|A Research Agenda for Disaster and Emergency Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 76 p.)|
10.1 A separate section on displaced persons is included in this agenda because of the large populations that are currently displaced, primarily by conflict-induced disasters, both within their countries and across the borders to neighbouring countries. While many of the issues raised under the previous sections clearly apply also to displaced peoples, there are a number of urgent research questions that necessitate our paying specific attention to the problem of displaced people. Moreover, it is unlikely that their total numbers will be significantly reduced in the near future; resolutions to conflicts in one area allowing people to return home tend to be paralleled by new conflicts and new displacees elsewhere. Thus, while their are growing prospects of internally displaced populations and refugees returning to their home areas in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia or Mozambique, new displaced populations are being created by the conflicts in Yugoslavia and in parts of the former Soviet Union.
10.2 It is evident that the thaw in East-West relations has greatly reduced the number or the intensity of conflicts which were hithertoo fueled by super-power rivalry. In some cases, this thaw has led to recently negotiated peace settlements and the concomitant prospects of large numbers of displacees returning home. On the other hand, this 'hands-off approach is resulting elsewhere in renewed factionalism and insurgencies; political rivalries, ethnic or religious tensions, or other simmering hostilities which had previously been kept in check by either of the super-powers are now erupting into all-out conflicts in a number of regions. What is therefore needed is a detailed region by region assessment of existing or potential conflicts in the light of the dramatically changed political climate of the 1990s and their probability of creating new or increased waves of displaced populations, both within their borders and across them. Such risk assessments will help greatly in the formulation of more effective policies for assistance to displaced populations, and especially for the development of better programming for internally displaced populations. The latter, for the most part, have been subjected to exceptional suffering because of the inability or failure by the international community to respond to their needs.
10.3 It is also necessary to understand more about the types of displacement which are occuring and the special needs which each type of displacement experience tends to produce. Moreover, as some of the conflicts which caused displacement are being resolved - people are repatriating - we need to examine in much more detail the different conditions under which people return and the resultant short- and longer-term needs such return movements generate. Specifically, an overview study is urgently needed of the differing types of population displacement and their characteristic problems and requirements for assistance, and such a study should be undertaken within the following parameters:
· displacements which occur within active conflict zones;
· displacements out of conflict zones, but which remain inside the national boundary. Distinction needs to be made here between movements which are spontaneous, those which are directed by the state, and those which are directed by insurgents or political fronts in opposition to government; and
· displacements which are to neighbouring countries. It is important here to differentiate between migrants who are recognized as 'refugees' and therefore receive at least some level of protection and/or international assistance and those who remain unrecognized or who are deemed as 'illegal aliens' by their 'host" governments.
While the research literature on protection and assistance to refugees is very extensive, the literature on internally displaced populations, and especially on unrecognized refugees or conflict-induced illegal aliens, is much more limited and thus in need of augmentation through further research. Indeed, there is virtually no substantive research literature on the special problems and needs faced by displacees within conflict zones.
10.4 The nature and magnitude of assistance required by displaced populations will clearly be a product of the conditions under which the displacement took place and the situation prevailing in the area to which the displacees move. In addressing the needs of displacees, and the extent to which such needs can be met, a number of factors must be taken into consideration (many of which relate also to the broader question of relief provisioning discussed in section 8). These include:
· the attitude which the parties in conflict hold towards the involvement of national or international humanitarian agencies. While one side may welcome the intervention of humanitarian agencies, the other side may be opposed or, indeed, specifically target the agencies to force them to withdraw;
· the role of outside powers in fuelling the conflict. Despite the East-West thaw, external interventions by local, regional or world powers remains widespread in many conflicts - this in turn impacts upon which donors are willing to support which side in a conflict situation;
· the presence of outside military forces, be they UN-sponsored such as is being mobilized in Cambodia, sponsored by a regional organizations such as is currently the case in Liberia, or be they bi-lateral such as the French intervention in Chad. The perceived security which such military presence brings to a conflict area may be pre-requisite for some humanitarian agencies provision of assistance;
· the extent to which conflicts spill over into neighbouring countries. This can seriously affect the accessibility to displaced persons through cross-border operations;
· the effectiveness of the coordinating machinery which national governments or the international community put in place and the extent to which government agencies, the international organizations and the NGOs are willing to, or able to co-operate;
· the extent to which there is an independence or interdependence between the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the human rights record and practices of the national government. Nowhere is this dilemma more forcefully illustrated than with the current assistance strategies for displaced Kurds and Shi'ites in Iraq; and
· the extent and duration to which the conflict is dealt with by the media. Donor support is strongly influenced by the nature, drama and length of media coverage.
All overview assessments of displacee populations, such as is suggested in the two paragraphs above, must consider all of the above issues if a realistic measure of need and likely response is to be achieved.
10.5 The question of assistance and protection to internally displaced populations presents particularly complex problems. Unless a national government specifically invites external agencies into the country to help displacees, the scope for providing any meaningful assistance is limited. In many cases, displacees are associated with insurgent fronts or with areas where such fronts are operating and may thus be viewed with suspicion or open hostility by the national government. In such cases, the government is unlikely to permit assistance to flow to such displacees. This is even more so the case when the displacement has been within a conflict zone and where, therefore, the national government may have good reason to fear that any assistance to displacees will also reach its adversaries. The conflict in Sudan illustrates this point most effectively. The dilemma for the international donor community which such situations create is that of having to reconcile the need for humanitarian assistance to internally displaced (which may be extremely critical if in a conflict zone or where food is being used as a weapon of war) with the need to recognize and respect the sovereignty of a legitimate state. Mechanisms have evolved to deal, at least in part, with such dilemmas. Cross-border operations from sympathetic neighbouring countries into areas controlled by insurgencies have become common, viz., from Sudan into Ethiopia, from Kenya into Southern Sudan, or from Pakistan into Afghanistan. However, such operations have generally been limited to NGOs or bi-lateral donors; international organizations have traditionally avoided any suggestions that they circumvent the authority of a national government by providing assistance through the 'back-door'. Instead, the international organizations have attempted to work with governments by negotiating 'corridors of tranquillity' from government- to insurgent-controlled areas along which humanitarian assistance to internally displaced populations is then channelled. This was implemented in Sudan under 'Operation Lifeline' and in Iraqi Kurdistan with the 'Blue Routes'. However, both these cases showed how fragile such arrangements can be, as well as the limited extent to which implementing agencies can exercising control over the flow of assistance.
10.6 A very valuable research project would, therefore, be a detailed assessment of the broader issue of reconciling humanitarian needs for internally displaced or otherwise vulnerable populations with the question of national sovereignty. Such an assessment should critically evaluate recent experiences of NGOs and international organizations in their attempt to overcome the problem of delivering assistance to needy without the cooperation of national governments. It is clear the UN system has begun to change its traditional position on this issue, as is evidenced by their intervention in such areas as Southern Sudan and in Iraqi Kurdistan. Such a critical assessment would greatly assist with future policy development regarding aid to people in conflict zones.
10.7 Repatriation of displaced populations and refugees is an issue which has, until recently, been largely neglected. It had traditionally been assumed that people returning home, or at least to their home countries, was the optimum solution and as such, was essentially problem free.6 Recent experiences, however, are telling us that this is far from true, and that the assistance needs of returnees are often as great as those of displacees. This is especially the case where the returnees are going back to areas which have been severely devastated by protracted periods of warfare or where the return is less than completely voluntary.
6 For a summary of the many problems faced by repatriating refugees see a recent discussion paper prepared by this writer for UNRISD, Geneva, entitled "Repatriation of Refugees: a not so simple 'optimum' solution".
10.8 Some 3 million African refugees have repatriated over the past two decades, one million refugees recently returned to Iraq, and there are currently growing prospects of large scale repatriations to Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique. And, although the greater majority of Afghan refugees remain in exile, the numbers that have returned exceed the totals of some of the major repatriations in other world arenas. Moreover, when refugees repatriate, there is usually a parallel return of internally displaced populations. Two major international comparative studies of repatriation of refugees are currently underway,7 and it is strongly recommended that UNDP/UNDRO lend support to these studies by financing further case studies and/or the costs of sharing of the two studies' respective research findings. It is also recommended that further research on returnees be initiated, especially focusing on:
· the particular needs of returning internally displaced populations;
· populations who on return do not, or cannot go back to their home areas and are consequently forced to settle elsewhere following repatriation;
· returnees who are going back involuntarily (either coerced or forced);
· returnees of rural origin who, as a consequence of their displacement, are unlikely to want to return to their rural homelands and drift to urban areas instead:
· vulnerable groups and socially alienated populations among returnees; and
· the means of delivering aid to all the above within the constraints outlined in paragraph 10.5 above.
7 A major international comparative study of spontaneous repatriations, which has produced some eight case studies to date, is being conducted by Drs. Fred Cuny and Barry Stein of the Intertect Institute, Dallas, and Michigan State University, respectively, and a comparative study of assistance strategies to returnees in Africa is underway under the direction of Dr. Hubert Morsink of UNRISD, Geneva.
It is strongly recommended that UNDP/UNDRO funds a project which is undertaken jointly by a team of academic researchers and a consortium of NGOs8 which aims at designing, implementing, and evaluating small scale assistance strategies for various types (rural, urban, women, handicapped, etc.) of returnee populations.
8 Discussions on mobilizing such a project are currently underway between a group of Canadian academics and a Montreal-based NGO.
10.9 Conflicts which produce displaced populations also tend to produce large military and/or guerrilla forces. Drawn from their villages or from urban shanties at a very tender and impressionable age, with little or no schooling or employable skills, these young 'warrior' communities learn to live by the gun and are often required to fend for themselves in whatever way possible. When conflicts end, such populations are every bit as 'displaced' from normal society as are civilian displacees. Re-integrating them often requires more than just providing them with employable skills; a re-socialization process is sometimes necessary. Left without any support network after being demobilized from the army or the guerrilla forces, such individuals may well have little option other than drifting into illegal activities or outright banditry (especially if demobilization was not accompanied by disarmament). There has not been any substantive research on the problem of reintegrating demobilized 'warrior' (male or female) to date, and it is therefore strongly recommended that a high priority be assigned to a comparative study of past experiences and to the development of strategies for re-integrating and re-socializing such populations following the termination of a conflict.