Community (Economic) Reintegration: Actors

It is widely accepted that community reintegration is ultimately the responsibility of the state itself. However, many international actors serve a supporting role - and sometimes a lead role - in procuring durable solutions for refugees and IDPs to safely return to their homes and successfully reintegrate into their communities. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) underscores this, while noting that they and other humanitarian agencies "play a lead role in the earlier stages, while other actors (e.g. development agencies) play a greater role later in the reintegration process."1 Despite, the goals of national ownership throughout the recovery and reintegration processes, post-conflict states often lack the capacity to fulfill these duties. Thus, UNHCR frequently assumes the lead role in repatriation and reintegration of displaced persons, with the recognition that strong coordination and cooperation is needed between international and domestic actors, as well as the affected communities. "Building and consolidating long-term strategic partnerships between humanitarian agencies and development partners, regional banks, regional organizations, bilateral donors and other relevant actors are necessary to ensure that return, reintegration, early recovery, development and peacebuilding activities are effectively synchronized." 2

However these partnerships are not without challenges. Some specialists suggest that the recent evolution in the role of international aid in or following complex emergencies reflecting new disaster climates (since 1990) pose two integral challenges. First, foreign actors motivations may more accurately reflect political agendas, historical relationships or economic incentives instead of genuine peacebuilding objectives. Second, these actors may misunderstand and significantly underestimate the consequences of their policies and activities in countries of intervention.

Many cite these factors as contributing to the broader "politicization of humanitarian aid" or the manipulation of aid to delay political resolution of conflict, by fighting forces or by the state. In a newly populated and politicized context, humanitarian and development actors may struggle to design appropriate responses for returnees and remaining communities after such disasters, particularly in the power vacuums created by failed states.3 Indeed the independence and neutrality of actors (e.g. NGOs effort to maintain "humanitarian space" in the presence of military (e.g. AU/UN peacekeepers) is increasingly in question in these complex environments, and is largely dependent on respective individual agendas and mandates. Distinctions between humanitarian, human rights, development and political organizations and their comparative actions may be difficult to discern.

A coincidence of increased response to such conflicts meant international organizations, private sector institutions, foundations and corporations, military actors and UN agencies with newly expanded mandates created a pluralistic environment of competing bi/multilateral interventions aimed to address the challenges of these new complex emergencies. Evidenced by a doubling of UNHCR budget in 1989-1995, and a tripling of major donor assistance from 1984-1993 of $1.4 billion. In 1993, private funding sources comprised a third of all international aid.4 These contributions were facilitated by new multilateral funding instruments (such as multi-donor trust funds) that diversify funding opportunities in response to specific reintegration situations.

National governments

The return of displaced persons is considered the primary responsibility of the countries of origin.5 As highlighted by UNHCR "governments should assume leadership to build a strong basis for recovery and development through appropriate policies, institutions, incentive structures and programmes."6 While the international community supports national governments, they are expected to "adhere to the principle of unconditional respect for national sovereignty, and assume that the state will be the legitimate and competent body for reintegration planning."7 In addition, although the 1951 Convention defines refugees, states are free to interpret the so-called nexus requirement, which links the fear of persecution with one of the Convention grounds.8  Go to Strategic Frameworks and Institutional Mechanisms

At the same time, governments are often exceedingly challenged in post-conflict settings to meet the basic needs of the population at large, and therefore have limited ability and often little interest in giving hundreds of thousands of returnees and IDPs special treatment.9

Despite the limited capacities and broad scope of recovery needs of post-conflict governments, the impetus for community reintegration strategies and implementation lies with the state. "The principal responsibility for providing security; addressing property issues; promoting reconciliation and transitional justice; reconstruction; and political transition- indeed for implementing and monitoring peace-building as a whole- lies clearly with national governments."10 In addition, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have a responsibility to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs) both during and after a conflict and to support the return of both refugees and IDPs.11 NHRIs "can be described in broad terms as an independent body established by a national government for the specific purpose of advancing and defending human rights at the domestic level."12 NHRIs, in practice, often focus on compliance with internationally recognized human rights, the development of national action plans for protection and judicial activities for violations.13  Go to Human Rights Promotion and Protection

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Returnees, IDPs and communities

Following devastating effects of violence on individuals and communities, reintegration of returnees and IDPs into civilian life is predictable fraught with fragility and uncertainty. Identity conflicts, human rights abuses, property disputes, reconciliation processes (or lack thereof) can configure into a social chaos. Huge challenges face the returning populations as well as the remainees, those who have stayed during the conflict, and the authorities to facilitate the process. Social capital may have fragmented during the fighting with local forms of collective action or authority potentially severely wounded or entirely missing. Individually battling personal issues with rebuilding a life and collectively facing the daunting task of nation building, the task for returnees and their communities is a formidable one.14

Where unresolved tensions linger in the community or where illegal occupation of houses or land is evident, returning IDPs and refugees risk triggering hostilities. Some returnee populations face accusations of hidden agendas or threats as a traitor, abandoner or opposition sympathizer. Fear of rejection or persecution is real. They may also incite issues of economic inequalities if they benefit from humanitarian aid (i.e. Material goods, toolkits, cash, food, clothing or housing materials) in their return process and in fact, attitudes of entitlement can also handicap the reception home.15

From the community perspective, these members must reconcile their own survival role in the conflict, often with severe emotional, mental and physical scars, as they face the task of healing and rebuilding their lives and their community. With extremely limited resources to support this process, they must also carry the additional burden of welcoming marginalized members and providing for their well being, complicated by unresolved underlying issues of contention over blame, revenge or atonement.16

The role of communities themselves in reintegration is central. Local and traditional systems should be included in peacebuilding and reintegration. However, UNHCR has highlighted that "under certain circumstances, traditional systems can undermine gender equality," and therefore, attention should be paid to ensuring that local participation and reintegration participations should be inclusive and broad-based.17 In such cases, local civil society organizations can facilitate ensuring consideration of such issues.

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United Nations

Although many UN departments and agencies provide indirect support to refugees and returnees, several stand out in their advocacy, protection and service provision to reintegrating these groups into civilian communities post-conflict. Recently, the UN has made efforts to integrate the strategic programming of UN agencies active in relief and early recovery interventions. Recently, UNHCR, UNICEF and UNDP have made strides to coordinate activities, pool resources and leverage respective strengths, together with their implementing partners, through the Early Recovery cluster of the UN country team. Although it remains an imperfect structure, many practitioners feel it has enabled them to better reach target beneficiaries and program objectives.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

UNHCRs mandate is "to provide, in collaboration with other actors, international protection to refugees and to assist them in finding permanent solutions through voluntary repatriation or resettlement."18

According to the 4Rs (Repatriation, Reintegration, UNHCR assumes the lead role for repatriation activities, and issues of reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction are determined by talks between the UN Country team and the World Bank.19 Frequently, UNHCR fulfills the leadership role for reintegration activities, in partnership with the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other UN agencies.20 UNHCR is also the "guardian of the refugee convention (1951), and the driving force in developing international refugee law and operational policy."21

With the growing recognition of the relief to development strategy, which links traditional short-term humanitarian relief with long-term development thinking, UNHCR has also recently begun to focus its efforts earlier, even before the end of violence, in order to "avoid creating a dependence of returnees on humanitarian assistance and to ensure returnees' early and sustainable reintegration."22 On the ground, this means that while long-term development programs are being developed, UNHCR would begin to implement immediate relief projects and longer-term programs, such as microfinance schemes and reconstruction activities, as well as the monitoring of protection agreements. 23

In the 1990s, UNHCR expanded its involvement in finding durable solutions for refugees in order to meet an increasing demand, in large part due to the increase in conflicts following the end of the Cold War.24 This expansion has been seen both in the size of the returnee caseload and in the scope of their reintegration work.25 This is especially evident in UNHCRs decision to extend the interpretation of their mandate to include the needs of internally displaced persons - a territory that is still somewhat murky.26 Link to Most Recent Evolutions

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) focuses its post-conflict efforts on sustainable development, in cooperation with other actors. In respect to reintegration activities, UNDP aims to coordinate its strategies with UNHCR, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) Internal Displacement Unit, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), other relevant UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (UNICEF), civil society and the international financial institutions (IFIs).27 Specifically, "UNDP's expertise in capacity building of local government strengthens the ability of authorities to provide social services and respond to the needs of communities and supports the necessary linkage that must be made between the grassroots and central-level government."28

While UNDP has long been involved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programs for ex-combatants, there is movement towards a more holistic view of reintegration. According to the UNDP website, the agency now promotes a community-based reintegration strategy that incorporates the needs of internally displaced populations, refugees and ex-combatants.29

In current programs in Iraq and Sudan, large donor investments into UNDP reintegration programs highlight this more holistic emphasis on reintegration. In Iraq, as part of the $1 billion UNDG Iraq Trust Fund, over $40 million has been spent on rehabilitating infrastructure for water and sanitation, hospital reconstruction and community marketplaces, as well as on the installation of generators to provide electricity to vital services (ex. hospitals, water pumping stations, schools). In Sudan, a similarly ambitious Post-conflict Community-based Recovery and Rehabilitation Programme (funded by the European Commission) implemented 300 recovery projects rehabilitating infrastructure for health centers and water stations, as well as support over 4,500 womens microfinance projects.30

United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF)

In addition to its other programs in education, nutrition, water/sanitation and protection, UNICEF facilitates the reintegration of returnee children and youth into education, vocational and technical skills training programs. In its protection work, it aims to end the recruitment and use of children in conflict and supports family reunification programs for reintegration of former child soldiers and all children associated with armed forces. Its position, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is by treating these youth as victims, and fostering their rehabilitation into civil society in places like Afghanistan, Cote dIvoire, DR Congo, Liberia and Sudan. Its initiatives with public and private partners endeavor to create a protective environment for children to enable families, communities and states prevent and respond to exploitation.31

United Nations Peacebuilding Commission

The UN Peacebuilding Commission is an intergovernmental advisory body with the mandate support efforts to build peace in countries recovering from conflict. It seeks to foster international collaboration, raise resources, advise on integrated strategies for creating enduring peace after conflict, and develop best practices in peacebuilding.32 While the PBC is not specifically involved in reintegration issues beyond supporting what country programs may prioritize through their integrated peacebuilding strateies or the affiliated Peacebuilding Fund, some scholars and practitioners are suggesting a stronger role for the PBC in reintegration issues.

According to Khalid Koser of The Brookings Institution, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) is in a unique position to advocate for the integration of refugee and IDP needs into the general peacebuilding agenda. The PBC is especially situated to advance these issues, because its mandate is broad enough to allow for holistic, integrated strategies for peacebuilding and the agency is comprised of a diverse constituency, which is ideal for developing coordinated strategies among major stakeholders.33 At a 2006 PBC briefing, Michelle Brown of Refugees International also recommended that the PBC to prioritize the reintegration and return of refugees, because lasting peace cannot be secured without these durable solutions and the (re)building of economic opportunities, social services and mechanisms to meet basic needs. In addition, Brown suggested that the PBC could serve as an impartial party in resolving land disputes, which is a critical issue for returnees and IDPs.34

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Although not an explicit part of the UN family of agencies and funds, the unique history of the International Committee of the Red Cross, preceding the formation of the UN humanitarian agencies, is critical UN partner in its pivotal role in post-conflict community reintegration. The ICRC is a humanitarian organization based on principles of neutrality and impartiality dedicated to protection of and support for victims of armed conflict. Its permanent mandate to uphold international humanitarian law (and the Geneva Conventions specifically) directs assistance to civilians (wounded, disabled, sick) suffering the consequences of violence. This work carries into reintegration of civilian populations post-conflict, active in fragile countries throughout the world. Iraq represents its largest humanitarian operation worldwide in 2008, where emergency assistance includes relief to hospitals, health care and water/sanitation, as well as linking prisoners detained by multi-national or Iraqi forces with their families. Its reintegration programs include livelihood components to encourage self-sufficiency for individuals returning to their communities.35

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Regional bodies

Many in the international community, joined by calls from heads of state, increasingly recommend identifying more a more regional approach to international aid in recovering states. Restructuring the current system to rely more heavily on regional bodies is being tested in places like Darfur, where regional solutions to regional problems are a popular refrain. Some further suggest that a cross-mandate approach integrating various regional bodies can leverage resources to provide better community-based assistance to people in need.36

The African Union provides a strong example of a regional bodies working comprehensively on issues of reintegration of IDPs and refugees. There are also regional civil society organizations and initiatives which often work in partnership with regional governmental organizations on a wide range of peace and security related issues.

African Union (AU)

Following the creation of the African Union (AU) from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the continent is experiencing a new internal push to prevent conflict, build peace and create regional cooperation.37 In terms of the reintegration of displaced persons, the AU is mandated to work for the protection, resettlement and reintegration of IDPs and refugees. In practice, the AU frequently partners with UN agencies for reintegration activities.38 The AU's "Policy Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development" addresses specific issues and roles for reintegration, and is further discussed in the Strategic Frameworks section.

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Civil society

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society actors are increasingly assuming roles traditionally prescribed to states and intergovernmental organizations. NGOs are active, alongside government national and local level authorities, in both emergency and post-conflict activities. They serve as a major partner for UNHCR, implementing most of the organization's reintegration activities. UNHCR had 588 NGO partners in 2003, for example, 399 of which were local NGOs.39 NGOs engage in reintegration activities at varying levels and at different times during the process, with some focusing on meeting immediate needs and others specializing in longer term development programs.40 Go to Civil Society section and Economic Recovery Strategies

There are comparative advantages of NGOs for mainstreaming internal displacement issues in peacebuilding processes. According to the Brookings Institution, "They tend to have an unrivalled familiarity with local conflict environments and close contacts with grassroots movements. They are often in a unique position to gather information pertaining to human rights abuses. They tend to have the flexibility, expertise, rapid responses and commitments at the local level to respond to emerging signs of trouble. Through transnational networks they can also provide a link between local level populations and global civil society."41

Local civil society can also help to promote reconciliation, which is the foundation of successful economic reintegration. According to Kimberly Maynard, "society's tools for handling change, including social institutions, public support systems, informational guidance, and intergroup communication, may help reduce the level of confusion and promote intergroup tolerance."42 Local civil society can also help to resolve societal tensions and mitigate grievances, including property disputes. Go to Reconciliation

1. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, (Geneva: UNHCR, May 2004), 1.5.
2. UNHCR, Policy Framework and Implementation Strategy, 11.
3. Kimberly A. Maynard, Healing Communities in Conflict: International Assistance in Complex Emergencies, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) p.145.
4. Ibid., p.146.
5. UNHCR, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, 1.3.
6. Ibid.
7. Joanna Macrae, "Aiding Peaceand War: UNHCR, Returnee Reintegration, and the Relief-Development Debate," Working Paper Number 14 (London: Overseas Development Institute, December 1999), 15.
8. Michael Foster, "Causation in Context: Interpreting the Nexus Clause in the Refugee Convention," Michigan Journal of International Law, Volume 23, Winter 2002: 267.
9. IRIN, "The Long Journey Home: an IRIN Web Special on the challenge of refugee return and reintegration," (IRIN, February 2005), 4.
10. Khalid Koser, The Return of Refugees and IDPs and Sustainable Peace (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, February 10, 2008).
11. Ibid.
12. Anna-Elina Pohjolainen, "The Evolution of National Human Rights Institutions: The Role of the United Nations" (Copenhagen: The Danish Institute for Human Rights, 2006).
13. Koser, The Return of Refugees and IDPs and Sustainable Peace.
14. Kimberly A. Maynard, Healing Communities in Conflict: International Assistance in Complex Emergencies, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 100.
15. Ibid., 101-102.
16. Ibid., 107-109.
17. 1.27.
18. UNHCR, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, 1.2.
19. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Framework for Durable Solutions for Refugees and Persons of Concern (Geneva: UNHCR, May 2003), 19.
20. IRIN, "The Long Journey Home," 4.
21. Ibid., 4.
22. UNHCR, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, 1.2.
23. UNHCR, Framework for Durable Solutions for Refugees and Persons of Concern, 18.
24. Macrae, "Aiding Peaceand War," 15.
25. Ibid., 1.
26. UNHCR, Policy Framework and Implementation Strategy 3.
27. "UNDP's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery," Forced Migration Review, Volume 20, (Oxford: University of Oxford, Refugee Studies Centre, May 2004): 45.
28. Ibid., 45.
29. United Nations Development Programme Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, "Community-Based Reintegration."
30. UNDP, Annual Report 2008.
31. UNICEF, Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse.
32. UN Peacebuilding Commission.
33. Koser, The Return of Refugees and IDPs and Sustainable Peace.
34. United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, "Summary of Main Points and Recommendations by NGOs to the Peacebuilding Commission as discussed at the Informal Briefing by the Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, with Members of the Commission and Non-governmental Organizations, to Discuss Peacebuilding Priorities in Burundi and Sierra Leone" (New York: PBC, October 11, 2006), 4.
35. ICRC, The ICRC in Iraq.
36. Kimberly A. Maynard, Healing Communities in Conflict: International Assistance in Complex Emergencies, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) p.208.
37. African Union, "Draft Policy Framework for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD)" (Addis Ababa: African Union, February 2006), 2.
38. Ibid.
39. UNHCR, Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, 2.3.
40. Charles Keely, "The International Forced Migration Regime," in Developing DFIDs Policy Approach to Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (Oxford: University of Oxford, Refugee Studies Centre, February 2005), 16.
41. Koser, The Return of Refugees and IDPs and Sustainable Peace.
42. Maynard, Healing Communities in Conflict, 48.

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