Since the Second World War, the dominant response to refugee situations has been providing food, shelter, and basic services to refugees, primarily in designated camps and in most part through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A key motivation for adopting this “care and maintenance” model among host countries in the global South has been to shield their own weak economies and strained labor markets from the impact of refugees, and to ensure that refugees return home once the situation allows. At the same time, recognizing that most refugee situations become protracted, this model has led to unfair burdens on the refugee hosting countries and communities, and it has frustrated international donors that cover the direct financial costs of the humanitarian support to the refugees.
To deal with these unsustainable conditions, various ideas of incorporating development approaches into forced displacement responses have been promoted over the past four decades. However, these initiatives aiming at establishing a “humanitarian-development nexus” had not yielded the expected results and in 2016 a series of new initiatives to incorporate development approaches into refugee responses were initiated, including the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), which provide principles and mechanisms for establishing initiatives to ease the burden on refugee hosting countries and to build self-reliance of refugees.
The project “Refugees for Development: On the Nexus of Humanitarian Aid and Development” has studied the implementation and effects of three policy initiatives aimed at building self-reliance of refugees while at the same time creating economic and social development in host communities. The case studies cover the Jordan Compact and the Ethiopian Jobs Compact, both focusing on allowing refugees to take up work, in addition to the 2006 Refugees Act and more recent CRRF initiatives in Uganda, which allows refugees to take up work, own land, and to settle freely outside camps.
The project has produced six academic articles; one book chapter; two reports; and three policy briefs, of which one contain a checklist methodology that can be used to ensure humanitarian-development coherence in developing new refugee policies and programs.
Two of the articles have looked at economic opportunities and the co-existence between refugees and the local population in Uganda’s refugee settlement areas. One of the main findings from the research in Uganda is that that humanitarian assistance still being confined to the settlement areas is a major constraint for achieving self-sufficiency of refugees, creating economic development in host communities, and promoting social cohesion between refugees and host populations.
The research on Jordan has shown the importance of adjusting general humanitarian-development models to local contexts, and identifies the continuous learning and adjustment process that has characterized the implementation of the Jordan Compact as a key factor behind the overall positive results achieved so far from this model. However, the research has also identified two “lost opportunities” which could have led to additional development gains from the Compact; a greater focus on jobs for women and allowing refugees access to high-skill jobs. This could have contributed to increase labour market participation among women and to investments and development of Jordan’s high-skill sectors, respectively.
The research on the Jobs Compact in Ethiopia has shown that new laws introduced to allow refugees into the labor market and to be self-sufficient still contain restrictions that hinder this to happen in practice. A downscaling of humanitarian aid alongside the introduction of the new laws has left refugees in a vacuum, where they have less access to humanitarian aid while at the same time not having more access to work. One of the academic articles from the project discusses the evolution and operationalisation of the humanitarian-development nexus and presents critical views on the development paradigms underlying recent operationalisations of the nexus and the way the global North set the premises for the operationalisations.
In addition to the academic articles, the project has produced outputs that more directly addresses refugee policy development and response programs, including a study of ILO’s humanitarian-development programs in Jordan, which feeds directly into the development of new initiatives linked to the Jordan Compact, and a synthesizes of the experiences with “progressive” refugee initiatives to date. The latter report identifies main obstacles and premises that must be in place for such initiatives to be successfully implemented and includes a checklist methodology that can help ensuring that all concerns embedded in the humanitarian-development nexus are considered when establishing new refugee policies and programs.
Interaction with stakeholders during the project and their feedback on draft materials has shown that the outputs from the project will influence discussions, policies, and programmes around refugees. By including stakeholder institutions and practitioners directly in the project (ILO, Niels Harild), some of the project outputs have been designed to inform policy and programme development from the outset. The academic literature in this field is also predominantly applied, and by targeting journals that are read by the refugee policy and programme community, it is very likely that many of the lessons from the project will be read by stakeholders - in addition to contribute to the general academic discourse and development in the field.
The main development challenge addressed in this research proposal is on ways of responding to humanitarian needs of refugee populations while at the same time contributing to longer-term development needs in the countries and communities hosting the refugees. The primary objective of the proposed project is to establish the knowledge foundation on the nexus of humanitarian assistance and development that will directly feed into and enhance policy and practice. This objective will be critically and empirically examined through three case studies of initiatives aimed at integrating humanitarian assistance with that of long term development in forced displacement responses, and with special attention to initiatives to involving displaced populations’ in host countries labour markets. The selected cases are: 1) Syrian refugees in Jordan, with special attention to the Jordan Compact; 2) refugees in Ethiopia, with special attention to the recently established Jobs Compact; and 3) refugees in Uganda, with special reference to the rights provided to refugees through the Ugandan 2006 Refugee Act. The research will be organized around the three selected case studies, which also constitute the main work packages of the project. The case studies will be designed in a way that maximizes the possibility of comparison and synthesis of lessons. To do this, the case studies will be conceptually and methodologically organized according to a Theory of Change (ToC) framework in combination with an actors-based approach, i.e. each aspect related to the ToC framework will be examined from, and compared between, the different viewpoints of the all actors, at different levels, involved in the initiatives (policy makers, development and humanitarian practitioners, displaced populations and host communities, and private actors). Data will be collected through interviews with all actors involved in the individual case initiatives, complemented by statistical datasets and document sources.