Nodal Authority to Oversee Social Harm Reduction

Nodal Authority to Oversee Social Harm ReductionNodal Authority to Oversee Social Harm Reduction

A ‘Social Affairs Organization’ will be set up at the Interior Ministry, basically with a supervisory and overseeing role in the implementation of executive policies on social harm reduction in the country.

The proposal was approved at the National Supreme Administrative Council under the auspices of First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri.

“Social harm has been a subject of huge debate and discussion among high-ranking officials for a year now and the Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called for decisive action,” said Saeed Sefatian, head of the working group on Drug Demand Reduction at the Expediency Council on Thursday, IRNA reported.

In 2013, the Leader called on the Interior Ministry to prepare a full report on the status of social harm in the country. Earlier this year, he censured the government’s performance in social services saying the nation is lagging 20 years behind in this field. Stressing the need to control social harm, in particular addiction, he called on all executive bodies to investigate the root problems of social maladies and address them.

Following several sessions held with heads of the three government branches (legislative, executive, and the judiciary) it was decided that a responsible nodal center should govern such issues, said Sefatian.

The new body will be in charge of coordination among executive bodies and oversee their performance in planning and policy making vis-à-vis tackling social ills in the next five-year economic development plan (2016-2021).

“There are 22 social problems to be addressed in the country. Divorce, unemployment, poverty, social marginalization (of those living in unofficial settlements), and addiction are the top five, among which addiction impacts the society hardest,” the official added.

So far, 10 ministries have taken measures sporadically and independently to deal with various social injuries, but have failed to make any headway due to lack of coordination and overlapping of responsibilities.

The new authority will direct and coordinate the work among executive bodies and by extension, help scale up plans and programs to eliminate social conflicts.

At a meeting of the Interior Ministry’s Supreme Social Council last week, attended by President Hassan Rouhani, national responsibilities in social areas were classified and divided by region and assigned to the concerned executive officials for implementation.

  Women and Family

The Vice Presidency for Woman and Family Affairs will cooperate in reducing 11 of the social ills, as per the final conclusions of the meeting.

“As a permanent member of the Supreme Social Council, the vice presidency has formed a center to counter social harm concerning women and families, and will present a report on its performance to the council on a bimonthly basis,” said Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi.

All council members are obliged to form such centers as soon as possible, she added.  

The aim of classifying and dividing national responsibilities to fight social ills is to take immediate action regarding 19 prioritized issues with a focus on preventive strategies and approaches.

At the meeting, issues of social harm by province were looked into and segregated by using the Atlas on Women and Family Issues, and high-priority areas were identified as target locations.

  Main Factors

“Lack of a comprehensive plan to address social ills such as suicide in the national  development plans is one of the reasons at the root of this growing concern,” deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s Center for Social Affairs, Reza Mahboobi, told Khabaronline.

“Absence of a nodal authority and inadequate resources to redress the situation are other contributing factors.”

What has led the Iranian society into the present situation was the denial in the past of the existence of social harm as a reality, deemed Hassan Mousavi Chelak, president of Iran Social Workers Association.

“We always dismissed such cases by looking at the issues in the political, economic and judicial context. We should have left some room to assess the problems in the social context and found solutions therein.”

Salman Khodadadi, MP and head of the Majlis (parliament) Social Commission, believes social issues have been overshadowed by political expediency and economic woes the country has been dealing with.

Meanwhile, the State Welfare Organization and the Iranian Red Crescent Society have devised detailed roadmaps to implement plans for social wellbeing.