Simon Mercer at the Centre for Public Impact (a not-for-profit foundation working to help improve the positive impact of governments) has been speaking to the RSC Director, Alexander Betts, about the refugee crisis, and about the work of the Refugee Studies Centre.
Betts was keen to bring some perspective to the debate on the ‘crisis’, setting it in the context of the world’s population as a whole. While there are 21.3 million refugees today, this is, as Betts says, “a tiny proportion of the overall global population (over 7 billion).”
The rise of refugees on the international and national agendas has led to a growing demand from policymakers for evidence. The audience for the Centre’s research, however, is no longer just governments and humanitarian organisations, he says, but also businesses as well, as they engage increasingly in the debate.
On the work of the RSC, Betts highlights the importance that is placed on doing research that will impact people’s lives, and the need for a variety of perspectives from a strong interdisciplinary team to address the diverse and complex nature of the issues encompassed by forced migration.
Speaking about his own research interests, he states, “For me personally, it is about identifying where there are knowledge gaps that can influence policy and practice.” He highlights his research on the economic lives of refugees and their potential contribution, which was one research gap. In another project he has focused on the political lives of refugee diaspora, and how they engage from exile to shape the politics of their home countries.
Betts also comments on the vacuum of “visionary, liberal leadership” in the world today generally, and the need in the humanitarian and refugee sector to bridge idealism and 'the raw reality'.
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