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The book concludes with a broad overview of this history, with a focus on the continuities and changes present in refugee self-reliance assistance over time, and briefly presents the academic contributions of this project, notably its empirical and theoretical contribution to Refugee Studies and Development Studies as well as. It then reviews the main arguments highlighted in the introduction and focuses on their implications for self-reliance programming today, such as the ability to alter the current ahistorical approach of refugee self-reliance programming and the value of refugee participation in practice. It suggests that there is value in ‘self-reliance programming’ for refugees if this programming considers aspects such as refugees’ own definitions of self-reliance; preferred means of livelihoods; and background, interests, and skillsets. Critical questions for practitioners to consider is cui bono (who benefits) from this self-reliance programming. Such considerations offer a means for self-reliance programming to better respect the agency of refugees as well as better ensure that the programming put in place explicitly supports refugees rather than primarily other actors.

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This chapter presents a case study of urban refugee livelihoods trainings in Kampala, Uganda, in 2015. It explores how the contemporary global discourse of refugee self-reliance is transposed on to a local context. Livelihoods trainings offered by national and international organizations are examined, including through the ‘following’ of refugees through their post-training livelihoods creation. This chapter presents the impact of trainings on refugee self-reliance as well as the local constraints refugees face in achieving self-reliance in Kampala, including lack of access to capital and markets. It also focuses on the impact of neoliberal tenets of contemporary refugee assistance as well as the impact of urbanization and informalization, arguing that the concept of refugee self-reliance is largely used as a political tool to avoid assisting refugees.

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This chapter introduces the concept of refugee self-reliance through a discussion of its current usage in contemporary policy and practice and an overview of literature on the subject in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies and Development Studies. It presents an overview of the book and the concept of instrumentalization, and provides a brief chronology of changing understandings of self-reliance in relation to humanitarianism, development, conflict, and nation-building in the 20th and 21st centuries. The chapter concludes with the book’s main findings and arguments, notably how refugee self-reliance assistance has changed over the last century, and the implications of this for refugee protection today.

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This chapter brings the history of refugee self-reliance assistance up to the present through a focus on the emerging topic of digital livelihoods and refugees, set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Current scholarship, policy, and practice on refugee self-reliance rarely focuses on the global emerging phenomenon of the changing nature of work, which includes gig economies and innovations in technology, AI, and robotics. The conversion of work into digital form has multiple effects on societies, yet the impact on refugees has rarely been examined. This chapter offers an original perspective on how refugees are involved in the so-called ‘future of work’ through a review of over 150 initiatives to help refugees and other migrants access digital work, and a case study of a Syrian refugee in Cairo, Egypt, who developed his own successful online website to assist fellow refugees.

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A Critical History

Evan Easton-Calabria’s critical history of refugee self-reliance assistance brings new dimensions to refugee and international development studies.

The promotion of refugee self-reliance is evident today, yet its history remains largely unexplored, with good practices and longstanding issues often missed. Through archival and contemporary evidence, this book documents a century of little-known efforts to foster refugee self-reliance, including the economic, political, and social motives driving this assistance.

With five case studies from Greece, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, and Egypt, the book tracks refugee self-reliance as a malleable concept used to pursue ulterior interests. It reshapes understandings of refugee self-reliance and delivers important messages for contemporary policymaking.

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This chapter presents the first international response to refugees led by the League of Nations through a case study of ethnic Greek refugees in Greece in the 1920s. It highlights the dominant self-reliance assistance practices undertaken at the time by the Greek Refugee Settlement Commission, created to assist the 1.5 million ethnic Greek refugees from Asia Minor forced to relocate to Greece between 1922 and 1924. The population exchange exemplifies the upholding of the post-First World War new ‘world order’, the creation of nation-states after the collapse and break-up of multi-ethnic European empires, and a corresponding attempt to return to the successful international economy of the pre-First World War world. This case study examines the ways refugee development assistance explicitly targeted state needs through agricultural production, and a larger economic motive of instrumentalizing refugees for both peace and labour through development. The broader work of the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees and the International Labour Organization at the time is also presented.

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This chapter examines the nature of refugee self-reliance assistance within the post-war ‘development project’ in Tanzania following the wars of decolonization in the 1960s. The promotion of collective refugee self-reliance in East African settlements through mono-crop cultivation for national export is presented in relation to wider development policies at the time, which focused on domestic production and international economic participation to achieve mass well-being. Refugees’ economic value is examined through the growing of cash crops for both subsistence and export as part of Tanzanian President Nyerere’s African Socialist national development efforts. Thus, refugees contributed to the so-called ‘development project’ through participating in a variety of programmes led by both national actors and international ones such as the World Bank. Evidence explores the ulterior aims of refugee self-reliance assistance at the time as related to the international economy and premised on the promise of modernization.

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This chapter demonstrates the dynamism of self-reliance as both a concept and a practice. In the 1980s, UNHCR’s biggest operation was for Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and was largely focused on self-reliance and livelihoods. Contributing (at least in theory) to host country development, refugees served as ‘development pawns’ for Pakistan and donor countries alike, illustrating a broader trend of host countries seeking development and aid funding due to hosting refugees. Donor countries utilized funding for refugees as a means to fight Communism and incentivize the restructuring of Southern economies. This chapter presents four phases of self-reliance assistance for Afghan refugees, which correspond to shifts in broader economic trends from Keynesian economics to neoliberalism. The practice of self-reliance assistance promoted large-scale employment, individual income generation, and ultimately acted as a protective mechanism for vulnerable populations unable to succeed in the market-based economy. These stages of self-reliance assistance encompass periods of humanitarian and development programming focused on so-called ‘refugee dependency syndrome’ and self-reliance as psychosocial support.

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Author: Mark Harvey

The failure of COP26 to secure binding commitments delivering a pathway to global warming limited to 1.5°C is attributable to a UN political process that prevents addressing the inequalities between and within nations in generating greenhouse gases. Historical divergences of national wealth and the present extreme inequalities of purchasing power (Piketty, Milanovic, Savage) manifest themselves in how the richest people in the richest nations are now the leading forcers of climate change. A second dimension of inequality, receiving less attention, concerns the inequalities between nations of environmental resources in fossil energy, agricultural land, minerals and renewable alternatives. The concept of sociogenesis of climate change analyses the combination of these two dimensions of inequality to account for the present political impasse, national and international. A dominant feature of a nation’s wealth has historically been based on the unrestricted exploitation of its own environmental resources, or those that it commands through colonisation or trade. This has resulted in the US now producing more than double the CO₂eq per capita than China, or Germany consuming four times more coal per capita than India. The COP26 impasse on coal and fossil fuels arose in part from China’s and India’s unwillingness to strand its environmental assets without alternative pathways to equivalent national wealth, while wealthier nations continue to excessively exploit theirs. A sociogenic analysis of wealth and environmental resource inequalities signals the need for a radical change in the political processes required to mitigate the climate emergency.

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