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Reflections on the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Policy Document
The new strategy for cohesion, sharing and integration isnt all bad, contrary to
some of the feedback received so far during its extensive consultation process. It
has generated interest, advanced the debate and contains many interesting concepts
that will help take forward the sharing agenda. It does contain things to commend.
Assuming the strategy doesnt go in to long term hibernation after this consultation
process, there are, however, at least four essential ingredients that need some
further work done.
There needs to be an adequate and properly resourced implementation
structure. It is a little strange the implementation structure comes at the
very end of the CSI document. The focus of those delivery options needs
some further reflection. There is a significant need for a body that drives
forward cohesion and sharing, and the body needs to be independent of
government. It also needs adequately resourced and appropriately
positioned to have a real impact on joined up thinking and cross sectoral
and cross Departmental collabora tion. The position of a body like the CRC
needs strengthened and the CRCs contribution to Northern Ireland over
its lifetime should be properly acknowledged and credited.
There also needs to be a real commitment to what can be delivered
locally, where real change can be effected. The lack of detail on how local
authorities do, and can further contribute to moving the agenda forward is
The document needs to sharpen, strengthen and rationalise its short,
medium and long term goals and the overall vision. When a short term
goal is to develop shared space while long term goals include encouraging
shared neighbourhoods and dealing wit h issues such as flags, there is
clearly more work to be done.
More importantly even than that, while the strategy does recognise the
importance of leadership, it could say more about how political parties and
elected representatives play a critical role locally and regionally in
One of the most common comments at a
community level is about how people can be expected to respect each
other on-the-ground when leaders dont seem to respect each other in
various representative chambers.
The document needs to commit further to making cross sectoral and cross
Departmental collaboration real. The document refers to other policies
and how the CSI strategy will touch on them. However, there needs to be
a strong legal obligation placed throu ghout government to participate,
similar to what would be required to a make a community planning
process work. While a Ministerial Panel may make a contribution to aiding
cross-Departmental co-operation, it will not in itself make it happen.