Supporting locally led protection strategies can significantly improve the impact of protection interventions. External actors first need to acknowledge the capacity of people at risk as independent actors themselves.
The growing criticism of protection actors for neglecting indigenous coping strategies and capacities should prompt a radical, creative re-think of attitudes and approaches.
In parts of Sudan, local NGOs and women’s groups have taken the lead in their own protection, and their considerable achievements have helped change the status of women in their communities.
Nearly 60% of all refugees now live in cities, a trend that will continue as camps increasingly become an option of last resort. Already, this urban shift is catalysing monumental changes across the sector, including in how humanitarians think about, and embark upon, community-based protection.
As Rwandan refugees in Kampala, I and others like me are uniquely placed to help newly arrived refugees find their feet in the city. The work is demanding but vital.
Continuing dependence on aid that waxes and wanes with time and that comes largely from external sources can lead to feelings of powerlessness. It can furthermore undermine family- and community-based initiatives to protect children.
Collaborative, creative initiatives in Nigeria helped protect local communities from much of the impact of Boko Haram violence. When international agencies arrived, however, they ignored these efforts.
Acknowledging the widespread reality of ‘overlapping’ displacement provides an entry point to recognising and engaging with the agency of refugees and their diverse hosts in providing support and welcome to displaced people.
In the absence of international or state assistance and protection, community members in northern Uganda stepped in to fill this vacuum both during displacement and throughout the laborious return process following the conflict’s end.
Local communities will continue to find ways to address the risks that confront them with or without humanitarian support but the international community may be able to enhance these solutions.
A grassroots women’s organisation in Colombia is working to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, and to support the healing of survivors.
The ICRC tries to ensure that its activities on behalf of IDPs and those at risk of displacement support, rather than undermine, communities’ and individuals’ self-protection mechanisms and coping strategies.
Collective action by displaced people in Medellín has been both diverse and strategic.
Oxfam’s work with local communities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has prompted the organisation to develop guidance for themselves and for others working in similar situations.
Community Liaison Assistants may be UN peacekeeping’s most effective instrument for community engagement, with the potential to play a critical role in the protection of civilians. However, their effectiveness is curtailed by the lack of a comprehensive vision, hesitant military responses and cumbersome administrative structures.
Recognising that process is as important as outcomes, a community development approach can be effective in supporting local communities as providers of first resort. A project run by the Somali and Afghan refugee communities in India shows how this can work.
Community policing has become a popular way of promoting local ownership of security in refugee camps in Kenya and more widely, but it can also fall victim to its ambivalent position at the intersection of refugee communities and state policing.
Community centres play an important role in offering protection for displaced communities, particularly for members of those communities who have specific needs. Somali refugees in Yemen formed the Al Ghaith Association and are now running their own community centres to support fellow refugees. Below, UNHCR and Al Ghaith discuss their approaches.
Community power structures and attitudes in Yemen are key factors in how IDPs can gain protection and assistance.
For Eritreans and Syrians coming to Europe, community networks both encourage the initial decision to go and provide elements of support along the way.
Addressing protection as a key element of community-based disaster risk reduction and preparedness efforts is essential to safeguarding human rights in disaster and emergency settings.
An initiative to help local communities build resilience against violent extremism may offer useful lessons in how to help local communities access funding to support their self-protection efforts.
All too often, violence proves to be beyond influence, forcing international aid agencies to pull back and leave local civilians to face the danger alone. External actors need a far deeper understanding of local communities’ experience of and strategies for self-protection, and a far greater commitment to support those communities.
Currently the instruments of refugee status determination make asylum claims depend on images of women that are characterised by victimisation and motherhood.
If, as seems likely, Colombia reaches a peace agreement to end its long internal conflict, the settlement may create the political and legal conditions to solve the phenomenon of forced migration of its citizens.
The European Union needs to issue a Directive on common standards for statelessness determination procedures with a view to mitigating the particular impacts of statelessness in the context of the continuing refugee crisis in Europe.
The ‘Stepping Stones to Small Business’ programme in Australia is appreciated by participants but has shown that ‘entrepreneurship’ is a problematic concept in the context of women from refugee backgrounds.
Participants in a field-research methods course on refugee health at the Thai-Burma border learned that beyond the biological vectors and disease processes that contribute to human suffering, power, politics and privilege play central roles in negatively affecting refugee health.
Brazil’s humanitarian visas are an important tool in complementary protection, offering legal pathways for forced migrants to reach a safer country. However, they have shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for the practice to serve as a model for an enhanced instrument of protection for humanitarian migrants elsewhere.
Traditional humanitarian actors should develop mechanisms to support innovation by displaced people. Two cases of technological innovation developed by Syrian refugees illustrate the point.
Over recent years South Africa has accepted many refugees and asylum seekers, among whom are women requiring maternity services. Because the values and cultural practices of immigrant pregnant women sometimes differ from those of the midwife, their rights to good treatment may be violated.