Student Activities 2009-2010
Empowerment of Refugees in the 21st Century: The Connection Between Human Rights, Reconciliation and Repatriation
Confronting Major Challenges in the 21st Century Conference
Contemporary human rights discourse revolves primarily around conflict resolution, while the aftermath of war, and the conditions of refugees often remain neglected. The sheer number of over 40 million refugees indicates the magnitude of the refugee crisis and marks it one of the major global challenges in the 21st Century. Even when post conflict conditions are addressed, reconciliation in the home country and repatriation of refugees are handled separately. It is therefore, of utmost importance to develop both, theoretical and empirical tools that have the potential to finding better solutions for refugees, post conflict societies, but also the international community. Respectively, repatriation as valid solution for refugees needs to be integrated into transitional justice and reconciliation efforts, because post-conflict societies struggling to confront violent and repressive pasts cannot get on the path to peace and democracy as long as a significant number of their population remains displaced. At the same time human rights of refuges are not valued if they are denied valid option to return to their home country. Instead of viewing refugees trough the prevalent perspective of disenfranchisement and victimhood, I will argue that they should be conceived as empowered agents, with rights and expectations within, not only their home country, but also the international community. In order to emphasize the strong connection between refugee rights, repatriation and reconciliation in the home country, I will analyze the case of Bosnian refugees. Comparative research in exploring the link between reconciliation and repatriation is not only important for understanding cases under consideration but also to shed light on other crisis areas as well.
Keywords: reconciliation, repatriation, refugee rights