On June 14, the government-sponsored Commission on Integration and Cohesion(CIC) published this report, ten years after New Labour established the Social Exclusion Unit and first began waving the banner of cohesion. Interestingly, the report sites numerous examples of cohesion policies in London, focussing on particularly successful boroughs like Luton and Barking and Dagenham—all of which mark a strong departure from New Labour's initial strategies of isolating causes of segregation and forcing integration through BME housing strategies and "mixed communities."

These boroughs have successfully created public spaces, community centres, and business partnerships that encourage and foster interaction rather than artificially facilitating it. London's success in cohesion and integration has led the report to stress the importance of local authorities in determining programs.

The report also illustrates the failings of early studies of community cohesion and integration, subtly deriding the initial advisory body for offering "one size fits all" programs and focussing on issues of segregation. Commenting for Debate London, program director of the London School of Economics' housing and regeneration program Nancy Holman offers: "the report acknowledges that many of our day to day encounters with each other happen in the public realm and that these interactions are important to the creation and maintenance of cohesive communities."

Hopefully by better understanding these complex and politicised terms, local governments can initiate programs that actually address these issues rather than adding fuel to fire, as they have in the past. On the subject of the failures of past area-based initiatives, Holman adds: "the authors could have perhaps been more explicit in their recommendations, which currently stand at 'including an assessment of the impact of the policy on cohesion and integration.'"

Beyond the findings of the report, I'd be interested to know if readers think those boroughs are successful in their policies. Also where should this report lead? And is the government still falling short of its goals?

Posted by: Jaffer Kolb on 20/06/07



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