Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 11: Rethinking durable solutions for refugees

Katy Long


This chapter argues that there is a need for a paradigmatic shift in international approaches to durable solutions for refugees. Human mobility should be fully integrated into the durable solutions framework. Such a change would recognize the value human mobility can add to the economic, social, political and cultural life of both the individual and wider communities affected by displacement. In particular, there is an urgent need to revise practices and understandings of repatriation, so that this durable solution is no longer understood to be incompatible with continued use of mobile and migratory livelihood strategies. Repatriation should be firmly conceptualized as a political act, involving the remaking of citizenship and consequent re-accessing of rights through reavailment of national protection in the country of action. It may often–but need not always–involve physical return. Especially in fragile post-conflict states with inadequate capacity to meet their citizens’ basic social and economic needs, physical return may actually harm reconstruction efforts by exacerbating state fragility, even as refugees’ political repatriation is a necessary condition for recovery and state-strengthening. While it may at first appear counterintuitive to connect the idea of repatriation to refugees’ continued movement, splitting citizenship from residency would open up new space within the durable solutions framework to build more flexible and more resilient solutions. Such a development within UNHCR’s policies on repatriation would also help to combat the continued insistence of some states on the notion of repatriation as a return ‘home’: an aspiration which has been heavily and repeatedly critiqued by a number of forced migration researchers (Hammond 2004; Malkki 1995; Warner 1994).

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