With little prospect of peace in the world’s major trouble-spots, and without a sustainable and holistic solution to long-term human development needs, the number and vulnerability of the world’s refugee citizens is likely to grow. It is fitting therefore that we launch this series on 20 June 2018, as the international community marks World Refugee Day. In this blog series we’ll explore many related problems – and possible solutions – from both a justice and governance perspective.
A joint post by Dr. Zina Nimeh, Tamara A. Kool, Francesco Iacoella and Alexander Hunns.
Throughout this series we have highlighted the importance of social protection for forced migrants, despite the political and economic effects surrounding its provision. In so doing, we have now built a guidance framework on how to adapt humanitarian relief into social protection, as part of a long-term effort to ensure a sustainable level of well-being for all. What is ultimately needed is a system that is not only protective but holistically transformative – and this is all the more critical amid enduring, conflict-driven displacement, where needs transcend the basic.
After considering various structures, we opted for social protection shadowing as a pivotal element of the framework. We examined the stakeholders involved, ranging from State actors to International Organisations, (I)NGOs and national civil society actors that interact to fill gaps through the provision of humanitarian aid. Additionally, we reflected on the concepts of the rights and legal structures underlying the various interactions of the stakeholders.
The framework starts from a theory of change logic, with a developmental approach ranging from input to impact. Inputs include both the causes that have generated forced displacement and the strategies adopted by international, national, and local, private and public stakeholders to address the crisis. The intended impact is the provision of inclusive and equitable social protection to ensure a sustainable level of well-being for all, including those who have been forcibly displaced (see Graph 1 below).
Graph 1: Input-Impact process frame
This simple step-by-step frame allows for a range of policy designs and implementation. Its current prospective form allows us to examine interacting elements and to understand the mechanisms by which access to healthcare, education, food and shelter is shaped, how basic needs are met, and how people find work.
The contributory element of our framework lies in the process component that enables actors to turn inputs into outputs and eventually lead to impact. One of the limitations in current aid programme structures is that they tend to adopt a standardised course of action that acts in silo from other programmes to achieve desired outputs based on the type of crisis they are facing. Further, they are constrained by budget and funding priorities. This is often done with the guidance of limited vulnerability studies, which lack full sub-population understanding and disaggregation. The nature of these programmes prevents any prognosis for long-term impact; however, history tells us that crises are not static. Instead they evolve with time, are shaped by external and internal factors, and prompt the investigation of practical and transformative solutions. Thus, within the process component, a roadmap needs to be set taking all stakeholders including refugees into the course of action.
We advocate for a dynamic humanitarian social protection framework (see Graph 2) that allows for suitable policy framing, and shift from Humanitarian Relief to Humanitarian Social Protection, and ultimately development. This operational framework concurs that aid must initially be delivered in the fastest and most efficient way possible; then from that point on, we need to move towards an integrated transformative system. This should be done by considering the various stages of pre-arrival, in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term period. Moreover, we differentiate between actions according to the various stages at which they take place. Recognising that different actors may be involved at different levels, it is imperative to involve decision-making stakeholders (for example, relevant national bodies) as well as invest in institutional cooperation as soon as it is feasible. It is also important to point out that the formulation of interaction would be based on institutional linkages and historical ties, which is highly contextual, and that the stages may overlap at certain points in time.
A humanitarian social protection phase should happen 1-to-2 years after the start of displacement to prevent long-term dependency on short-term funding and its corresponding short-term programming. In the medium term, both support by the host country and international community are essential to start transitioning from humanitarian relief to humanitarian protection – building assistance for refugees by shadowing national social protection schemes already in place. At the same time they should raise awareness and strengthen capacity at local and community level among both displaced and hosts; for example, by supporting refugee community organisations that offer (informal) social protection. One approach would be to seal transitional agreements aimed at building capacity (as many countries may not have the capacity to expand their social protection schemes to the refugees). These existing social protection schemes may already be largely funded by external actors as was also highlighted in a recent World Bank publication.
Considering the reality of prolonged refugee situations, the objectives for assistance and funding need to shift from coping-oriented to development-oriented; to finance projects aimed at structural change to build a sustainable future for displaced and host communities; but also to assist the hosting country in ensuring the prolonged settlement of refugees within its national boundaries does not generate a crisis. After five years, refugees and IDPs enter the stage of protracted displacement. From that moment on the long-term period starts where Humanitarian Social Protection merges into National Social Protection Systems, albeit with administrative and funding support by the international community. Strategically incorporating the refugees into a national programme, and looking beyond the reception policies per se allows governments to become proactive as opposed to reactive. It is imperative to pay attention to outcomes of stigmatisation and avoid outcomes of socio-economic exclusion for refugees, which remains a challenge for many refugee-hosting countries.
The process above is joined by a continuous evolution of monetary policy, legal frameworks and geopolitical positioning. National and international monetary policy seeks the fiscal space for refugee integration, while benefitting from the added value of the forcibly displaced. A strong legal framework based on the principles of cosmopolitanism and social protection extension is also needed to the define rights of the forcibly displaced in different phases. The geopolitical position of the hosting and displacement-generating countries has to be taken into consideration since international equilibria may constrain the freedom of governments and international and national agencies in dealing with displacement.
Graph 2: for Humanitarian Social Protection to Development Process Framework
The topic of refugee integration or even social, economic and cultural inclusion – as referred to in the recent Global Compact for refugees – remains sensitive in the political agenda, whether national or not. This blog sought to shift the perspective on forced migration towards a more proactive way of thinking; to ensure that the short-term needs are met in a long-term framework; to ensure that when the spotlight shifts to a new crisis that refugees are not left in the dark. We strongly advocate that programmes for refugees should incorporate a transformative long-term component, which would enable host communities and the refugees themselves to become more resilient amid future crises.
The opinions expressed here are the authors’ own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.