The forced displacement of 2.2 million persons during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was not a by-product of war but served the purpose of ethnic cleansing. An important aspect of redress for forced migration and displacement is the right of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to freely choose among three durable solutions: repatriation/return, integration, and resettlement. In the context of post-Dayton BiH, this right has been an artificial one as it has been exercised in a political environment that prioritises return. The goal of reversing ethnic cleansing through return has dominated what should be a neutral humanitarian process focused on the needs of individual refugees and IDPs. Weak conditions for sustainable return combined with the absence of alternatives to return have left many Bosnians without access to any durable solution. There is an urgent need to depoliticize the humanitarian space and to provide refugees, IDPs and returnees with genuine options.
Based on interviews and field work in Rwanda over the course of two years, this article argues that genocide survivors have been excluded from the human rights guarantees and protections offered to refugees and asylum seekers experiencing persecution and threat to their lives and welfare. It illustrates how genocide survivors are subject to unique psychological and social vulnerabilities, including psycho-social trauma and high levels of chronic stress which impede their capacity to rehabilitate themselves and rebuild their lives. Many are forced to live in the same neighborhoods and villages as the genocidaires that raped and tortured them as well as their families and friends, and who murdered many of their closest kin. This is an intrinsically psychologically destabilizing position which burdens and overwhelms genocide survivors, subjecting them to continuous retraumatization. Consequently, it argues that genocide survivors should be granted special privileged immigration rights to resettlement outside of Rwanda.
This article presents a theory of obligation in the context of humanitarianism. Its foundational assumption is that there exists a moral imperative to assist the structurally dispossessed and functionally abused. It builds particularly on the cross-disciplinary work (both academic and applied) of anthropologists, but also of political scientists, sociologists, human rights specialists, and others. The links between human rights and humanitarianism are stressed, while suggesting principles that can guide humanitarian organizations as they serve those in need. Humanitarianism is defined as “crossing a boundary;” risk usually is encountered by the service provider as scarce resources are used to help the vulnerable. Obligation is defined, in part, as “what one should do.” A theory emerges as the “morally possible” and the “materially possible” intersect. Notions of human dignity are shown not to be appropriate in orienting the real-world work of humanitarians; notions of fairness are more appropriate as humanitarian work is organized and implemented. “Pragmatic humanitarianism” occurs as principled guidelines and achievable actions merge, and as non-neutral stances are taken as (for example) refugees are assisted. Humanitarian aid is shown to be fundamentally a moral relationship based on the obligation of “those who have” to address the felt needs of “those who have not.” Examples from Bosnia are featured.
This paper reviews UNRWA’s fifty-five years of operation as a representative case of international aid gone sour. UNRWA has been the most prolonged, most expensive, and most controversial assistance operation. The study shows that prolonged operations go through three phases: first, a short emergency endeavor is carried out as a fire-extinguisher mechanism. Second, the operation becomes bureaucratized, and working norms, procedures, rules and regulations are established. Finally, the operation folds up, and responsibilities are transferred to legitimate local authority. UNRWA never reached the third phase, and it continues to operate as a “non-territorial government” competing with the elected Palestinian Authority for funds and responsibilities. UNRWA’s hastily drawn mandate left a void in defining the agency’s operating regulations and its “exit strategy”. Also lacking are regulations concerning the protection of the refugees human rights, a critical issue in the violent Israeli-Palestinian relations. In conclusion, when a short-term emergency assistance becomes a long-term operation, the mission becomes politicized, original objectives become irrelevant, and the hastily adopted mandate serves as a recipe for mismanagement
In its 2000 World Refugee Survey, the U.S. Committee for Refugees estimates that as of December 31, 1999, there were over 14 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide and at least 21 million internally displaced people. (1) The vast majority – as high as 75 percent – are women and young children. (2, 3, 4) In addition to experiencing the same hardships and security concerns as adult male refugees, women and children have special protection needs because of their gender and age. In particular, they need protection from sexual violence and exploitation, as well as physical violence and discrimination. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Sexual violence can encompass anything ranging from rape and other sexual physical assaults or attempts to offers of food, protection, documents or other assistance in exchange for sexual favors. (2, 3, 4, 6, 8) This article focuses on protecting women and children in refugee camps from all forms of sexual violence committed by male offenders. Here, the term “refugee” includes refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees. Similarly, a “refugee camp” refers to a temporary living arrangement where refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers, and returnees may reside, but does not include detention facilities. By focusing on women and children, the authors do not suggest that men are not targets of sexual violence or that women cannot be offenders. (4, 8, 9) However, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1995 guidelines, Sexual Violence against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response (Guidelines on Sexual Violence), the majority of reported cases of sexual violence involve female targets and male perpetrators. (6) Likewise, by limiting the environment of concern to refugee camps, we do not imply that sexual violence against refugees does not take place elsewhere. It is widely accepted, for example, that sexual violence occurs during flight from and return to the country of origin, as well as in the country of asylum. (2, 5, 6) Refugee camps, however, offer an environment where some practical and commonsense measures based on injury-control models can be implemented fairly easily to reduce the risk of sexual violence for these vulnerable groups. Accordingly, although the assessment and planning tool introduced here is in pilot form and does not address all aspects of sexual or physical violence, exploitation, and discrimination among refugees, it is one step in what must be a coordinated effort to resolve this multi-faceted international problem.
In the mid-nineties the relief and development communities were able to draw on a series of examples to highlight the misgivings and the successes of their involvement in complex political emergencies. Especially the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina, the intervention in Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda, and, to a less visible extent, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, have determined the way humanitarian operations are perceived as performing a political function. Virtually all major humanitarian and development institutions have reflected on these experiences and therefore developed guidelines that should govern the approach to relief and development assistance in complex political emergencies as well as in a post-conflict context. They have thereby reacted and contributed to the emergence of a new paradigm in which relief and development are seen as tools not only to save lives and to reduce poverty but "in so doing to prevent the renewal of conflict. In other words, it is an explicit strategy to influence the course of political violence, one based on a particular analysis of its causes and on the assumption that aid can effectively address them." This paper argues that the paradigm of aid as a form of conflict prevention and resolution is closely related to, if not determined by another new paradigm: preventing migration through eliminating its root causes. The recent Action Plans of the European Union High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration have to be seen in the wider context of these two paradigms and their misgivings in order to understand the meaning of its policies for both refugee protection and development cooperation.
The refugee crisis in southern and central Africa
Although southern Africa is relatively less affected by refugee movements than central Africa, the impact of refugees on southern African societies and the increasing retreat of southern African governments from their responsibilities towards refugees, are causes for concern.
The magnitude of many recent complex emergencies has compelled UNHCR to consider the issue of conflict prevention. Such emergencies pose important questions about how to protect human life and human rights in crisis situations. Human rights abuses and violent conflict are the main reasons why people flee. Grappling with these problems can draw outsiders into areas traditionally seen as internal affairs. Countries in crisis want to preserve their sovereignty. Yet sovereignty should not be a shield, hiding abuses that might lead to major movements of people. Increasingly, international organizations, national governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and local leaders are working together creatively to address the abuses that can lead to refugee outflows and internal displacements.
Complex emergencies require the international community to respond quickly and efficiently with a variety of services. Experience has demonstrated that effective emergency response depends on coordination between nongovernmental organizations, governments, and international organizations. The increasing burden in recent years has prompted international organizations and states to reconsider how best to use the considerable capacity of the NGO community.
NGOs play an increasingly important role in humanitarian assistance and protection activities. In complex emergencies, national governments find it more and more difficult to provide, by themselves, the range of relief needed. Many situations present not only logistical difficulties, but political barriers to action. Nongovernmental organizations can, and do, help to fill the gap, playing a wide range of roles from early warning of human rights abuses to education and training for long-term self-sufficiency.
Norway provides an instructive example of one way to manage highly effective cooperation between government and the national NGO community. When I assumed my functions as High Commissioner, I identified emergency preparedness and response as one of the principal pillars of my office. Within this context, UNHCR and Norway entered into a new and closer relationship, through an emergency staff standby arrangement managed by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Through this arrangement, my office has been able to witness very directly the important and cooperative relationship between governments, international organizations, and NGOs.
Such creative arrangements are one of the tools that UNHCR can use to accomplish its key task of protecting people in peril. This report highlights the challenges posed by complex emergencies and suggests some ways in which the rights and well-being of vulnerable populations can be better safeguarded.
In late May 1997 Laurent-Désiré Kabila, leader of the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Kinshasa (AFDL), completed an astonishing march on Kinshasa to assume the presidency of the newly renamed Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet the air of euphoria unleashed by the ousting of the corrupt dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko was infected by persistent rumours that the AFDL’s initial drive in Kivu province in the former eastern Zaire had been marked by large-scale massacres. The veracity of these claims remains unproven. Four months after Kabila’s offer ‘to work with the agencies of the United Nations’, the specialist investigative team were still ‘left hanging around the Inter-Continental Hotel [in Kinshasa] wishing they had brought more novels’. This article will limit itself to the period of conflict in eastern Zaire between the eruption of ethnic violence in late October 1996 and the dispersal of the refugee camps in north Kivu in mid-November (given this temporal restriction the name ‘Zaire’ will be retained). It was during this period that the possibility of an external peacekeeping intervention in the conflict gained greatest currency.
In this article, Brian Neldner responds to issues raised in RPN 19 (NGOs and host governments). He discusses the nature of the NGO/UNHCR partnership and the significance of the NGO contribution to refugee work, concluding that NGOs have made and will continue to make a critical difference.