A note from the team leader of Inclusive Societies

Gabriella Fredriksson

Team Leader, Inclusive Societies

+46 46 222 12 13

Inclusion is ultimately about the dignity and worth of every person, which is the backbone of all human rights. Much of our work since our founding in 1984 has been dedicated towards this aim.

We work to ensure that societies are open and inclusive to all. This involves:

  • promoting rights-based inclusion models that combine theory and practice
  • strengthening inclusion for migrants and refugees
  • bringing about more accessible and effective remedies for the protection of human rights advancing inclusion.

The Situation

An inclusive society is a society for all that leaves no one behind. It is one in which the cultural, economic, political, and social life of all individuals and groups can take part. The global imperative to promote inclusive societies comes out clearly in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, including in relation to empowering and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

Currently, demographic, spatial, economic, and knowledge transitions are transforming societies globally. The cumulative impact of the transitions is reshaping inclusion issues, in both developed and developing countries. These transitions have led to fears and insecurities, and a sense of not belonging and not being able to fully participate, affecting many individuals and groups resulting in social isolation, resistance to change, and violence, at a high political and economic cost. Including the excluded is becoming an increasingly complex challenge.

At the same time, many deep structural inequities persist in countries and regions across the world implying entrenched discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion. Challenges to ensure affected individuals and groups in these cases equal protection and full participation in society remain. An inclusive society that embraces diversity and pluralism must reconcile with human rights; beyond differences, human rights are shared.

Yet, human rights – as an analytical tool, frame for dialogue and means for direct engagement – remain underutilised in holistically addressing divisions, segregation, and marginalisation societies are confronted with from an inclusion perspective. Through our country and regional programmes and our global cooperation partners, we promote models for inclusive societies that are based on international human rights standards.

hrcityTo a larger extent, urban areas are defining sustainable development. The majority of the world’s wealth is generated in cities, but it is also where inequalities and exclusion are concentrated. RWI will therefore prioritise – as a particular model for inclusive societies – work on human rights cities seeking to practically realise the concept of the human rights city as a place where local government, businesses and organisations apply international human rights standards, and where all are empowered to understand and claim their rights and everyone can participate in the decisions that affect them.

People on the move, both regular and irregular, are subject to increasing discrimination, xenophobia and hate crimes around the world. It is important to recognise that migrant and refugee populations are not homogenous, and that more attention is needed to different groups both in respect of their ability to access core rights within societies at large, and in terms of ensuring inclusion within migrant and refugee communities.

We give special attention to inclusion dynamics for and amongst such communities, including in relation to gender, persons with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, sexual orientation, and ethnic and religious minorities.

Disability rights in ChinaExclusion that involves violations of human rights requires accessible and effective remedies to vindicate rights. Such remedies need to be appropriately adapted to take account of the special vulnerability of certain categories of person, and mechanisms for addressing claims of rights violations must themselves be inclusive. Beyond a victim-specific remedy, measures should further be taken to ensure reparations and avoid recurrence of the type of violation in question, in order to ensure an inclusive society.

Principles of inclusion, dignity and participation will also guide processes for initiatives in this area. This calls for open, flexible and consultative approaches and mechanisms for ensuring actual influence. Since individuals have multiple identities and are members of different groups at once, the multiplication of advantage or disadvantage that can be produced when these social structures intersect is also to be recognised in any initiative carried out.

Latest News


Inclusion Academy

This initiative, in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE), is an effort to strengthen the active participation of refugees and minorities in the policy and decision making processes which affect their lives.

Swedish Human Rights City Project

There is no universal definition of a Human Rights City, but in short, it is a place where local government, local parliament, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders ensure the application of international human rights standards.

The Inclusive Societies team