More questions than answers

Today, in my peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction class, we discussed IDP and refugee issues.

Everyone came away with more questions than answers.

A few examples:

1) At what point does a refugee or IDP camp become a permanent settlement? What’s the point of transition? Should long-term camps be “normalized”? What is “long-term”?

2) In cases where lots of people have been uprooted and are occupying the homes of other IDPs or refugees, when should national governments and international organizations attempt to enforce property laws? In blunt terms, when is it ok to call in the eviction squads? (Yes, I know this is a painful, awful thing for people to go through, I’m not trying to make light of it.)

3) Should we be more concerned with immediate security or preserving/reconstructing pre-conflict demographics?

4) In what situations does international assistance let national governments off the hook for neglecting the basic needs of IDPs? In what situations is deferring to national authorities ethically indefensible?

5) What makes return sustainable? (I’m pretty well-acquainted with what makes it unsustainable.)

6) In what ways can IDPs and refugees be brought into the decision-making process?

I freely admit that I don’t know how to answer any of these questions, but I will definitely be thinking and reading more about them in the coming weeks and months.


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