.  It is also important to curtail the production of and trade in weaponry.
The United Nations could set standards for the amounts of money spent on
military expenditures and encourage greater investments in people, bearing in
mind that at the World Summit for Social Development,Heads of State and
Government committed themselves to "undertake to explore new ways of
generating new public and private financial resources, inter alia, through the
appropriate reduction of excessive military expenditures,including global
military expenditures and the arms trade, and investments for arms production
and acquisition, taking into consideration national security requirements, so
as to allow possible allocation of additional funds for social and economic
development". 2/ The reduction of the debt burden of developing countries in
favour of social priorities is also of major importance.

110.  In a world dominated by powerful economic and political interests,
issues of vulnerability and disadvantage are rarely raised. Many policies
designed with economic or financial considerations at their core have -- at
least in the medium term -- threatened social and economic development in many
countries and thereby increased vulnerability. Vulnerable national economies
contribute to increasing vulnerability among all citizens but particularly for
individuals and groups at risk within those countries. Such conditions exist
for some people in all countries, yet those people are rarely heard. To hear
the voices of the weak requires patience, awareness, sensitivity and a
willingness to reach out. It is the responsibility of the powerful, the
"advantaged", the people who think they are invincible in society to work to
reduce vulnerability and disadvantage. Ultimately, the measure of any society
rests in its success in recognizing and combating its own inequalities. If
development is a social concept and if human beings are at the centre of
concern, it can be no other way. 


1/  Report of the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March
1995 (United Nations publication, sales No. E.96.IV.8), chap. I,
resolution I, annex I, Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, and 
annex II, Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development.     

2/  Report of the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, 6-12 March
1995 (United Nations publication, sales No. E.96.IV.8), chap. I,
resolution I, annex I, commitment 9.


                              List of participants


   Steven Burkeman (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)     

   Ezzat A. Fattah (Canada)       
   Ana Maria Damini de Frappola (Uruguay)
   Meryl James-Sebro (Trinidad and Tobago)
   Sudibyo Markus (Indonesia)
   Luiz Carlos Merege (Brazil)
   Ketsile Molokomme (Botswana)
   Reylina G. Nicolas (Philippines)  
   Paul Themba Nyathi (Zimbabwe)
   Riad Tabbarah (Lebanon)        
   Isak Uirab (Namibia) 
   Cveto Ursic (Slovenia)
   Catalin Zamfir (Romania)


   Rizwanul Islam (International Labour Organization)
   Ana Luiza Cortez (United Nations)
   Michael Kendall (Episcopal Diocese of New York)
   James Lang (United Nations Development Programme)
   John Lawrence (United Nations Development Programme)
   Toni Wren (International Council on Social Welfare)        
   Elena Zamfir (University of Bucharest)

United Nations Secretariat     

   Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 
   Division for Social Policy and Development
      John Langmore
      Andrzej Krassowski
      Bob Huber



This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted:12 April 2000
Comments and suggestions: esa@un.org