Posts Tagged ‘IRIN’

Refugee defender Barbara Harrell-Bond died on 18 July 2018

July 25, 2018

Laura Hammond – Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London – wrote in IRIN the following obituary of Barbara Harrell-Bond who died on 18 july 2018. She was one of the most  prolific advocates of the rights of refugees all over the world. Tireless is often used but in her case an understatement. 

In the current international climate, refugees can use all the supporters they can get. But last week, refugees around the world lost an irreplaceable champion with the passing of Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond.

Barbara worked tirelessly for more than 35 years to improve protections for refugees, to ensure that their voices were heard not only in academic research but in real-world policy debates.

Barbara was never short of outrage at how badly refugees were being treated throughout the world. To her, fighting that injustice was the most important thing – it was all-consuming. Her research and teaching were inspirational to generations of scholars and practitioners of refugee and forced migration studies. Most memorably, she never shied away from speaking truth to power, taking on donor governments, UN bodies, large non-governmental organisations, and host governments alike. Indeed, her bold criticisms, backed by robust evidence, have inspired generations of scholars to follow her example and hold to account officials charged with assisting refugees.

I first met Barbara in 1988 while studying anthropology at the University of Oxford. I had spent the whole year studying subjects like witchcraft and totemism – things that can make people seem more exotic than understood – and I wanted to use my training in a more useful way. My tutor sent me along to meet Barbara. I stepped into her office and found a wonderful, diverse world of people who were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing – using academic research to try to make a positive difference in the world.

Trained as a legal anthropologist, she studied at Oxford under the supervision of eminent anthropologist Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard.

Her engagement with refugees and African studies came later, but her commitment to social justice was clear even from her 1967 dissertation, an ethnography of a deprived housing estate in the Oxford suburbs, Blackbird Leys. She went on to research law and dispute resolution in traditional courts in Sierra Leone.

Barbara’s work on refugees began in the early 1980s. She established the Refugee Studies Programme at Oxford (now known as the Refugee Studies Centre). Run by a tiny but dedicated team, this institution quickly became a crucial resource and meeting point for academics, practitioners, and refugees themselves. Barbara led the way in establishing refugee studies as an interdisciplinary academic field. At its centre: an agenda for influencing policy and bringing a refugee-centred focus to debates about asylum policy, social integration, and refugee assistance.

Barbara’s seminal 1986 book Imposing Aid: Emergency Assistance to Refugeeswas based on research she and a band of Oxford students and local researchers conducted in what is now South Sudan. In it, she makes the very simple argument – she was the first to agree it should not have to be made – that refugees are not helpless victims, but always and everywhere have agency, resilience, and dignity, and that this must be the starting point for any assistance. Showing how badly wrong things can go when they fail to keep this basic truth in mind, this book – as well as Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism (which she co-authored) – called to account those acting to aid and protect refugees. Her criticisms were always sharp, direct, and – most embarrassingly for their targets – meticulously substantiated with evidence. She did not suffer fools or egos gladly.

I worked for Barbara in 1989-1990, helping to put together material for training courses for people working with refugees. She had me working late into the night and on weekends. I remember working on New Year’s Day, stepping outside the office only to buy bread, salami, and Barbara’s cigarettes. When my work permit expired after a year, she somehow managed to get it extended through a connection in the British government’s Home Office – much to my surprise, as that was a regular target (along with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR) of her strident criticism.

These days I am less surprised; these organisations are sprinkled with people who were influenced by her, who carry with them a streak of critical boldness even as they work inside the belly of the beast.

Many years later, when we started a master’s degree in ‘Migration, Mobility and Development’ at SOAS, she told me that she was sorry we had focused on migrants of all kinds rather than focus exclusively on refugees, as she thought that the latter needed greater protection. She picked fights over this issue with many people, and she was not easy to get along with. At the same time, she was fiercely loyal to her friends, and we remained in regular contact over three decades, up to just a few weeks ago.

Barbara’s research and teaching were inspirational to generations of scholars and practitioners of refugee and forced migration studies. She was crucial in the founding of the Journal of Refugee Studies and the Forced Migration Review – respectively the world’s leading academic and practitioner publications on refugees and displacement. She also set up the Rights in Exile web portal that provides essential information and a network of experts who provide pro bono legal assistance to asylum seekers.

Barbara was also a founder of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, the leading professional association for scholarship on forced migration. The association will meet next week in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she was to have received yet another lifetime achievement award, and seen the launch of a new film about her life, Barbara Harrell-Bond: A Life Not Ordinary.

Barbara’s vision of refugee studies demanded being close to the regions and people with whom it is engaged. Disturbed by the idea of a refugee studies centre isolated in the ivory tower of Oxford, she worked with colleagues to establish the Refugee Law Project at the University of Makerere, Uganda, and refugee studies centres at Moi University in Kenya, the American University in Cairo, and others. Out of these centres have come many of the strongest and most interesting voices in refugee studies today, including academics who are or have been refugees themselves.

Her home in north Oxford was a hive of activity – every guest was pressed into voluntary service to contribute to scholarship or advocacy on refugee issues. Refugees found safe haven there. Stray academics found purpose in her fierce commitment to social justice.

When I now think about Barbara’s legacy, I realise that almost everyone I have collaborated with or respected in the field of refugee studies has a Barbara connection. In some cases she introduced us to each other. In other cases I feel a connection to someone and only find out much later that Barbara touched their lives in some way, in some part of the world – Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, India… Whether she introduced us to each other or not, having been in her orbit changed all of us and made us into a strong, subversive, passionate clan.

A few years ago I went to visit her again. She sat in her living room, which continued to be a cottage industry for refugee protection. Three student interns sat at computers. A fourth was cheerfully preparing lunch for everyone. They had all, like me all those years before, been seduced by Barbara’s passion.

http://www.irinnews.org/feature/2018/07/18/appreciation-barbara-harrell-bond-refugee-advocate-and-researcher-1932-2018?utm_source=IRIN+-+the+inside+story+on+emergencies&utm_campaign=194a685f7e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_WEEKLY_ENGLISH&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d842d98289-194a685f7e-75444053

https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/news/barbara-harrell-bond-obe-1932-2018

Insight into correspondence between NGOs and UK Foreign office about Colombia

January 31, 2018

On 30 January 2018 IRIN reported that on 20 December 2017, ABColombia (a joint advocacy project on Colombia for CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, SCIAF and Trócaire) sent a letter to Sir Alan Duncan, UK Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, expressing concerns regarding the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia. In the letter, ABColombia asked the Minister to ensure a statement is made at the UN Security Council regarding the extremely high levels of killings of Colombian HRDs and that the UK strongly requests the Colombian Government to officially invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, to Colombia. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/06/latin-america-philippines-most-dangerous-places-for-human-rights-defenders/]

In his response from 17 January 2018, Minister Sir Alan Duncan wrote:

[…] I share your concern about the increasing violence against human rights defenders in Colombia. As you mention in your letter, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that 73 social leaders were killed last year. It is verifying a further 11 cases. A disproportionate number of those killed are linked to disputes concerning land restitution. Some also appear to have been targeted for speaking out for the rights of local and indigenous communities. Please be assured that our Embassy in Bogota continues to monitor the situation on the ground closely.

As you know, Colombia is designated a Human Rights Priority Country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and protection of human rights defenders is a priority focus for our work. I regularly raise violence against human rights defenders during my meetings with Colombian Ministers and the Colombian Ambassador […]

https://reliefweb.int/report/colombia/violence-against-human-rights-defenders-correspondence-fco

Read the letter that ABColombia sent and the full response by Minister Alan Duncan

World Refugee Day 2017: Seven must-read stories by IRIN

June 21, 2017

 
 Yesterday, 20 June, was World Refugee Day 2017. Kristy Siegfried, IRIN’s Migration Editor, wrote an excellent ‘summary’ with a selection of 7 short stories ensuring that the problem is not viewed from a euro-centric position.

In recent years, it’s become an annual ritual on World Refugee Day for the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to declare that levels of forced displacement have reached an “unprecedented high”.  This year is no exception. As of the end of 2016, there were 65.6 million people worldwide forcibly displaced from their homes by war, violence, or persecution. That figure encompasses 40.3 million people displaced within their countries’ borders (IDPs) and 2.8 million asylum seekers, as well as 22.5 million refugees. While 2016 was another record year for forced displacement, the increase from 2015 was only 300,000. That may not sound like cause for celebration, but when you consider that the figure in 2015 jumped by 5.8 million from the previous year, it is something of an improvement.

……

In 2016, just as in 2015, more than half of refugees (55 percent) came from just three countries, but South Sudan has replaced Somalia as one of those countries. Syria and Afghanistan remain in the top two spots. Contrary to public perceptions in the West, the vast majority of refugees (84 percent) are still being hosted in the developing world. The top three host countries at the end of 2016 were Turkey, Lebanon, and Pakistan (although Uganda is likely to enter the top three this year as it continues to absorb the majority of South Sudanese refugees).

IRIN’s coverage of refugees and forced displacement is year-round and not dependent on how many boats arrive in Italy or Greece. Below is a selection of our 2017 work designed to highlight more recent developments and the wide range of issues facing refugees around the globe today:

Fleeing a broken Venezuela

Blocked by Trump, unwanted by Kenya, Somali refugees face new crisis as famine looms

Closure of conflict camps test CAR reconciliation

Barefoot flight from Mosul

Jordan looks to turn refugee crisis into economic boom

Pushed out of Pakistan into worn-torn Afghanistan, refugees are told to be ‘patient’

Hardening European policies keep refugee children apart from their families

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/17/unhcr-launches-2015-world-refugee-day-with-celebrity-support/

Source: IRIN | Seven must-read stories this World Refugee Day

Next Secretary General of the UN: human rights NGOs know what they want but candidates still vague

April 19, 2016

Who will be the next secretary-general? The field is still wide open but thanks in part to the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, campaigning for the job is – for the first time in UN history – mostly public, even if the decision is ultimately made by General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. There are strong arguments in favor of a woman (first time ever, see link below) and someone from Eastern Europe (‘their turn’ in the informally agreed regional rotation).  Of the nine candidates currently in the running, UN insiders and others close to the process see UNESCO head Irina Bokova, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, former High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and former Slovenian President Danilo Türk as the frontrunners (if the bookmakers are right).

Last week, for the first time ever, nine candidates presented their visions for the UN to the General Assembly in New York Read the rest of this entry »

Controversy surrounding the death of LGBT activist Eric Ohena Lembembe; Cameroon blames the victims and continues persecution

September 25, 2013

On 23 September Amy Bergquist of the Advocates for Human Rights writes in her blog: The International Justice Program doesn’t get to travel to Geneva very often, but thanks to the United Nations’ live webcasts, we can usually see and hear all the U.N.’s human rights action as it happens. On Friday morning, I was eager to watch the U.N. Human Rights Council’s consideration of the Universal Periodic Review of Cameroon. I was especially moved when one of our colleagues from the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS) took the floor to speak on behalf of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association and recounted his July 15 discovery of his tortured and murdered colleague, Eric Ohena Lembembe, Read the rest of this entry »