The role of developmental ‘buzzwords’ in the international refugee regime: Self-reliance, resilience, and economic inclusion
Buzzwords play an important role in setting up the scope and direction of aid policies. Alongside the growing focus on development-led approaches in the international refugee regime, three buzzwords – self-reliance, resilience, and economic inclusion – have achieved particular prominence in recent refugee policy-making. Drawing upon a review of policy documents and multi-sited empirical research in Sub-Saharan Africa, this article gives a detailed analysis of how these buzzwords intersect with one another and elucidates the roles they play in shaping development-oriented approaches to refugees. While this trifecta is painted with positive connotations, empirical research shows that developmental approaches underpinned by these buzzwords can have detrimental effects on both refugees and hosts. Building upon this analysis, it offers a theoretical approach to understand the current mainstreaming of developmental support within the international refugee regime from a lens of ‘reframing’, which is a strategy to redefine social problems and thereby control discourses around their solutions. The study shows that as a discursive apparatus, this triad of buzzwords is instrumentalised by policymakers to reframe the absence of solutions for ‘displacement crisis’ as ‘development opportunities’ in order to protect the damaged global refugee system. In so doing, such buzzwords play a crucial role in redefining the responsibility of refugees and their hosts in undertaking neoliberal development, while simultaneously reducing the ambit of responsibility of the international refugee regime. By analysing these popular buzzwords as a set, the article contributes to a deepened understanding of the ways in which these innocuous words are embedded in a broader ‘ideological project’ informed by the political and economic incentives of the global policymakers. It also sheds light on the possible wider consequences of the current mainstreaming of development-led approaches for refugee rights and protection issues.