Social cohesion in fragile contexts through TVET

A cohort of TVET and other educational practitioners received training on core skills for social cohesion and peaceful coexistence from 30 November to 03 December 2020 in Jigjiga, Ethiopia, in an effort by ILO to promote stronger economic relations and contacts between Forcibly Displaced Populations (FDPs) and their host communities.

News | 06 December 2020

Fragility and drivers of conflict

In fragile settings, three drivers of conflict linked to unemployment and insufficient rights and quality at work identify as the following: 1) a lack of contact and trust across different social groups, particularly between host communities and forced displaced population; 2) a lack of economic opportunities; and 3) the existence of grievances and perception of social injustice and exclusion. These drivers resulted from a joint statement elaborated in 2016 based on a joint ILO/PBSO/UNDP/World Bank comprehensive review (ISDC, 2016) of the academic literature and more than 450 employment programmes in fragile situations.

For youth in situations of forced displacement, and exposed to these above-mentioned socio-economic deficits, access to demand-led vocational training is essential to create opportunities. Women are particularly vulnerable, and access to training for economic self-sufficiency helps prevent the risk of reverting to unacceptable forms of work. Host communities are equally affected and often feel pressures of new population arrival on labour markets and public services, which may lead to conflict.

TVET, social cohesion and peace

Technical vocational education and training (TVET), based on labour market demands, and combined with post-training support has been shown to be an effective means to strengthen livelihoods of vulnerable populations including forcibly displaced people and foster labour market integration. Moreover, vocational training offers a space for inter-group contact and social integration through the development of core skills for social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. Yet, in order to utilize this opportunity, TVET practitioners could learn, develop and apply strategies to impart core skills for social cohesion to their trainees.

It is with this “theory of change” at hand of how employment, including through skills development, may contribute to building peace as part of a broader framework of inclusive and sustainable development, that a cohort of TVET practitioners gathered in Jigjiga, Ethiopia to attain such core skills for social cohesion and peaceful coexistence in December 2020.

The training was guided by a forthcoming and field-tested ILO TVET practitioners’ guide: Promoting Social Cohesion and Peaceful Coexistence in Fragile Contexts through TVET, and which targeted trainers from various public and private TVET and training-based institutions from Jigjiga, Kebribeyah and Deghabour districts of the Somali Regional State.

The training

It is not every day that in Jigjiga, TVET trainers give or learn in practical ways. “If a training is not flexible, it is flammable,” said a participant in admiration of how exercises linked concepts of integration and inclusion.

Participants engaged in several hands-on exercise. They gained skills that would help them in planning and programming their teaching methods and processes in providing inclusive training and promoting social inclusion within communities hosting forcibly displaced persons, among which are as well, vulnerable women and persons with disabilities. They reflected on their “changed” awareness concerning the importance of social cohesion and their roles in supporting such vulnerable populations.

As trainers and business development service providers, participants acknowledged the existing strong social ties (similar social values, culture and identity) between the displaced and host communities, while noting more needed to be done with regards to strengthening economic ties for better integration.
Identifying the drivers of conflict, and approaches to differentiating between latent and surface conflicts between forcibly displaced and host communities were skills the trainees considered “productive and unique”, in that they could make positive impact in learning platforms and at the workplace.

“If a training is not flexible, it is flammable”."

Participant to the training
Among others, non-violent communication skills, as well as differentiating between debate and dialogue made up the modules of the training. Participants expressed how ‘debate’ was in their way of life and was not helpful in preventing disagreements from escalating to conflicts, and that this training helped them to appreciate the value of ‘dialogue’ as opposed to debates. Similarly, taking approaches to win-win problem-solving were acknowledged as the most favourable avenue to prevent or manage conflicts.

Training participants expressed their enhanced awareness around social cohesion. They stated their wish to re-address their work and training/curriculum methodologies, as well as in strengthening their communication skills for mutually benefiting collaboration in learning platforms and at the workplace.

With social cohesion being closely linked with community values and identity, due consideration needs to be recognized in developing inclusive programmes as the legitimacy of the trainees is not contested.

The training was part of ILO’s contribution within a four-year “Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities” (PROSPECTS), financially supported and spearhead by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and bringing together five agencies (IFC, ILO, UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Bank). The training also happened thanks to the technical backstopping of ILO branches SKILLS and DEVINVEST, as well as the facilitation support of the Somali Regional TVET Bureau.

Other related guides: Guide on making TVET and skills development inclusive for all