The numbers are staggering: according to a recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently an estimated 65.3 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide (UNHCR 2016). Developing countries are on the receiving end of 86% of them, with an estimated 19.5 million refugees worldwide that are housed in UNHCR refugee camps and detention centres. Some 42,500 people per day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and war, with the conflict in Syria alone forcing the movement of almost 5 million refugees into camps and detention centres across Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey (UNHCR 2016). These statistics are the by-products of conflict and war.
With such unprecedented numbers of people in a state of protracted displacement – defined as 25,000 or more refugees displaced for five or more years – this briefing makes the argument that relief responses that have traditionally focused on short-term emergency services need to focus more on community-refugee relations as a means to secure durable and long-term solutions that empower and improve living conditions.
While best practices from UNHCR regarding community relations are impressive, they could be improved by making practices of interaction more informed by core principles from conflict transformation and parallel approaches from participatory planning.