Can Social Capital enhance Peace and Reconciliation by the inclusion of Iran?

For the resolution of numerous conflicts in the Middle East, the inclusion of the Islamic Republic of Iran is a basic prerequisite. Unfortunately, instead of joint projects in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a normative confrontational strategy is being pursued, for example in the UN Human Rights Council, with several states focusing on accusing Iran of human rights violations. Instead of dialogue, sanctions, and threat scenarios prevail, which, according to calculations by the Basel Institute of Commons and Economics published in the UN in April 2023, cause annual costs of 570 billion dollars.
On 23 August 2023, the Governance and Policy Think Tank (GPTT) of the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran organized a discussion as part of the International Governance Talks entitled „Social Capital Around the World. Measurements and Outcomes“.
Based on the presentation by Alexander Dill, which can be downloaded here, Mohammad Amin Ameri, a researcher at the GPTT, expressed the concern that the measurement of social capital could also be politically instrumentalized to promote dissatisfaction with the government. He welcomed the fact that the indicators of the World Social Capital Monitor are not related to the acceptance of the government, which is influenced by the political economy, for example with electoral gifts, but that they can also articulate social values and goods that do not depend on financial power.

In the discussion, one participant asked whether the positive influence of religion on social capital could be measured. Alexander Dill explained that the indicators of social capital, such as trust, helpfulness, and solidarity, are basic values of all religions. However, the highest scores are also found in the largest city in the world, Tokyo, which is not necessarily considered particularly religious. Moderator Majid Afshani, Director of the International Department of the GPTT, noted that during his visit to Tokyo, there was not much friendliness shown towards strangers. Alexander Dill pointed out that the new indicator „acceptance of minorities“ was not yet used in Japan and it would be interesting to see how it would be assessed.
Another question was about the relationship between power and social capital: Would power destroy existing social capital? Alexander Dill referred to the policy of the People’s Republic of China, which largely refrains from interfering in other states.
After presenting figures from the World Bank from 2010, according to which social capital accounted for up to 89 percent of economic output (Turkmenistan), 84 percent in China, and only 4.5 percent in Lebanon, Dill argued that bridging social capital had its worth in reducing the costs of conflict and should therefore be measured and promoted, especially in conflict areas.

The discussion was part of a dialogue on the participation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the World Social Capital Monitor.


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