In 2015, more than one million migrants reached Europe in the largest movement of people since WWII. In order to seize control of “irregular migration,” the EU and Schengen countries instituted a new policy of regional containment from late March 2016 that targeted migrants arriving via major land and sea routes. Moreover, European transit countries, with Hungary in the lead, strengthened border control and built new fences to deter migrants. In the Mediterranean, humanitarian search and rescue missions intensified, as did EU border patrols and surveillance. The efforts to constrain, deflect and deter migrants are likely to continue and even intensify. Effectively, a policy of humanitarian containment by the EU and Schengen member states establishes the Middle East as a “catch basin” for refugees and migrants alike. To study the origins of this dynamic, the SuperCamp project combines refugee-, border- and archival studies for an inter-regional analysis of immobility and containment.
The Middle East as a zone
The Middle East region is not only a spatial container and “catch basin” but also takes on features of what can be termed a SuperCamp,where refugees and migrants are not so much hosted as held hostage. The Middle East region now forms a regional zone of containment, a SuperCamp under humanitarian government. As pointed out by Are John Knudsen(Chr. Michelsen Institute) in his introduction to the panel, the refugees’ and migrants’ mobility are circumscribed locally (host states) and regionally through bilateral- (EU-Turkey deal) and multilateral treaties (Schengen). Refugees and migrants typically lack the rights that accrue to ordinary citizens, hence depend on host states and the UN-system (UNHCR, UNRWA) for their upkeep. There are now more than 500 camps in operation, they range from traditional refugee camps in the Middle East, to various types of internment camps and “hot spots” in Europe – examples include the large refugee camps Zaatari and Azraq in Jordan, transit camps in France like the Calais “jungle” (now closed), the infamous Moria internment camp in Lesvos, Greece’s largest camp, and Cara de Mineo in Sicily, until recently Italy’s major migrant “hot spot” center. Together, the treaties and camps underpin a regime of forced immobility designed to keep refugees and migrants inside the Middle East region and outside of continental Europe.
Tracing the historical
roots of encampment
In order to trace
international humanitarian responses to the refugees in the Middle East, we need to go back to
the mid-19th century Middle East. The history of refugee
resettlement in the late Ottoman and mandate-period Middle East, shows the
longer lines of this development, as discussed by Benjamin
White (University of Glasgow). He traced the shift towards practices of containment
that occurred as a dynastic empire gave way to nation-states, with a particular
focus on the Baquba refugee camp in post-Ottoman Iraq. One core research focus
is how regional displacement in the late Ottoman and early-Mandate period lay
the foundations of state policies and early “encampment”.
The policy of encampment gained pace
during the period 1950-2000, following the camp policy that was instituted to respond
to the Palestinian refugee crisis, but later extended to other crises and
regions as well. For 70 years, in a highly politicized context, the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has delivered temporary humanitarian assistance to
Palestinian refugees, Kjersti Berg(Chr. Michelsen
Institute) highlighted some dilemmas arising from UNRWAs long-term tenure. Established in 1949,
UNRWAs mandate has been limited to the “humanitarian realms” and the
agency is not empowered to provide any “durable solutions” to the refugees’
plight. In sheer numbers, the Palestinian refugee population is one of the
largest, and their displacement one of the most protracted and characterized by
a lack of access to rights. The refugees’ “Right of Return” to Palestine is
enshrined in international law, but Israel rejects their return, as well as the
quest for statehood. Due to political impasse, UNRWA therefore continues to provide
quasi-state services and assistance to the refugees.
The years from 2000 onwards have seen the policies of containment, which are so central to refugee camps, taken even further. The containment of migrants not only involves protracted “strandedness” and immobility, but is also about governing migration through disruption and keeping migrants constantly on the move, as Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen) argued in her presentation. Based on ethnographic fieldwork along the so-called Balkan route, she explored the effects of containment by the EU and Schengen member states. The Balkan region has been reconfigured as a transit and waiting zone by the ongoing bio-political policies of forced immobility. In this process, the migrant journeys, their speed, strategies and imaginaries are constituted through a humanitarian architecture that keep refugees stranded both inside and outside the EU.
In a time where
migration and refugee policies are entering both public and political forums of
debate in full force, an analytical project that combines specialized research
fields that seldom communicate – refugee, migration and humanitarian border
studies and history – provides important insight for enhanced understanding of both
regional and global forces of humanitarian containment.
This project is funded
by the FRIPRO-programme of
the Research Council of Norway, and it runs from 2019-2022.
fresh new funding from the Norwegian Research Council’s NORGLOBAL program in
early 2019 to establish a Research Network on Humanitarian Efforts, it has
truly been an exciting year for NCHS. Through connecting and engaging with
academics, students and practitioners of humanitarianism in Norway and beyond, NCHS
has been able to serve its purpose as a platform for debate and exchange.
Looking back at 2019, three thematic areas stand out as having shaped the work of the Centre, as well as humanitarian agendas more broadly speaking. The themes migration, humanitarianism in conflict, and technologization of aid are likely to continue creating debate in humanitarian forums in the new year.
Displacement and migration
The UN OCHA Global Humanitarian Overview
2020 lays out how a
record number of people are currently displaced, and displacement typically
lasts for longer periods of time. In early 2019, 70.8 million people were
forcibly displaced, and twenty-eight of the 50 countries with the highest
numbers of new displacements faced both conflict and disaster-induced
policies in Europe and its neighboring regions has continued to be a hot topic
of discussion in 2019, and NCHS associates have contributed to the debate by scrutinizing
the securitization of migration and relatedly humanitarian aid, and the concept
of humanitarian containment. The latter reflects on humanitarian actors
restricting the movement of refugees and other migrants through provision of
certain services in a geographically restricted area, as explored by the
CMI-led project SuperCamp. In Norway, the Norwegian-registered
rescue vessel Ocean Viking operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and SOS
Méditerranée reignited the migration debate,
as explored in this blog post by NCHS Director Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert on whether search-and-rescue (SAR)
operations encourage people to attempt crossing the Mediterranean. A public event co-organized by
NCHS, with PRIO and the University of Oslo, at Litteraturhuset, gathered
academics, humanitarians and Norwegian politicians from various political
parties to discuss whether there is any validity to the claim that SAR in the
Mediterranean act as a pull factor. The topic clearly engages, being amongst our
most highly attended events in 2019.Taking
a step back from air-conditioned conference rooms in a sobering reflection on migrant
deaths at sea after
attending a funeral ceremony at Lampedusa, NCHS co-Director Antonio De Lauri reminded
us all of the immense human tragedy which lays the foundation for this
politicized debate. In his words, “A sense of loss pervaded today’s ceremony.
Not only for the persons who didn’t make it, but also for the idea of Europe,
itself drowned with those who believed in it”.
movements of people are likely to continue shaping policies, humanitarian
response and academic debates also in 2020, we remain committed to gather
different types of interlocutors to learn from each other’s experiences.
political role of humanitarian aid and the relationship between security,
peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts was the main thematic focus of the NCHS Research Network mid-year
meeting at NUPI in
August 2019. Gathering researchers from various disciplines with different
entry-points to what ‘humanitarianism’ means, in particular when applied in a
situation of conflict, we were able to engage in a rich debate about concepts,
definitions, and their interpretations by various actors. Amongst these, an
important point of view is how policies developed by actors external to the
country where the conflict takes place are interpreted by local populations, as
highlighted by the seminar on the EU’s engagement in
external conflicts in the Sahel led by Morten Bøås.
assistance has traditionally been delivered in situations characterized by
instability and insecurity. In order to reach vulnerable populations,
humanitarians have thus had to establish lines of communication with local,
regional and national actors. Importantly, how these relationships are formed
and maintained risk affecting the way the humanitarians are perceived in terms
of upholding the principles of neutrality and impartiality. This balance,
including the concept of ‘humanitarian diplomacy’ and whether independent humanitarian
assistance is possible in today’s conflict, were discussed at length during the NCHS annual meeting at CMI in November 2019. NCHS
co-Director Antonio De Lauri brought up some of the same themes when he gave the NMBU Annual Lecture in Global
Development in December 2019, titled “The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention: Militarization,
conflicts continue to cause an immense need for humanitarian assistance, and
reforms on reducing silos and enhancing cooperation between humanitarian,
development and security efforts continue to play an important role in
humanitarian policy, so too will we continue to focus on analysis on what the
implications of the interlinkages may mean theoretically and in practice.
Data and ‘the digital’.
developments have shaped all corners of society over the past decades,
including humanitarianism and the delivery and governance of humanitarian aid. Yet,
uncritical application of new technologies in the humanitarian field risk unintended
negative consequences that may be harmful to local populations and aid workers
alike. In 2019, NCHS associates have continued examining the effects of
emerging technologies in the humanitarian field. Kristin Bergtora Sandvik’s paper on technologizing the fight against
sexual violence is
a good example, where Sandvik asks critical questions about the turn towards
technology in humanitarian aid, and the rise of ‘digital bodies’. In 2019, Sandvik
has contributed to developing the concept of ‘digital bodies’ further,
including related to children’s rights, and ‘humanitarian wearables’ at a
lecture at Oxford University.
relationship between the humanitarian sector and technology does not have to be
one sided. In a blog post, Sean McDonald argues that the
humanitarian sector has much to offer the technology industry in terms of data
governance, with the caveat of the latter being willing to learn from the
former’s century of experience in building organizational structures. As technological
developments continue to make its way into humanitarian operations, our main
encouragement to academics and practitioners alike is to make thorough ethical
considerations to help avoid misuse and potential negative implications.
Top 3 highly attended events co-organized by NCHS in 2019 (click on link to access seminar recording)
2019 has without doubt been a successful first year for the NCHS Research
Network on Humanitarian Efforts, we see no reason to rest on our laurels. In
late 2019, The Research Council of Norway awarded several projects related to
humanitarianism with funding starting from 2020, four of which are led by colleagues
associated with NCHS.
This year, we vow to continue engaging with academics, practitioners, policy
makers and the broader public on questions related to humanitarianism. As
stated above, we believe migration, the triple nexus and technological
developments will continue to shape the humanitarian agenda in 2020, but these
are by no means the only topics on which we will focus our efforts. As the year
progress, we hope to engage with actors involved in the field of humanitarian
studies on all topics of interest that may arise, and bridge practical and
analytical knowledge by connecting research conducted on specific crises with
practitioners’ own experience. Stay tuned and follow our web page and
social media channels on Facebook and Twitter for more news.
all the best for 2020.
Coordinator Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian
The Research Council of Norway recently awarded several projects related to humanitarianism with
funding starting from 2020. We are very pleased to introduce these four new
projects led by colleagues associated with the NCHS.
Temporary protection as a durable solution? The “return turn” in asylum policies in Europe. Led by Jessica Schultz (CMI). In reaction to the high numbers of refugee arrivals in 2015, European countries have introduced a range of new and enhanced temporary protection policies. Temporary protection policies create unique challenges for the inclusion of refugees in receiving communities, and for the welfare system more broadly. Refugees with temporary status often come from fragile states and are unlikely, for a number of reasons, to actually return in the near future. This project explores the effects of temporary protection policies on refugee law and refugee lives in Norway, Denmark and the UK. By investigating how (primarily) post-2015 policies change the parameters of protection of Afghans, Somalis and Syrians, the project will produce evidence related to 1) the ways in which temporality is produced through changes to national refugee policies, 2) how these policies interact with facets of the welfare state designed to promote integration and 3) how temporary status affects how refugees manage the competing demands of settling in Europe and planning for an eventual return. Evidence from this project will inform policy dialogue concerning the tensions and tradeoffs that temporary protection policies involve, in Norway and elsewhere in Europe. It will also critically assess these developments in light of European and international refugee law.
China and the global aid architecture – Understanding China’s evolving development assistance. Led by Elling N. Tjønneland (CMI). China has expanded its humanitarian aid significantly in recent years, both through contributions (mainly in kind) to relevant UN agencies and direct to governments in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies. This project analyses the determinants of the Chinese development aid policies and the major expansion of China’s development aid, including humanitarian. It will also analyse how this impact on the global development aid architecture and policies. Case studies will be undertaken in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania and in the relations with the African Union.
The Power of Ideas: Muslim Humanitarians and the SDGs (HUMA). Led by Kaja Borchgrevink (PRIO). The United Nation’s Agenda 2030 call for new global partnerships for sustainable development, recognizing the significance of including private, public, secular and religious actors. Muslim humanitarian actors are increasingly recognized as important contributors in humanitarian and development efforts. In order to take the global partnership for development seriously, it is vital to understand this rapidly changing humanitarian landscape and how the whole range of humanitarian actors are working. Read more here.
Holding aid accountable: Plural humanitarianism in protracted crisis (AidAccount). Led by Cindy Horst (PRIO). Local residents and diaspora groups are key humanitarian actors, often being both the first responders and the ones that remain engaged in situations of protracted humanitarian crisis. Little is known about how accountability is understood and practiced by citizens in comparison to professional humanitarians. This project aims to explore how accountability is defined and practiced locally at the meeting point between civic and professional humanitarians in protracted crises. Read more here.
We look forward to following the results of these projects in the coming years.
The 6th bi-annual conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association will take place from the 4th to the 6th of November 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. It is titled: New realities of politics and humanitarianism: between solidarity and abandonment.
In 2020, the IHSA conference will be organized in collaboration with the Global Health Forum, by The Global Health Institute (GHI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
Important dates – Call for Panels: 27 November 2019 to 30 April 2020 – Call for Papers: 5 May 2020 to 30 September 2020 – Conference Date: 4 to 6 November 2020
Written by Liliana Lyra Jubilut (Universidade Católica de Santos), Marcia Vera Espinoza (Queen Mary University of London) & Gabriela Mezzanotti (University of South-Eastern Norway)
This text first appeared on E-International Relations and is re-posted here. More E-IR articles can be accessed by clicking this link.Prof Liliana Lyra Jubilut is a Professor of the Post-graduate Program in Law at Universidade Católica de Santos, Dr Marcia Vera Espinoza is a Lecturer i Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London, and Dr Gabriela Mezzanotti is an Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of South-Eastern Norway. The authors are currently working on the edited book ‘Latin America and Refugee Protection: regimes, logics, and challenge’.
On November 22nd 2019 the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Cartagena Declaration) turns 35. It is a paramount document on refugees’ protection in Latin America, setting both normative standards and the regional tone for policies and actions in this area, thus, being a cornerstone of Refugee Law in the region. This is especially relevant as the Latin America is facing contrasting scenarios in terms of migration governance: an increasing politicization of migration and refugees’ management and anti-immigrant sentiments, as well as disrespect for human rights and refugee law, coexisting with a regional tradition of granting asylum and the ascertaining of a human-rights based (Grandi, 2017) and avant-gard protection for refugees (Freier and Acosta 2015; Jubilut and Lopes 2018).
context, it is relevant to present the Cartagena Declaration to a larger
audience, celebrate its 35th anniversary, and assess whether the
framework of protection created by it since 1984 can be a relevant tool in
dealing with these competing scenarios in refugee protection in Latin America,
as a way to appraise its lasting and current impacts.
Cartagena Declaration and Its Regime
Cartagena Declaration was created in an academic colloquium (Colloquium on the
International Protection of Refugees in Central America, Mexico, and Panama)
held in Colombia in 1984, in light of the refugee situation in Central America, and adopted a regional approach to refugee
Cartagena Declaration set the basis for the evolution of a specific
Latin-American framework of refugees’ protection, developing from the region’s
long-established tradition of asylum (Fischel De Andrade, 2014, Acnur n/d). It
dialogues, however, with larger frameworks (Jubilut and Lopes, 2018), such as
the international refugee regime (a relation expressed both in the Document’s
explicit mentions to the 1951 Refugee
Convention and its 1967 Protocol and in its support by the United Nations
High Commissioner from the beginning, Human Rights and other regional schemes such as
the Organization of American States (OAS) – which embraced the Declaration and encompasses the United States, Mexico,
and the Caribbean States alongside Latin America countries. Due to its
normative developments, has been listed together with the 1969 OUA
Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in
Africa as examples of successful developments in regional refugee
Cartagena Declaration, initially adopted by 10
States as a soft law instrument, is divided into 3 content parts: the
first one with a preamble aspect contextualizing the document and expressing
its fundaments and principles; the second one linking the document to the Contadora
Process for Peace and reproducing its normative result, and the third part with the substantive
contributions of the Document, presented as conclusions.
There are 17
conclusions in the Cartagena Declaration encompassing suggestions specifically
tailored to the Central America refugee situation, provisions on the betterment
of refugee protection in the States of the region, and contributions to refugee
protection at large in Latin America. In the latter, two aspects should be
The first is
the already mentioned dialogue between refugee protection and human rights.
This is a prevalent topic in the Cartagena Declaration, and should be praised
both as a pioneering effort in States’ practice in this area (in the early
1980s) and as a guideline aiming at guaranteeing integral protection for
refugees, i.e. not only the rights they are entitled to due to their migratory
status but also all their human rights (Jubilut, Apolinário, 2008).
Furthermore, this connection opens up the possibility of refugee protection
also benefiting from other institutional arrangements linked to human rights
(such as the InterAmerican System of Human Rights from the OAS), and,
therefore, being enlarged.
aspect regarding refugee protection at large in Latin America is the creation
of a regional definition of refugees that goes beyond the international
criteria set up by the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. This
stems from the 3rd Conclusion of the Cartagena Declaration, that reads:
the definition or concept of a refugee to be recommended for use in the region is one which, in addition to containing the elements of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, includes among refugees persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order. (highlights added)
criteria look into the objective situation of the country of origin of the
refugee as the main cause for refugee status, not requiring the existence of
individual persecution (Jubilut and Carneiro, 2011; 67, Reed-Hurtado, 2013) and
closely links refugee status to International Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law (Ibid; Burson and Cantor 2016).
several criteria spelled out in the 3rd Conclusion,
the one mentioning massive violation of human rights (or gross and generalized
violation of human rights as more commonly used in the region) is not only the more encompassing one, but also is perceived as the main conceptual
contribution of the Cartagena Declaration. This is so due to the fact that
albeit not applied in its entire possible width it allows for recognizing
refugee status “when internationally recognized rights are subject to
widespread or large scale violations—situations of ‘gross and systematic denial
of civil, political, economic and social, and cultural rights” (Reed-Hurtado,
2013: 14), encompassing, for instance, situations such as dictatorships,
internal strives, humanitarian crisis, and war. In this sense, and from a
normative standpoint, it is a relevant increase in protection in the region.
of a regional concept of refugee, and the inclusion of the possibility of
refugee status due to gross and generalized violation of human rights in it,
are the first two impacts of the Cartagena Declaration that need to be
emphasized. They not only amplify protection in the region but also establish a
Latin-American grammar in refugee protection, combining the international
criteria for refugee status determination with a tailored regional definition.
The latter also reinforces the dialogue between Refugee Law and Human Rights,
present from the start in the regional regime as it is incorporated in the
region’s refugee definition from 1984. The Cartagena Declaration concept of
refugee and its peculiarities can be said to be a first pillar in the creation
of a regional refugee regime in Latin America.
accepts regimes as the existence of rules, principles, and decision-making
procedures (Krasner,1982) this perception is corroborated by the fact that the
Cartagena Declaration set up a revision process, with meetings every 10 years
to evaluate the region’s needs and developments in refugee protection and to
adopt follow-up documents and plans of actions.
The first of
these meetings was held in 1994, and resulted in the San Jose Declaration, which has
as its main specific contribution the fact that, regionalizing the
international momentum of the topic and perceiving the region’s needs in the
issue, strongly dealt with the protection of Internally Displaced Persons as a
relevant Latin-America theme in refugee protection. The second follow-up meeting took place in 2004
and resulted in the adoption of the Mexico Declaration and
Plan of Action, which embraced a responsibility-sharing
optic instead of the more traditional burden-sharing approach to refugee
protection, and was divided in two main components: one focusing on protection
and the other on durable solutions (Jubilut and Carneiro 2011). In the latter,
three regional initiatives were adopted within the solidarity logic that guides all the document: 1)
borders of solidarity, focusing on protection at frontiers as well as on
actions for local host populations on border towns; 2) cities of solidarities,
with a focus on integration in urban settings, the main scenario in Latin
America; and 3) resettlement in solidarity, creating new resettlement schemes
in the region, for both intra and extra regional refugees and having as its
main selection criterion the need for protection (Vera Espinoza 2018a, 2018b;
Jubilut and Zamur 2018). The most recent of the meetings happened in 2014
and led to the adoption of the Brazil Declaration and
Plan of Action, which reinforces the initiatives previously
adopted and the existence of a regional regime of refugee protection in Latin
America (Jubilut and Madureira 2014), and continues the Cartagena Declaration
regional refuge definition is the first pillar of the Cartagena Declaration
regime of refugee protection, the revisional process and its products are the
second. They are also good thermometers of regional adherence to the regime,
pointing out a continuous increase in commitments, as one can see that while
the Cartagena Declaration was initially adopted by 10 countries and is currently
incorporated nationally by 16, the San Jose Declaration
was signed by 17 States, the Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action by 20, and
the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action by 31 countries. Furthermore, they
showcase an evolution from only declarations to declarations and plans of
actions which represents concerns about both normative propositions and actual
implementation and policies.
pillar of the regional refugee regime can be said to be the aforementioned
connection with human rights, which has led the region to be praised internationally
(Grandi, 2017). This is relevant as it also sheds light into a fourth pillar
and key aspect of refugee protection in Latin America, as it is the coexistence
of different systems and regimes (Jubilut and Lopes, 2018: 132). In relation to
the former, one can point out (i) the dual nature of asylum in the region,
implemented by political asylum and refugee status, (ii) the dialogues among
Refugee Law and International Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,
and (iii) the coexistence of the regional definition with the international
refugee definition (Ibid).
the coexistence of regimes of refugee protection in Latin America, it is relevant to first recall the previously
mentioned relationship between the regime created by the Cartagena Declaration
with the InterAmerican Human Rights System, which, through the InterAmerican
Court of Human Rights and the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, can be
said to also have created a regional protection regime for refugees and other
migrants within its human rights framework.
regime coexistence would take place in relation to the Cartagena Declaration
regime and national regimes of refugee protection. Given that, as mentioned, 16
countries have already incorporated the Cartagena Declaration into their
national laws, it could be argued that this regime co-existence has not only
expanded protection but also transformed, at least in the national level, a
commitment transforming a soft law instrument into hard law at least
If, on the
one hand, one can thus see the Cartagena Declaration Regime as having four main
pillars – regional definition, revision processes, connection to human rights
and the dialogue with other regimes and systems -, on the other, it is also
possible to identify three elements that complement this regime, in what is
called the “spirit of Cartagena”, understood in relation to: 1) a human rights
approach to refugee protection, which is simultaneously a pillar of the
Cartagena Declaration regime and a characteristic of the “spirit of Cartagena”,
2) an expanded humanitarian space and 3) a constant effort to assess the region’s
needs and challenges in refugee protection.
of Cartagena” can be said to be in place in the debates and adoption of the
Cartagena Declaration but also in the development of the regime derived from
it, and even influencing other actions regarding the protection of refugees and
other migrants (such as humanitarian visas and other alternative pathways for
legal stays for instance (Jubilut 2017)) in Latin America. That is to say, the
‘spirit of Cartagena’ and the Cartagena Declaration regime’s pillars can be
considered to be lasting impacts and legacies of the Cartagena Declaration in
the protection of refugees in Latin America.
Challenges in Refugee Protection in Latin America
even though the regional setting showcases the existence of comprehensive
regimes of refugee protection, and a regional optic of ascertaining human
rights and the implementation of asylum; recent events have – as noted above –
created a scenario of contrasting and competing logics, i.e. one the one hand, the
Cartagena Declaration and its regime, alongside other structures of protection
in the region, and, on the other, the adoption of policies, rhetorics and
actions against refugees and other migrants’ protection.
start to be explained by the fact that Latin America remains a region that, at
the same time, produces and receives refugees (UNHCR, 2019: 68 and 74), and
recently has been experiencing a combination of these realities: with a record
number of intra-regional refuges, originating mainly from Venezuela and the
North of Central America, but also encompassing forced migration from other
places (Jubilut and Jarochinski 2018; Jubilut 2016).
in numbers has occurred alongside the rise of populist governments, as well as
right-wing local and/or national governments, which either did not impress
great significance on refugee protection or adopted a “hard line” in migration
governance. The combination of these factors has led to human rights
violations, restrictive migratory laws, and violations of Refugee Law (both in
its international and regional standards).
that have been the preferred avenue by States to
not apply the regional definition to intra-regional refugees but
rather create complementary protection pathways (Jubilut and Fernandes 2018),
which could be seen as an implementation of the “spirit of Cartagena” if they
were being applied only to migrants other than refugees, and not as a way to
diminish protection. Moreover, and in a opposite policy, some countries have
not created any strategy to deal with the increased flows, leaving all migrants
to apply for refugee status, thus overburdening existing systems and regimes.
Furthermore, specific situations have amplified the vulnerability of some
migrants, such as in the cases of statelessness persons’ protection (from Haiti
in the Dominican Republic), undocumented children migration (from the North of
Central America and Venezuela) and migration of indigenous persons (from
One can see
then that competing and contrasting logics are in play in Latin America, at the
time of the 35th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration. It is relevant to point
out this scenario so that setbacks are not allowed, and the regime created by
the document is not jeopardized. Moreover, recalling the Cartagena Declaration
and the regime it has created, as well as how it is a framework of protection
that dialogues with others in the region, helps to highlight that there is a
grammar of protection in Latin America, with strong normative structures, and
if refugees and other migrants are not being adequately protected it is more a
result of lack of political will and of political choices than a lack of
regimes and traditions of humanitarian action, granting of asylum and refugee
here, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration and its legacy for the protection of
refugees in Latin America, which spams from the document itself to the creation
of a regional regime as well as impregnates the region with the “spirit of
Cartagena”, is more relevant than ever. The lasting impacts of the Document as
well as the longevity of a regional commitment to refugee protection should be
celebrated, especially in the occasion of its 35th anniversary.
However, practical challenges remain, particularly in light of new forced
displacement flows in the region that bring to light contrasting scenarios for
refugee protection in Latin America.
On the one
hand, the most positive characteristics of the region that create Latin
America’s grammar of refugee protection, are: the long-lasting tradition of
asylum; a human rights approach (that can lead to integral protection); the
spirit of Cartagena; and the coexistence of the Cartagena Declaration Regime,
the InterAmerican Human Rights system for the protection of refugees and other
(forced) migrants, and national regimes that have adopted expanded refugee
status definition as well as humanitarian policies and complementary protection
alternatives. On the other, however, anti-migrants rhetorics from around the
world also reverberate in Latin America, alongside discriminatory and xenophobic
behavior, as well as, the adoption of practices and rules that go against
international commitments, so as to escape the reach of International Refugee
Law (as with non-refoulement and adequate Refugee Status
Determination procedures) or International Human Rights standards (in the
protection of children and against torture and detention, for instance).
It seems, thus, that even though the instruments (normative and otherwise) are in place, the main challenges arise from the lack of political will to implement them. That is why highlighting the relevance of the Cartagena Declaration by celebrating its 35th anniversary, can be an important reminder to the region of its commitments to refugee protection, asylum and human rights.
 See Cartagena Declaration 2ndh preambular
 See, for instance, Cartagena Declaration 4th and 8th preambular
paragraphs, as well as its second, third and eighth conclusions.
 UNHCR was represented in the Colloquium that
adopted the Declaration and is mentioned throughout the document.
 By Resolution AG/RES. 774 (XV-O/8S) of 1985,
which highlights the importance of the Declaration and recommends that all
Member States apply it to refugees in their territory (paragraph 3) . Available
 See Cartagena Declaration 8th preambular
 For the different wordings adopted by States
in incorporating this aspect of the Cartagena Declaration, see: Piovesan and
 For even broader possibilities of
application of this criterion see Weerasinghe (2018).
 The topic was also present in the Cartagena
Declaration (conclusion 9).
 All of the documents from the Cartagena
Declaration regime, as well as the practices of the InterAmerican Human Rights
system, national practices in the region, regional schemes for the protection
of migrants that can also benefit refugees, as well as the main current
displacement flows from the region, are the objects of study of upcoming volume
edited by Jubilut, Vera Espinoza and Mezzanotti (forthcoming).
 For more on solidarity as a guiding
principle of the Cartagena Declaration regime and a legacy from it (as well as
the flexibility of sovereignty impose by the Document) see: Jubilut, Apolinário
and Jarochinski (2014).
 For more on this see the upcoming volume
edited by Jubilut, Vera Espinoza and Mezzanotti (forthcoming).
Comissariado das Nações Unidas para Refugiados (ACNUR). Protección de
Refugiados en América Latina: Buenas Prácticas Legislativas, n/d.
Bruce; Cantor, David J. (Eds.). Human Rights and the Refugee Definition
– Comparative LegalPractice and Theory, 2016.
David. J.; Barichello, Stefania E. The inter-American human rights system: A
new model for integrating refugee and complementary protection. The
International Journal of Human Rights, n. 17, 2013: 689 – 706.
Fischel de Andrade, José Henrique. Forced
Migration in South America. In: Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. et al. (Eds.). The
Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, 2014:
Filippo. Foreword: Regional solidarity and commitment to protection in Latin
America and the Caribbean. Forced Migration Review, 56, 2017: 4-5.
Silva, João Carlos; Jubilut, Liliana L. Venezuelans in Brazil: Challenges of
Protection. E-International Relations, 2018.
Liliana L.; Apolinário, Silvia M. O. S. A população refugiada no Brasil:
em busca da proteção integral. Universitas- Relações Internacionais,
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Liliana L; Apolinário, Silvia M. O. S; Jarochinski Silva, João Carlos. In: The
transformative potential of refuge: the deepening of solidarity and of limits
to sovereignty as a legacy of the Cartagena Declaration and its review process
In: Jubilut, Liliana Lyra. Refugee Protection in Brazil and Latin America –
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approach towards a more humane durable solution. Refugee Survey
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peculiarities of a peculiar region in refugee protection. Archiv des
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Liliana L.; Vera Espinoza, Marcia; Mezzanotti, Gabriela (Eds). Latin
America and Refugee Protection: regimes, logics and challenge, forthcoming.
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Speakers at the seminar included researchers, humanitarian practitioners from Médecins Sans Frontières and the Norwegian Refugee Council, and politicians from various Norwegian political parties, all presenting their views on European migration policies in light of recent migrant deaths at sea and public debates on the issue. The Italian Ambassador to Norway attended the seminar, asked for the floor and was invited to comment towards the end.
A recording of the seminar (in Norwegian) is now available, and can be accessed here.
NCHS co-Director, Antonio De Lauri, is to give the NMBU Annual Lecture in Global Development Studies Friday 6 December 2019. The lecture is an annual event in association with the university’s Master Programme in Global Development Studies. De Lauri’s lecture is titled “The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention: Militarization, Diplomacy, Compromise”, and will in particular discuss (1) the difficulty in prioritizing humanitarian principles in contingent situations, (2) the exploitative dimension of humanitarian discourses in broad international political agendas, and (3) the current professionalization of humanitarian negotiations as a key instrument of foreign policy.
To register for the event or read more about the NMBU Annual Lecture, see here.
Written by Nicki Kindersley (University of Cambridge) & Øystein Rolandsen (PRIO)
This text first appeared on Security Dialogue and is re-posted here.Read the full article this blog post is based on here. The article is an outcome of a larger project supported by the Research Council of Norway: “Protection of Civilians: From Principle to Practice“. Nicki Kindersley and Øystein Rolandsen are featured in the Security Dialogue Podcast Series where they speak about their article, and the podcast can be accessed here.
Why are local communities so often targeted in South Sudan’s civil wars? How do their attackers justify violence against people defined as civilians in international law? In our article in the current issue of Security Dialogue, we answer these questions by placing recent brutalities within a longer history of conflict logics and practices in South Sudan’s modern history of violent governance. These evolving local norms inform how armed actors engage with residents in today’s conflicts.
State governance has always been violent towards South Sudan’s
populations. Since slave raiders and traders shaped the first colonial
incursions in the mid-1800s, ordinary people have been strategic assets to be
managed and exploited. As such populations are not just legitimate targets in
conflicts, but key resources to capture and control. State power was extended
over Sudan’s peripheries in the 1900-1920s through mass forced displacement and
depopulation of strategic areas (such as Kafia Kingi); through collective
‘punishment’ of defensive populations (for example, the aerial bombardment of
Nuer communities); and violent raiding by proxy fighters from other
communities, turning residents against each other. Sudan’s civil wars in the
South from the 1960s continued these practices. Communities were targeted
collectively based on ethnicity and imputed loyalty, displaced, and forced into
camps for ‘protection’ and control, by both government and rebel forces.
Today’s UN Protection of Civilians
camps, the first UN bases in the world to be turned into protection camps for
local populations, are a part of this long history of violent governance. These
armed groups continue to see the population in contested areas as part of the
war, where everyone is (potentially) part of the collective enemy, and where
controlling desperate poor populations is also a convenient way of gaining
access to external aid and cheap labour. It thus makes more sense that, since
2013, armed groups have targeted populations in forced displacements,
collective ‘punishments’, violent raids and armed control of refugee camps.
The article also shows how this
distinction between armed combatants and those defined as civilians in
international law is further blurred by violent governance tactics since the
colonial period. Successive governments have actively sought to incorporate the
population into their militarised security apparatus. During colonial rule, men
and women were pressed into service as enslaved or otherwise dependent
servants, soldiers, and workers in fortified and militarised garrison towns.
After Sudan’s independence in 1956, the government encouraged or coerced
residents into acting as spies, ‘national guards’, informers and ‘local
protection’ forces. This militarised security state continues, and continues to
blur the South Sudanese definition of civilian.
This analysis does not excuse the
massive and systematic violence against the general population of South Sudan.
But without due consideration of these deeply engraved historical systems and
logics of violent governance, today’s brutal conflicts become incomprehensible.
Any attempt to implement protection measures for populations affected by war
needs to be informed by a proper understanding of these local logics of
conflict. In this logic, the UN in South Sudan is already another
military-political authority managing local populations and controlling their
movements. With the NGOs servicing them and the UN peacekeepers guarding them,
these PoC camps are a strategic political asset to be managed and exploited.
On Wednesday 13 November 2019, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO/University of Oslo) spoke at a seminar hosted by The Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, titled “Humanitarian wearables and digital bodies: problems of gifts and labour”. A recording from the seminar is now available.
Four year after the Agenda for Humanity : humanitarianism challenged Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 25 March 2019 Call for papers
On May 23-24th 2016, close to 9000 representatives from humanitarian agencies, governments, academics and leaders of crisis-affected communities uniquely gathered in Istanbul to address the crisis of legitimacy and capacity of the so-called humanitarian system. This even – prompted by the unprecedented refugee flows in the Middle-East and Europe – followed a series of regional consultations supposed to overcome the Western-centric nature of humanitarian assistance. Although the event did not lead to the adoption of a clear plan for institutional reform and avoid discussing contentious issues, it led to the adoption of the Agenda for Humanity, a five-point programme aiming to “outline the changes that are needed to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale”.
The strategic areas identified build on the framing of the Sustainable Development Goals and focus on ambitious targets such as ending conflicts, upholding norms to safeguard humanity, leaving no-one behind, ending needs and investing in humanity. Four years after its adoption, this rhetorical commitment to change has made its way into the discourses and practices of humanitarian organizations. Strategies to achieve “aid localisation”, the “triple nexus” – referring to the interlinkages between humanitarian, development and peace actors – or “vulnerable people empowerment and resilience” abound, reflecting the fractures of the humanitarian system.
Yet, as humanitarian agencies focus on technical ways of implementing changes, structural challenges to global solidarity are left out from the analysis. Since 2016, attacks on humanitarian values have never seemed so acute. The rise of nationalistic and far right parties and their coming to power in Brazil, Italy or Hungary daily challenge the capacity to maintain humanitarian commitments, in particular towards migrant populations. Humanitarian law and norms are under siege in contemporary patterns of violence. The goal of “leaving no one behind” has evacuated debates on the use of the concept of vulnerabilities as a political tool to build hierarchies within crisis-affected populations. Lastly, the localisation agenda has seen crisis-affected governments exercise a stronger grip on humanitarian activities, aligning aid with their priorities and closing civil society independent space.
In this context, the objective of this conference jointly organized by Globalisation Studies Groningen, the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) and the Norwegian Network on Humanitarian Studies is to unpack the political nature of the humanitarian enterprise, using the core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity as a starting point for the analysis. The even brings together scholars and practitioners to address the following questions:
How do changes in international and domestic politics alter humanitarian commitments?
How is the Agenda for Humanity’s narrative used to further political agenda?
What are the implications of the Agenda’s core responsibilities on the power dynamics shaping the humanitarian field ?
We welcome paper proposals addressing these questions and fitting with four overarching key themes:
Humanitarian aid and/ in conflicts and urban violence: normative framing, political uses and impacts
Humanitarianism under siege: nationalism, illiberal humanitarianism and humanitarian commitments
Leaving no one behind and the political construction needs and vulnerability
Unpacking the localization move: actors, dynamics and impacts
Interested participants are welcome to submit a 500 word abstract proposal addressing one of the above-mentioned themes. Abstracts should address the theme of the conference through a theoretical or empirical approach. Participants are encouraged to be explicit about a) the research question or problem structuring their contribution b) the theoretical framework of their analysis and c) their methodology. Abstracts should be submitted by email to email@example.com.
The deadline for submitting paper is on January 6th. Decisions on acceptance will be made by January 10th. Draft papers are expected by March 15th.
After the conference the best papers / presentations will be selected by the organizing team for publication in a special issue of the Journal of International Humanitarian Action.