Refugees in International Relations

By Alexander Betts; Gil Loescher | Go to book overview

13
Post-conflict Statebuilding
and Forced Migration

Dominik Zaum


ABSTRACT

While refugees have been a politically salient issue in post-conflict environ-
ments and refugee return has been an important part of statebuilding mandates,
the literature mostly fails to address the role of refugees in post-conflict state-
building processes. This chapter maps some of the roles that refugees play in
statebuilding processes and examines the impact of these efforts on their ability
to return. Through the lens of the statebuilding operations in Bosnia and
Kosovo, it explores three issues. The first part discusses the challenges posed by
refugee situations to the institutionalization and legitimation of a political
settlement, in particular through the organization and conduct of elections.
The second section examines the role that refugees play in post-conflict recon-
struction, especially through remittances. The third section analyses a particu-
larly prominent returns-related policy of the statebuilding operations in Bosnia
and Kosovo, namely, the efforts to establish and enforce rights of refugees to
their residential properties. The chapter highlights that despite the prominence
awarded to refugees in the mandate of statebuilding operations, they have rarely
been given a voice and a formal role in the processes. It argues that refugees play
a complex role in the politics of statebuilding, affecting both the economic and
political dynamics of these efforts: refugees have been instrumentalized in
conflicts over the character of the state and in attempts to change or entrench
local balances of power; efforts to facilitate their return has informed major rule
of law reforms, in particular the resolution of private property rights; and their
remittances have contributed significantly to physical reconstruction, and in a
small way also to the financial sustainability of state institutions. It also shows
how the returns policies of Western donor countries have threatened to compro-
mise their statebuilding objectives in the cases examined.

Statebuilding and state formation, in particular the creation of nation-states in twentieth-century Europe, has a complicated and often tragic association with forced migration. Throughout the twentieth century, the creation and

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