2.2.2 The Socio-cultural Context

Facts/messages: This analysis should examine the socio-cultural systems and phenomena over time and across cultures within the country. The social analysis shall look at human behaviour in social contexts through a cross-cultural and historical perspective, including

1) the description of ethical issues and the analysis of social relationships governing interaction at different organizational levels, including households, communities and social groups, and

2) the effects of behaviour associated with relevant public and private roles, such as community member, family member, consumer and producer.

This analysis should enhance the understanding of the role of social and cultural norms in governing relationships within and among groups of social actors and its implications for the degree of inclusion and empowerment of certain social groups. Achievements and setbacks in the development process should be highlighted, paying particular attention to structural inequalities. Gender aspects related to inequalities in education, health, the labour market, and the reconciliation between the productive and reproductive spheres shall be considered and progress achieved and constraints encountered in education, considering issues such as coverage, quality and performance shall be highligted. In the cultural sphere, its is important to stress key determinants of cultural wealth and diversity.

Methodology: Develop a comprehensive vision of different aspects that constitute culture, using a culture lens. As part of the tools of the Guidance Note on Integrating Gender, Human Rights and Culture in UNFPA Programmes (PPM, May 5, 2010), the culture lens was designed to identify, understand and utilize positive cultural values, assets and structures in their planning and programming, so as to reduce resistance to the ICPD Programme of Action, strengthen programming effectiveness and create conditions for community ownership and sustainability of UNFPA programmes.

Diagram of the Culture Lens

A culture lens clarifies:

  • The realities and socio-cultural assets of societies in which programmes are delivered;
  • The influential local power structures and pressure groups that can be potential allies or adversaries to development programming;
  • The internal cultural tensions and aspirations of the various sub-cultures.

It is an interdisciplinary tool, aimed at strengthening cultural diversity and to analyze and evaluate whether visions, practices, policies and programmes incorporate and promote the principles enshrined in the declarations and conventions with respect to culture. Make reference to cultural indicators, reaffirming that “culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”. Tools that can guide socio-cultural analysis include the Country Social Analysis (CSA), a macro-level analytical approach, developed by the World Bank to improve the understanding of a country’s political and social context, by integrating social, economic, political and institutional indicators, and to establish linkages between socio-economic development dynamics and the social and political structures that shape development outcomes.

Another tool for evaluating poverty and social impacts of reforms and development assistance programmes is the Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA). This is the analysis of the distributional impact on the well-being or welfare of different stakeholder groups, with a particular focus on the poor and vulnerable. The PSIA aims at both making operations and policy advice more sensitive to poverty and social impacts and building capacity in partner countries to develop poverty reduction strategies on the basis of sound analytical work.

Primary Sources:

  • Central Statistical Offices (CSOs), reports and specific processing of data from household, demographic and other surveys;
  • Population and housing censuses, administrative registers;
  • Specific qualitative studies.

Secondary Sources:


  • UNFPA. Training Manual on Integrating Human Rights, Culture and Gender in Program-ming: Culture Lens;
  • World Bank. Country Social Analysis (CSA);
  • World Bank. Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA).

16  Department for International Development (DFID) and Social Development and The World Bank (2005). Tools for Institutional, Political and Social Analysis (TIPS) A Sourcebook Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA). Available at:
17  UNFPA (2008). Training Manual on Culturally Sensitive Approaches to Development Programming.
18  UNFPA. The Culture Lens. Available at: http://unfpa.org/culture/culture.htm.
19  UNESCO (2001). Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Paris: UNESCO.