Refugees in International Relations

By Alexander Betts; Gil Loescher | Go to book overview

12
Refugees, Peacebuilding, and the
Regional Dynamics of Conflict1

James Milner


ABSTRACT

A striking feature of the conflict management literature in recent years has been
an emerging consensus on the importance of ‘peacebuilding’. As illustrated by
cases as diverse as Afghanistan, Burundi, and Liberia, armed conflict has the
potential to re-emerge and become more protracted if active steps are not taken
to build a sustainable peace. Much of this debate has, however, focused exclu-
sively on peacebuilding activities within the country in question, with little or
no attention paid to the regional nature of conflict and the regional dynamics
that should be addressed as part of a successful peacebuilding program. This is
especially striking given the growing literature on the regional nature of conflict
and insecurity in the global South. As argued by Ayoob, Buzan, and others,
intra-state conflict in the global South has the demonstrated potential to spill-
over into neighbouring and equally vulnerable states, thereby regionalizing
conflict. For example, civil conflict in Liberia and Burundi affected not only
those two countries but also other countries in the Mano River Union in West
Africa and the Great Lakes region of Central Africa as a result of the prolifera-
tion of small arms and the movement of armed elements and refugees across
borders. These aspects of conflict have the demonstrated ability to spread
conflict to neighbouring countries and to undermine conflict management and
peacebuilding activities in the country of origin.

This paper draws on understandings of the regional nature of conflict in the
global South and case studies of the regional security implications of refugee
movements from Afghanistan, Burundi, and Liberia to develop a more compre-
hensive understanding of peacebuilding. The paper argues that the link between
peacebuilding and refugees goes beyond the repatriation of refugees. Instead, the
paper argues that the presence of so-called ‘spoilers’ within refugee populated
areas, the politicization of refugees during exile, and the potential for early and
forced repatriation by the country of asylum have both proven to have the poten-
tial to undermine peacebuilding efforts, while the experience of exile may enable

-261-

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