Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in forced migration. At the end of 2017, nearly 70 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, the highest figure ever recorded. While this is seen by some as a major challenge to Western societies, including Norway, the large majority of refugees are hosted in developing countries, with Africa accommodating the largest share.
There is much concern about the trauma and suffering of displaced people - for very good reasons - but how are they received by their hosts, and what effects do their arrival have on the norms and attitudes of the local population? Surprisingly, these questions have received little systematic attention by researcher so far, and existing relevant research focuses almost exclusively on Western countries. Through the new TRUST project, we seek to uncover whether and how refugees shape social and political trust and wellbeing among host populations in Africa. This will be accomplished by statistical analysis of public survey data of respondents across most African countries in combination with interviews of stakeholders, such as local government officials, NGO representatives, and journalists in relevant sites.
Thus far, much time and resources have been devoted to practical and infrastructure-related tasks (establishment of project databases, adaptation of survey data to spatial data framework, start-up and course-work for the associated PhD candidate), as well as coordination of a first batch of empirical studies. The planned annual workshop and visits to PRIO by external project members have been postponed until October 2021. It is expected that scientific progress will accelerate during the next reporting period.
TRUST brings together researchers from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), University of Oxford, and Loyola Marymount University. In total, 11 people will be involved in the project over 3.5 years (2020-2023), and we hope that our research can provide new insights to policy makers and the general public alike.
Recent years have seen unprecedented levels of forced migration. At the end of 2017, 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, the highest figure ever recorded. Despite vocal concerns about refugee arrivals in Europe, forced displacement is overwhelmingly confined to the Global South. In 2017, 85% of all refugees were hosted in developing countries, with Africa accommodating the largest share.
Despite the magnitude of displacement, extant knowledge on how refugees affect host populations is derived almost exclusively from Western societies. We lack completely evidence-based, generalizable insights of such dynamics in the Global South, critically hampering the formation of effective and inclusive capacity building programs to assist people of concern.
The TRUST project steps up to the challenge. It will provide the first systematic, comparative investigation of how refugee arrivals affect host perceptions of trust and well-being and how contextual factors shape this relationship. This will be accomplished by analyzing survey data of 200,000+ respondents across 37 African countries, coupled with new refugee settlement data, in a quasi-experimental analytical framework. Four dimensions of trust and well-being will be studied: (A) political trust, (B) social trust, (C) perception of economic security, and (D) perception of physical security. Special care will be taken to identify contextual and cross-cutting patterns. In addition, the project will conduct ca. 5-6 qualitative case studies, including stakeholder interviews, to validate survey findings, shed new light on deviant cases, and facilitate further theorizing.
Overall, the project will result in a new PhD, at least 10-12 journal articles, 3-5 policy briefs plus a policy seminar series, and dissemination material intended for the general public. Hosted at PRIO, the project brings together talented scholars with diverse backgrounds and complementary skills from four institutions in three countries.