The United Nations has reported that 51 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to civil war and transnational violence. The places most impacted by the influx of non-indigenous people are also those with regressive political institutions and insufficient local infrastructure to help mitigate the problems incurred by shifts in population flow. The Middle East and Africa are each facing the daunting task of assimilating refugees fleeing from prolonged conflict. For example, there is an ongoing effort in Jordan to build refugees camps for Syrians displaced by the civil war. Although these camps are helping many families in the short term, funding programs for humanitarian relief is one small part of a much larger challenge.
The mass movement of people has political and military implications. Ethnic and religious groups can change the traditional demographics of a country and can sometimes put into question the political borders of that country. When terror organizations are added to the political chaos of refugee crises, the migration of people becomes a militarized issue. The big challenge is how to address the multi-faceted effects of refugee flows in insecure regions.
OPTIONS FOR MITIGATING THE ACUTE INSECURITY BOTH EXPERIENCED AND CAUSED BY REFUGEES IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION OF AFRICA
The Great Lakes region of Africa has been at the center of regional turmoil and homegrown political conflict for many decades. The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has indicated there are about 5.1 million people in the region who are refugees and asylum-seekers. The countries which have been most effected by civil strife are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda, and the Central African Republic (CAR). Many of these countries also host numerous refugee populations from neighboring states. This has created tremendous instability for the host countries due to the inability to control their own ethnic/religious/political disputes, lack of resources to help build a sustainable solution for integrating refugees, and potential for armed resurrection from the militant facet of a refugee population.
The UNHCR has been unable to help diminish the growing refugee problem in many of these states due to the difficulty in collaborating with regional governments. Humanitarian aid has been unable to be disseminated to refugee populations due to the nefarious nature of the security situation which further complicates the management of repatriation efforts. Although many resolutions have been passed by both the UN and Organization of African Unity in order to assuage the protracted nature of the problem, none have been able to apply accepted standards of international law when trying to impart a solution to both the movement and assimilation of refugees. This briefing will advise you on credible options for mitigating the acute insecurity both experienced and caused by refugees in the region.
OPTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
- Have UN human rights bodies and the International Refugee Organization (IRO) in conjunction with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) come together to mediate a solution that would address tangible ways to build economic institutions and social groups which can later evolve into a base for democratic governance. Allow debate for analyzing how these measures can be crafted to adapt to the distinct cultural and political environment of each country. Potential Cost: Due to the chaotic nature of ongoing multi-state conflict it would be very difficult to find regional leaders willing and capable to perform the tasks recommended by mediation efforts. The fluid nature of ethnic clashes can potentially disrupt gains made in establishing social progress.
- In order for host states to reduce the insidious effects of refugees, the UNHCR should help regional bodies identify opportunities to increase the self-reliance of all refugees residing in their borders. They should concentrate on the potential benefits of skills training workshops to better the chances for refugees to compete in the local labor market and in other states. It can also provide opportunities to engage in peacemaking initiatives that can act as provisional measures for reducing the negative effects of conflict. Potential Cost: The host country might not have the resources to organize such programs. The locals may not respond well to culturally unassimilated refugees flooding a tight labor market.
- Organize a summit hosted by the UN which gathers all regional bodies that focus on refugees. Make international burden-sharing a priority for easing the difficulty in providing emergency assistance to both host states and refugee populations. Grow esteem for coalition building across the globe in order to organize data on how to build state capacity to resettle refugees and how interests of states affect the dynamics of political solutions. Potential Cost: The added complexity of a bureaucracy to organize information sharing and produce statistical results may take too much time to organize. The security of information may be difficult to ensure. Competing ideological dispositions might impair the creation of a healthy world dialogue if differences in long-term strategy cannot be negotiated.
Option 1 is recommended because it has the possibility of addressing the root cause of the refugee crisis and prioritizes solutions that can induce integral, systemic effects to create a foundation for a long-term solution. Option 2 is credible but requires that the host country have stable economic mechanisms for a healthy labor market and also assumes the lack of rogue elements within the refugee population. Option 3 is least credible because it would require a massive amount of information sharing among already insecure states and has no way of precluding politically biased data.