Strengthening Social Cohesion in the Context of Resilience Building in Small States

Reference: EAD/PBCWG/0644
Location: Home based (Travel for meetings may be required)
Duration: 46 person days over the period January to March 2014
Closing Date: 16 Dec 2013

Purpose of consultancy

The aim of this consultancy is to identify policies that maintain and even strengthen social development/cohesion in the context of building resilience in small states. Stymied by frequent and prolonged economic and weather related shocks, small states have been challenged to accelerate economic growth in support of improving their development outcomes. The limited ability of these economies to withstand or bounce back from harmful external economic shocks was especially evident during the 2008-2010 global economic recession. Building resilience is therefore an important element of small states’ efforts to withstand inherent and policy-induced vulnerabilities and fully embrace and benefit from globalisation. Research suggests that the key requirements for resilience are macroeconomic stability; market efficiency; good governance; good environmental governance and equitable and inclusive social development.

This consultancy will focus on the social aspects of resilience building. Social development and social cohesion are important contributors to economic resilience building. Social development indicates the extent to which relations within a society are properly developed, enabling an effective functioning of the economic apparatus without the hindrance of civil unrest. Social development also captures the extent to which effective social dialogue takes place in an economy which, in turn, would enable collaborative approaches towards the undertaking of corrective measures in the face of adverse shocks. The objective is to help national stakeholders to agree priority areas for policy intervention and where needed support by development partners. The consultancy should formulate key practical international, regional and national policy options that support resilience building in small states to achieve sustainable development.


Small states face a unique set of development challenges posed by their small size and commensurate narrow production and export bases as well as susceptibility to climate change impacts. These characteristics shape their sustainable development concerns which focus on reducing their vulnerabilities and building resilience to adverse economic shocks and natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Indeed, the vulnerability of small states has long been recognised by the international community. A 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Earth Summit), Agenda 21 notes that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face special challenges in planning for sustainable development and agreed a Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States which took place in 1994. The Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) which emerged from that process has become the principal international framework for addressing the special challenges and constraints faced by SIDS in their implementation of sustainable development.

With over half its member countries being small developing states, the membership has worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide an effective platform for the political consideration of their concerns, as well as a target programme of research and advocacy on sustainable development concerns and capacity development. Over the last three decades, the Secretariat has made considerable progress in advancing the international awareness of the vulnerability of these countries, culminating in a steady increase in international awareness of their sustainable development concerns.

Notwithstanding these efforts, the pace of development in small states has been below international averages. Stymied by frequent and prolonged economic and weather related shocks, small states have been challenged to accelerate economic growth in support of improving their development outcomes. The limited ability of these economies to withstand or bounce back from harmful external economic shocks was especially evident during the 2008-2010 global economic recession. Most small states experienced a period of strong and prolonged economic downturn that extended well beyond the end of the recession and significantly eroded economic and social gains. While a key blockage has been a lack of financial resources, capacity deficits also compromise the ability of these countries to respond effectively to shocks, which often adversely alter their growth trajectory.

The recent global economic uncertainties have exacerbated their challenges at a time of decreasing international support for small states. Small states continue to be disconnected from the most salient debates in international development, partly due to their capacity constraints. The Commonwealth Secretariat, recognising the need for a strategic approach to addressing the impact of persistent shocks on the sustainable development, began working with the University of Malta in 2004 during the preparatory process for the Mauritius International Meeting to build a robust resilience framework. The resilience index sought to measure the effects of shock absorption or shock counteraction policies that are in place in a country based on macro-economic stability; micro-economic market efficiency; good political governance; and social development.

The Secretariat is proposing to revisit the resilience agenda and convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) to discuss the Commonwealth Secretariat/University of Malta resilience framework as well as the wider body of knowledge on resilience with a view to determining what further work is needed to improve the framework. To this end the TWG:

  • Noted the weaknesses in the current resilience framework related to the omission of quality of governance; environmental management; and social resilience indicators;
  • Recommended identifying appropriate indicators/variables to capture these in the resilience index;
  • Proposed that the work to fill the gaps in the current resilience framework should include in-depth case studies on the resilience building aspect of governance, environmental management and social development; and
  • Agreed that these steps were critical to the further refinement and improvement of the framework.

This study has been commissioned on the recommendation of the TWG.

Scope of Work

This study will examine how to build resilience in small states focusing on the role of policy addressing social development and cohesion aspects. Social vulnerability arises from society’s exposure to the risk of social disintegration due to domestic and international shocks that lead to sudden or gradual change in the well-being of social systems. The selection of variables conducive to resilience building should be guided by whether a given policy measure renders the country better able to withstand the external shocks (not of its own making). In the context of resilience, it is important to adopt policies that maintain and even strengthen social cohesion and avoid policies that weaken this attribute of many small states. More specifically, the consultancy will:

  • Identify the social aspects of resilience building;
  • Identify the policies recommended to positively influence these aspects;
  • Propose variables that capture the social aspects of resilience building; and
  • The preparation of a draft and final documents revised to incorporate comments from the Commonwealth Secretariat.


  • A study of approximately 30-40 pages in length not including references.
  • The consultant will also be expected to present the findings of the study at the meeting of the Commonwealth Technical Working Group on Resilience in Small States and at the Third Global Biennial Conference on Small States. Travel may be required for both meetings.

Person Specification

The successful candidate is expected to possess:

  • A post-graduate degree in a field related to social and economic issues;
  • A minimum of 10 years’ experience on social and economic frameworks;
  • Knowledge of the development issues and priorities of small states in the Commonwealth;
  • Knowledge of the roles of relevant national and regional authorities relating to social issues in small states and LDCs;
  • Strong presentation, communication and analytical skills with a proven ability to deliver information in an easily digestible format for both senior officials and the public;
  • Fluency in written and spoken English.


The consultant will submit reports to Director, Economic Affairs Division (EAD) through his nominee, the Economic Adviser, Small States Economic and Environmental Management Section, EAD, Commonwealth Secretariat.

Further Information

How to apply

Terms of Reference - Printable copy