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  • The humanitarian-architect divide

    30 June 2017

    Humanitarians and architects can fail to find a common language, characterising each other in schematic terms. It is time to bridge the divide and encourage greater collaboration between these professions. By learning from each other’s way of thinking they may also become more relevant to displaced people seeking shelter.

  • The changing borders and borderlands of Syria in a time of conflict

    14 July 2017

    This article aims at a better understanding of the changing nature of borders in warring Syria. Contrary to much media commentary, the Syrian uprising and the subsequent conflict have not been about territorial claims. In 2011, the borders of Syria were de facto pacified and, with the important exception of the border with Israel, were accepted as the legitimate boundaries of the Syrian state. This, however, does not contradict the fact that the unfolding of the Syrian uprising has had deep transformative effects on the borders of the country. Their nature, functions and management have significantly evolved since the uprising first broke out. In 2017, these borders no longer delineate a coherent territory under the control of a unique and somehow cohesive actor: the state. The ongoing territorial and political fragmentation of the country into territories controlled by different armed parties has given rise to multiple forms of control over the Syrian border that reflect the outcome of the armed confrontation. This article analyses the transformations of the borders from the outer boundaries of a state that exercises its sovereignty over its territory and delivers state functions and public goods to its citizens to a spatial envelope in which competing internal legitimacies operate. It also explores the new dynamics of the borders in relation with Syria's neighbours and the international order.

  • Who takes advantage of mobility? Exploring the nexus between refugees’ movement, livelihoods and socioeconomic status in West Africa

    14 July 2017

    This article explores the nexus between mobility, livelihoods, and socioeconomic status of refugees in the Buduburam refugee settlement in Ghana. Currently, refugee livelihoods are increasingly characterized by multi-directional movement and multi-locality, coupled with complex social networks. Given the relative freedom of movement for refugees in Ghana and the subregion, certain groups in Buduburam were engaged in mobile livelihoods, including cross-border trading of cell phones, used clothing, and jewelery across West Africa. Given these ‘glorious’ examples, promoting refugees’ movement is seen by the UN refugee regime as an important means of enabling their access to sustainable livelihoods in the subregion. However, this research reveals that mobile refugee entrepreneurs were predominantly well-to-do individuals with a robust asset profile, primarily because engaging in mobile economic strategies requires substantial resources. Conversely, for the majority of ‘ordinary’ refugees, these kinds of mobile livelihoods were not feasible due to a lack of access to the necessary capital or assets; rather, these poorer refugees survived by combining sedentary subsistence within the settlement. Given the different degrees of access to mobility, the article highlights the risks of over-emphasizing mobility as a panacea for refugees’ economic plights.

  • Book review: The Concerned Women of Buduburam: Refugee Activists and Humanitarian Dilemmas

    14 July 2017

    Book: The Concerned Women of Buduburam: Refugee Activists and Humanitarian Dilemmas, by Elizabeth Holzer. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2015. viii + 200pp. $69.95. ISBN 978 0 8014 5690 9. Refugees’ excision from their state of citizenship normally results in their political marginalisation in their hosting state – that is, although they are physically within the sovereignty and territory of a host country, they do not belong to its juridico-political structures. As politically disenfranchised non-citizens, refugees are not expected to be politically vocal and strategic during their exile. In part these perceptions can be attributed to the dearth of comprehensive books that focus on the political lives of people inside refugee camps, with the exception of some seminal works (for example, Turner 2010; Agier 2011). The Concerned Women of Buduburam: Refugee Activists and Humanitarian Dilemmas by Holzer is a major contribution that seeks to address this gap. The author takes up the 2008 demonstrations led by a group called ‘The Liberian Refugee Women with Refugee Concerns’ (the Concerned Women) as her central topic. These protests took place inside Buduburam refugee camp - a long-standing residence for Liberian refugees in Ghana created in 1990.

  • Refugee-run organisations as partners in development

    18 July 2017

    Incorporating refugee-run organisations into development programmes, potentially as implementing partners, provides a means to capitalise on refugees’ skills, reach refugees who may not be affiliated with international organisations, and take steps to close the relief-development gap in protracted refugee situations.

  • From bottom-up to top-down: the ‘pre-history’ of refugee livelihoods assistance from 1919–1979

    18 July 2017

    This article draws upon grey literature and archival materials to compare and contrast refugee livelihoods assistance in the interwar period (1919–39) and the post-war period (1945–79). It argues that the interwar period featured ‘bottom-up’ policies and practices of the League of Nations, while the post-war period was characterized by technocratic, authoritarian approaches to refugee livelihoods and development by institutions such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Refugee livelihoods were incorporated and accommodated for as a central element of League relief efforts before World War II, but the implementation of similar assistance practices in the following period excluded refugees’ own livelihoods strategies and skills. The article concludes by discussing the relevance of further historical research in Refugee Studies as the current use of the term ‘innovation’ is ahistorical, and many contemporary livelihood practices operating under the auspices of ‘innovation’ have in reality been employed since the beginning of the international refugee regime.

  • The history of global migration governance

    21 July 2017

    This working paper on the history of global migration governance has been written in the context of discussions on the Global Compact for Migration. The paper is aimed at a policy-making and diplomatic audience, and seeks to situate the current discussions within a historical context and enable the trajectory of the institutional architecture relating to migration governance to be better understood by all parties to the negotiations. It traces the evolution of migration institutions over the last 100 years and highlights key turning points that have enabled to pace of institutional developments to accelerate in recent years. It argues that one of the great challenges of global migration governance has been its fragmentation, and concludes with a series of recommendations about how policy-makers can manage fragmentation in a way that promotes international cooperation.

  • The duty to be generous (karam): Alternatives to rights-based asylum in the Middle East

    26 July 2017

    Abstract: The international standard of providing protection to a category of people who have crossed state borders and fit the legal definition of ‘refugee’ is a rights-based construction fashionable in public discourse at present. Middle Eastern constructions of duty-based obligations to the guest, stranger, and person-in-need are, however, less well understood. This article explores the disconnect between international rights-based protection approaches to refuge and duty-based asylum (karam) commonly accepted in Middle Eastern societies. Returning to an exploration of Marcel Mauss’ Essay on the Gift, it asks whether we are abrogating our moral responsibilities when we permit a ‘rights-based approach’ to asylum to prevail. In other words, when we mainstream ‘rights’ do we repress our human urge to provide refuge to those in need? Should we perhaps be looking for a more holistic engagement with humanitarian assistance and delivery that brings together a duty-based responsibility with a ‘rights-based’ approach?

  • Researching forced migration: critical reflections on research ethics during fieldwork

    9 August 2017

    How do we carry out research with refugees? This paper provides reflections on some of the key ethical questions surrounding fieldwork on forced migration. The aim is to bring together multi-disciplinary debates on research ethics; in lieu of stating presumably neutral, objective and universally applicable answers, the paper critically discusses guiding principles and practical issues, and proposes ways forward in order to spark further discussions. For that, a paired view on research ethics is used, as a code of conduct for scholars as well as a framework for normative scrutiny of research in a broader sense. Subjects in this paper include harm in and due to fieldwork with a proposed Do No Harm analysis to minimise risks; relations and responsibilities of researchers to participants and among research teams with reflections on participatory approaches; transfer of results with scholars and humanitarian agencies but also with participants; and benefits of interdisciplinary platforms for exchange to openly address difficulties and opportunities in ‘the field’.

  • Denationalization

    11 August 2017

    Chapter 17 in The Oxford Handbook of Citizenship (edited by Ayelet Shachar, Rainer Bauboeck, Irene Bloemraad, and Maarten Vink). About the book: Contrary to predictions that it would become increasingly redundant in a globalizing world, citizenship is back with a vengeance. The Oxford Handbook of Citizenship brings together leading experts in law, philosophy, political science, economics, sociology, and geography to provide a multidisciplinary, comparative discussion of different dimensions of citizenship: as legal status and political membership; as rights and obligations; as identity and belonging; as civic virtues and practices of engagement; and as a discourse of political and social equality or responsibility for a common good. The contributors engage with some of the oldest normative and substantive quandaries in the literature, dilemmas that have renewed salience in today's political climate. As well as setting an agenda for future theoretical and empirical explorations, this Handbook explores the state of citizenship today in an accessible and engaging manner that will appeal to a wide academic and non-academic audience. Chapters highlight variations in citizenship regimes practiced in different countries, from immigrant states to 'non-western' contexts, from settler societies to newly independent states, attentive to both migrants and those who never cross an international border. Topics include the 'selling' of citizenship, multilevel citizenship, in-between statuses, citizenship laws, post-colonial citizenship, the impact of technological change on citizenship, and other cutting-edge issues. This Handbook is the major reference work for those engaged with citizenship from a legal, political, and cultural perspective. Written by the most knowledgeable senior and emerging scholars in their fields, this comprehensive volume offers state-of-the-art analyses of the main challenges and prospects of citizenship in today's world of increased migration and globalization. Special emphasis is put on the question of whether inclusive and egalitarian citizenship can provide political legitimacy in a turbulent world of exploding social inequality and resurgent populism.