Economic Transfers and Social Cohesion in a Refugee-hosting Setting

There is increasing interest in understanding if social protection has the ability to foster social cohesion, particularly between refugees and host communities. Using an experimental evaluation of transfers, including cash, food and food vouchers to Colombian refugees and poor Ecuadorians in urban and peri-urban areas we examine if transfers resulted in changes in social cohesion measures. The evaluation was a cluster-randomized control trial examining a short-term programme implemented over six months by the World Food Programme. We examine six aggregate dimensions of social cohesion, derived from 33 individual indicators, in addition to an overall index of social cohesion. Overall results suggest that the programme contributed to integration of Colombians in the hosting community through increases in personal agency, attitudes accepting diversity, confidence in institutions, and social participation. However, while having no impact for the Ecuadorian population. There were no negative impacts of the programme on indicators or domains analysed. Although we are not able to specifically identify mechanisms, we hypothesize that these impacts are driven by joint targeting, messaging around social inclusion and through interaction between nationalities at mandated monthly nutrition trainings.