INTERNATIONAL: New Issues in Refugee Research

Monday, October 22, 2012

According to UNHCR there are over 15 million refugees throughout the world. Every year more people are displaced as old problems remain unresolved and new ones emerge. Consequently, people escaping conflict often find themselves surrounded by conflict within displacement camps. Not only does the conflict they fled play out in these camps, tensions are further exacerbated by conflicts with the host population, perpetrators and victims living side by side and the presence of other refugees from different countries, communities and ethnicities. Refugee camps mirror conflicts on a micro-level as they highlight common drivers of conflict like ethnicity, scarce resources and land shortages.

These conflict prone environments have spurred the growth of refugee camp peace programmes. Peace programmes focus on conflict resolution techniques, empowerment, nonviolence, cooperation, moral sensitivity, self-esteem, social rehabilitation and critical thinking (Brahm, 2006). These programmes carry the optimism that people can learn the tools necessary to mitigate conflict and create cultures of peace. It is hoped that societal healing will begin within the camp and spread to an individual‘s country of origin upon returning home.

With more than half of conflicts relapsing back into war within ten years of peace agreements being signed it is important to gain insights into conflict containment structures and capacities needed in post-conflict environments in order to prevent violence from recurring (Murithi, 2009). Most post-conflict development programmes focus on rebuilding physical and economic structures as well as democratic and rule of law structures (Diamond, 2006). Although these are necessary components for creating sustainable peace, simply focusing on top-down approaches overlooks the importance of bottom-up community-based social programmes to creating sustainable peace.

Peace programmes represent one variety of a community-based bottom-up approach to peacebuilding. However, the link between refugee camp peace programmes and post-conflict community peacebuilding is largely unknown. There is little published on the effects of peace programmes within refugee communities and no research was found on peace programme participants using their skills in post-conflict communities upon repatriation. Therefore, the purpose of this research attempts to address this gap through establishing whether the implementation of refugee camp peace programmes can contribute to post-conflict peacebuilding strategies once peace programme participants repatriate.

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