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What We’re Reading: Recommended Books From 2016

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Courtesy of Lenna Young Andrews/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 15 December 2016.

As 2016 comes to a close, the Global Observatory offers a list of notable books published throughout the year, recommended by staff of the International Peace Institute.

Arab Spring: Negotiating in the Shadows of the Intifadat, edited by I. William Zartman (University of Georgia Press)

Though the process is still very much still in progress, there has been no shortage of attempts to explain the origins, trace the trajectory, and draw out the conclusions of the Arab uprisings. However, the attempt by I. William Zartman in his edited volume Arab Spring: Negotiating in the Shadow of the Intifadat stands apart. This very prolific professor of international relations has over the decades—and through the pages of some 20 books—turned conflict resolution into an academic discipline in its own right. In the process, he has defined its parameters. Zartman is therefore uniquely equipped to place the tumultuous recent events of the Arab region in their proper historical and academic context. These were—and still are—a set of developments determined by a desire for change from an old to a new order and, therefore, at heart involved a negotiation of that transformation. It is through this lens that Zartman offers a conceptual framework for negotiating transitions, with a team of experts—most of them from the very countries where the events they describe took place—providing their insights. There is also a chapter on South Africa and another on Serbia, which serve as points of comparison. Recommended by Jose Vericat, Adviser.

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The Hidden Refugee Crisis in the Western Hemisphere

Starts and Stripes

Courtesy William Billard/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on 1 November 2016.

While much attention is rightly focused on Syria and the Middle East, there are a growing number of refugees in the Western Hemisphere.

The largest group comes from Central America’s Northern Triangle—Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. For each of the past three years between 300,000 and 450,000 Central Americans have fled north. Of these, between 45,000 and 75,000 are unaccompanied children; another 120,000 to 180,000 families (usually a mother with children); and between 130,000 to 200,000 single adults. These numbers peaked in May and June 2014 when more than 8,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the U.S. border each month. 2016 numbers are again rising, with August inflows higher than ever before.

These migrants are fleeing violence (El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are some of the most dangerous nations in the world), poverty, and the economic devastation wrought after three years of record droughts. They are pulled to the United States through personal ties. One study of interviewed minors found 90 percent had a mother or father in the United States. Many of these U.S. residents from Honduras and El Salvador came on temporary protected status (TPS) visas, meaning they can live and work legally in the United States but may not sponsor other family members (including their children).

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Seven Worrying Trends in the European Refugee Crisis

Sea Storm, Blue Moon

Courtesy stainedglassartist/Flickr

This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 October 2016.

EU leaders could soon come to regret having crossed their fingers and moved the refugee crisis off the urgent pile in their in-tray.

As part of his final UN General Assembly, President Obama hosted a leaders’ summit on refugees. In his speech he termed the global refugee crisis one of ‘the most urgent tests of our time’. But the list of commitments coming out of the summit did not live up to this description. The Bratislava EU summit earlier this month barely touched on refugee issues among the list of priorities to address, and there seems to be a general sense that Europe has more or less weathered the refugee storm that appeared so threatening in 2015.

There is some truth to this – for now. The number of sea crossings to the EU in the first nine months of 2016 was indeed down, at around 300,000, compared to 520,000 in 2015. But despite this there are a number of worrying trends that EU leaders would be foolish to ignore.

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Many Refugees, Poor Data: Development Cooperation Requires Higher-quality Data

Rowing boat on a house roof

Courtesy Norbert Nagel/Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published by the German institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in August 2016.

In June 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presented his latest annual report on the situation of refugees and displaced persons around the world. Once again, this account documents new record levels in refugee numbers, both in industrialised and in developing countries. For governments and aid organisations, these statistics constitute an important basis for addressing displacement-related challenges in a more effective manner. However, the data provided by UNHCR is often incomplete and marked by a number of shortcomings. Increasingly high expectations are being placed on development cooperation in terms of tackling the root causes of forced displacement. Meeting these expectations requires reliable data.

Refugee crises can only be adequately addressed on the basis of comprehensive and reliable data. Displaced persons must be able to register as refugees in order to receive access to international protection and the related legal rights and aid. Host countries and communities depend on data pertaining to current displacement situations in order to plan the required services and provide the necessary administrative, personnel and material resources. The credibility of international aid organisations’ appeals for donations also rely on substantiated information about displacement situations.

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Assisted Return Not a Permanent Solution for All Asylum Seekers

Visualization of people moving in the world

Data visualization with a world map, courtesy Eric Fischer/flickr

This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on 3 May 2016.

Many asylum seekers who choose assisted return are from a country destroyed by war and conflict. More than half of those who return to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq plan to migrate again. Assisted return is a viable type of support to assist with the return, but is not sufficient to prevent large numbers of people once again leaving insecure countries of return. Only minor changes are required, however, to increase the potential for permanent return.

One important political objective in Norway is to encourage asylum seekers who do not have a valid residence permit to return to their country of origin. To this end, a major initiative is for the Norwegian Government to offer support for assisted return. In 2015, approximately 1,200 persons accepted the offer. This involves practical assistance with the application process and with the journey back to the country of origin. On arrival, the persons who have accepted assisted return receive financial support with a cash payment. They also receive support in the form of various reintegration measures in some countries. An evaluation – initiated by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and conducted by the CMI, PRIO and the Institute for Social Research – focused on Kosovo, where persons who chose assisted return received financial support only, and on three specially developed programmes for Afghanistan, Iraq and Ethiopia. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the financial support is administered by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), whereas a separate governmental body has been set up for this purpose in Ethiopia. The results of the evaluation are based on personal interviews with 79 persons who returned to these countries, supplemented by telephone interviews.

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