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About the seminar

Some refugee-hosting countries provide refugees with important socio-economic rights outlined on the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, such as the right to work, while others do not. For example, Uganda has received widespread praise as a model refugee host because in contrast to most refugee-hosting countries around the world, it provides refugees with the right to work and significant freedom of movement. It has incorporated these rights within its national legislation, and its rural settlements provide refugees with plots of land to cultivate. In contrast, however, many other host countries, including others within the same region restrict access to socio-economic rights, including through encampment policies or limitations on the rights to work, register businesses, or choose places of residency.

The observation that there is significant variation in practice across states in providing the right to work and other related socio-economic rights, gives rise to an important but largely unexplored research puzzle: why do some states give refugees the right to work while others do not? What explains the commitment and willingness of some governments like Uganda to provide socio-economic rights to refugees, when so few other host countries in low and middle income countries do similarly?

Our research project aims to explain states' willingness to provide refugees with the right to work and other related socio-economic rights.  Using quantitative and qualitative methods, our objective is to identify the factors that underlie variation in states' legislation and practice in order to provide useful insights into the policy levers and advocacy strategies most likely to be effective in eliciting socio-economic rights. Our primary aim is to explore the factors that underlie both the de jure and de facto compliance with, and implementation of, Articles 17-19 of the 1951 Convention.

About the Speakers

Alexander Betts is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, William Golding Senior Fellow in Politics at Brasenose College, and Associate Head (Doctoral and Research Training) of the Social Science Division, at the University of Oxford. He served as Director of the Refugee Studies Centre between 2014 and 2017. His research focuses mainly on the political economy of refugee assistance, with a focus on Africa. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, was named by Foreign Policy magazine in the top 100 global thinkers of 2016, and his TED talks have been viewed by over 3 million people. He has previously worked for UNHCR and has served as a Councillor on the World Refugee Council. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian. He currently leads the IKEA Foundation-funded Refugee Economies Programme, which undertakes participatory research on the economic lives of refugees in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. He received his MPhil (with distinction) and DPhil from the University of Oxford.

Olivier Sterck is an economist working in the areas of development and health economics. Before joining the RSC, Olivier was postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) at the University of Oxford. He completed his PhD in economics in 2013 at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium). His research is multidisciplinary in scope, building bridges between several fields of study, from the economics of conflicts and HIV to International Relations. Part of it is based on fieldwork conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the RSC, Olivier aims to apply his expertise in econometrics and economic modelling to the study of refugee economies. With colleagues from the RSC, he will use quantitative methods to study refugee economies in Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. He will also work on the impact evaluation of a programme expanding work permits for Syrian refugees in Jordan.


Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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