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Social Inclusion and Community Uptake

Story of PEACE Key Themes Social Inclusion & Community Uptake

Key Themes

Social Inclusion and Community Uptake

Horizontal Principles – Social Inclusion / Community Uptake / TSN

Horizontal Principles, also referred to as Cross Cutting Themes, are terms that are familiar to anybody involved in the management or use of EU Structural Funds. They are an integral part of the Regulatory Framework of every EU Funded programme. Managing Authorities are expected to provide evidence of the progress they have made in applying them, and project applicants are required to demonstrate what contribution their project will make to the achievement of the goals they include. The principal focus of the horizontal principles was to ensure that all EU funded programmes contributed towards the achievement of equality, social and economic inclusion, and environmental sustainability.


For the PEACE Programmes, the principal challenge from the early days was in the implementation of the principle of social and economic equality and inclusion. This challenge came about long before the term Horizontal Principle was used in EU funding programmes and before the PEACE Programmes became part of the Structural Funds Programmes of the EU. The concern during the early years in particular, was to ensure that the funds allocated to the Programme were being distributed fairly and equitably to both communities, Catholic and Protestant, and that they were being targeted at the areas of greatest social disadvantage. In order to ensure that this happened, the Programme was required to ensure that there was equality and equity in targeting social need (TSN)[1], which was calculated based on the use of deprivation indices[2], and that the community uptake[3], or level of participation by each of the main communities, was fair.

The PEACE I Programme was initially known as The Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (SSPPR). It was established in 1995 as a special community initiative, and a positive response by the EU and the British and Irish Governments to the opportunities presented by the ceasefires and cessation of violence announced in 1994. As is the case in many post-conflict situations, the first interventions took the form of a Rapid Response Initiative aimed at targeting the immediate legacies of the conflict in the social and economic fabric of the cross border region of Northern Ireland the border area of Ireland.

Initially, the SSPPR was delivered through four mechanisms: (1) Central Government or Statutory Bodies; (2) Second Tier Bodies under Central Government; (3) Intermediate Bodies, i.e. bodies independent of Government; and (4) Partnerships in District Council areas[4]. By September 1998, about 19,000 applications had been received and more than 7,500 projects had received funding[5].

The SSPPR had been the subject of a number of reviews, evaluations, and enquiries in the wake of the signing of the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement in 1998 and with a view to identifying the rationale for a second PEACE Programme for the period post 1999. One of those reviews had been carried out by the special advisors to the three MEPs from Northern Ireland at the time who had initially been involved in promoting the need for the SSPPR[6]. The review identified as a concern the relatively low level of participation by the Protestant Community in the Programme.

It was in response to this concern that NISRA commissioned the first independent Community Uptake Analysis[7] of the Peace Programmes. The independent economic consultants were tasked with analysing the database of the Programme to assess the relationship between applications made for funding and funding received and to determine if there was a disproportionate bias in favour of one community over another.

The results of that first analysis showed that Roman Catholic communities accounted for 54% of the funding allocated; the Protestant communities’ share stood at 46%. At the time Roman Catholics made up only 43% of the population of Northern Ireland.

The independent consultants’ analysis concluded that, some of this discrepancy could be accounted for by the fact that the SSPPR adopted a policy of Targeting Social Need (TSN)[8], involving a positive discrimination towards the most economically and socially disadvantaged areas, the majority of which were Roman Catholic. However, when relative levels of affluence / deprivation are taken into account, there still remained a significant discrepancy between the uptake from the Roman Catholic communities versus that of the Protestant communities. The discrepancy was explained after detailed analysis, by the difference in propensity to apply between the communities. Catholic communities were submitting a much larger number of applications than their Protestant counterparts and, as a result, were more successful in gaining funding for their projects.

At the time, in the immediate aftermath of the cessation of violence, the population of Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland consisted predominantly of two polarised communities: Roman Catholic and Protestant. This has changed considerably over the years. The demographic composition of the region in 2020 is more diverse, reflecting the influx of many immigrants from all over the world which has resulted in a multi-ethnic and diverse community. In the period between 1994 and 2000 however, the evidence of polarisation was very acute and highlighted the fact that there was a much higher capacity and willingness to participate in the PEACE Programmes by the Catholic communities than by the Protestant communities.

By way of response, the newly formed SEUPB began a programme of proactive outreach to encourage participation by members of the Protestant community. This required the building of relationships of trust and confidence with representatives of those communities and engaging in a substantial amount of what was referred to as single identity work specifically targeted at the needs of those communities less likely to apply for assistance under the programme. The intention was that by working within single identity communities to build up their capacity and confidence, it would be possible to encourage a gradual transition to cross community engagement and the promotion of reconciliation.

Part of this outreach work included a detailed analysis of the concept of Reconciliation[9] and an analysis of how this should be integrated into the design, implementation, management, and evaluation of the PEACE Programmes. This work highlighted the importance of building positive relationships as a basis for developing cross community cohesion; finding ways of acknowledging and dealing with the past from within the communities themselves; addressing opportunities for improvement of the social and economic conditions within the communities; encouraging the formulation of a shared vision of a future in which communities that have traditionally been polarised can help to create a more fair and inclusive society; and working towards a shift in culture and attitudes that accepts, understands and celebrates diversity as part of the richness of the social fabric shared by all.

As an integral part of this policy of proactive outreach, the SEUPB commissioned a series of follow up Community Uptake Analyses[10] over the years in order to monitor progress and to assess the impact of the outreach initiatives that had been taken. The final Community Uptake Analysis report was commissioned by SEUPB in 2011 and carried out by NISRA. The trend over the years indicate a significant shift in take-up and in capacity / propensity to apply for and receive funding from the Protestant community. In 1999, the first report had indicated a spread of 54% to 46% in favour of the Roman Catholic community. In the final report, this had been transformed to a 50/50 split between both communities.

Evaluating the impact of the Programmes and assessing their ability to achieve the core objective to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and to promote reconciliation, and to do so in a manner that achieved measurable social and economic inclusion in a polarised society, was a constant challenge for the managers and administrators of the PEACE Programmes. Much of the evaluation techniques used in standard Structural Funds Programmes (Ex-Ante Evaluation; Mid-Term Evaluation; and Ex-Post Evaluation), while very valuable and important in imposing a discipline of analysis on the process of programme management and implementation, particularly in relation to the quantifiable aspects of programme delivery,  failed to deal with the complex challenge of measuring the intangible, largely un-quantifiable, aspects of peace-building, conflict resolution and reconciliation. Early attempts at this reflected the lack of experience that existed and the lack of precedent / reference framework.

The use of the Community Uptake Analysis approach proved to be quite a game-changer for programme managers in tackling the difficulties of achieving social inclusion in post-conflict societies. It highlighted the need for new methodologies and for integrating the building of relationships within and between communities as an integral part of programme planning, design, implementation, and review.

Attitude Surveys / AID for Peace

As a reflection of this, and in an attempt to identify an additional method for assessing and evaluating progress in the application of the principles of social inclusion, the SEUPB commenced in 2004 a series of Attitude Surveys as part of the ongoing evaluation and assessment of the impact of the PEACE II and the PEACE III Programmes.

The Attitude Surveys were conducted in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013[11] by external, independent consultants in Northern Ireland and were integrated as questions in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT)[12]. The Attitude Surveys included 1,000 participants from the general population who had not participated in the PEACE Programmes, and 500 programme participants. The benefit of the approach was that information could be provided for different periods of time, enabling a comparison over time and the generation of trend data. The research however was not a longitudinal study in the strictest sense. The groups surveyed at each period were not the same people, and adjustments were made, for example, between 2004 and 2007, to include more representatives of Protestant communities and more women. The consolidated data however enabled meaningful analysis to be carried out on groups that had participated in the PEACE Programmes compared to those who had not.

Survey respondents were asked a number of questions regarding the level of contact they had with the other community in their neighbourhood, in their workplace, at community meetings and events, and as part of their circle of friends. Respondents were also asked about contact with pupils of another religion whilst at primary and secondary school and about contact with the other community in ‘everyday’ settings such as work and social engagement. Questions were also asked about more specific settings such as their willingness to participate in cross-community and cross-border activities, and the opportunities they have to do so; their willingness to enter into friendships and relationships with members of the other community; and their willingness to accept members of the other community into their own extended families through marriage.

These attitude surveys were not presented as scientific statistical cause-effect studies, but the information they provided over the years provided the Programme managers with an assessment of the kind of impact the Programmes were having on those who had participated in peace-building projects and activities funded by the Programmes compared to those in the general population. Over the years, there was a noticeable increase in the positive effect that the programmes were having on the attitudes and life-practices of those who had participated in the Programmes.

An additional approach aimed at assessing progress towards social inclusion and the impact of the peace-building work of the Programmes was the Aids for Peace approach introduced as part of the PEACE III Programme. This was based on the work of Kenneth Bush[13] on Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment. The approach consisted of the application of a 4-step approach involving:

  • Peace Building Needs Analysis;
  • Peace Building Relevance Assessment;
  • Conflict Risk Assessment;
  • Peace and conflict effects assessment.

The intention was that project applications should be based on an assessment of the need for peace-building in a given area and a demonstration of the way in which a specific project tailored the objectives and activities of the interventions to those needs. This was intended to identify the peace-building relevance of the activities and interventions and assist in identifying appropriate indicators that could be tracked as part of the assessment of impact.

The approach was tested during the PEACE III Programme period and, while it assisted considerably in sensitising both project promoters and programme managers to the need to identify impact indicators for peace, reconciliation and social inclusion, it was eventually considered to be overly cumbersome because of the large volume of data that it generated and the burden this imposed on both project promoters and programme managers.