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PDES Report on Strategic Use of Resettlement

August 15, 2013

Quickly – UNHCR PDES is out with a critically important report assessing Strategic Use of Resettlement.  Briefly, strategic use of resettlement is a vague idea – the report notes that there is no common consensus about about what it should mean – that resettlement might be useful to produce benefits in refugee protection for refugees who are not directly being resettled. This means that resettling some refugees should have some benefit for others, possibly because resettlement relieves pressure on a local population, or works as a political inducement to a government.

As the report explains, there is a challenge in that there is little agreement about how these broader benefits for resettlement might be achieved, or what the goals should be. The report also shows how it has been difficult for UNHCR to determine how to engage host governments in countries of first asylum, who should be central to the theory of how strategic resettlement would work. Making the theory work would require coordination between host governments, UNHCR, and multiple resettlement governments (not to mention refugee communities). That is a tall order.

The report points to more challenges and dilemmas that to clear success. I hope that is not discouraging, because strategic resettlement has been one of the more promising ideas to emerge in recent years for improving refugee rights in the global south. I’ve suggested setting up a very ambitious kind of strategic resettlement program as part of a bargain to improve refugee rights in the Egypt; this report shows how difficult that would be in practice right now. But it also shows that we probably are only at the early stages of experimenting with the potential.

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