For the past six decades, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Arab world have spawned serious public policy challenges in the areas of security, control, governance, health, and others. Refugees are scattered across the region, living in varied conditions, presenting different dimensions of policy challenges – but also offering many experiences and lessons that can be shared. Thus, in March 2008, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) launched a multi-year research, analysis, and policy-recommendations program entitled Policy and Governance in Palestinian Refugee Camps.
Building on this existing research agenda, and with the advent of the Syrian refugee crisis and its large effects on Lebanon and the region, IFI has recognized the need to reexamine, as well as broaden the research scope of this program beyond Palestinian refugees. This has become an imperative need, as the Arab region recurrently witnesses waves of refugees or IDPs.
Refugee crises arising from regional conflicts – such as the recent Syrian crisis, which has produced refugees from a variety of backgrounds – are forming long-term issues that must be tackled with political, humanitarian, and developmental approaches.
In light of this, the program focuses on generating refugee related/policy-oriented research that addresses an existing knowledge gap in the field of refugee studies and disseminating high quality publications. Moreover, the program seeks to enrich the quality of debate among scholars, officials, international organizations, and civil society actors, with the aim to inform policymaking relating to refugees in the Middle East and beyond.
The aim of the Refugee Research and Policy in the Arab World Program is to collect, support and initiate research relevant to refugees – whether Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi, or others. It seeks to harness the refugee-related, policy-oriented research of AUB’s internationally respected faculty in order to achieve several goals: to enhance the Arab world’s input into regional and global refugee issues, to raise the quality of refugee-related debate and decision-making in the region, and to enrich the quality of interaction among scholars, officials, international organizations and civil society actors in the Middle East and abroad.
By organizing research studies, lectures, roundtable discussions, workshops, and conferences, this program hopes to bring together scholars and decision-makers to discuss salient issues that fall under the spectrum of refugee studies. IFI aims to fund and promote research programs that would provide insights and analysis to:
- Inform public-policy decisions made by regional leaders and decision-makers;
- Improve our understanding of refugee issues in the region;
- Develop rich academic, interdisciplinary debate on refugees in the Middle East
The Refugee Research and Policy in the Arab World Program at IFI bridges existing knowledge gaps about refugee issues in the Arab world by disseminating the regional experiences of Middle Eastern governments and addressing policy problems within their regional and global context. Thus, the objective of this program is to strengthen research, analysis and information sharing from a local, regional and global perspective, particularly with respect to issues surrounding refugees and internally displaced persons.
To achieve its aims and goals, the Refugee Research and Policy in the Arab World Program will adopt a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach allowing for optimum research flexibility. Research to be taken up by this program will identify research gaps and launch and fund research projects to fill those most urgently needed, as well as provide an ongoing mechanism for scholars, NGOs, host governments, local authorities, and international agencies and donors to meet and exchange ideas on the pressing challenges and the most relevant policy solutions.
- Defining future institutional cooperation and initiating new thematic networks;
- Utilizing innovative and multidisciplinary research teams;
- Proposing exchanges with research institutes, researchers and professionals;
- Proposing activities and projects in partnership with local, regional, and international institutes and organizations;
- Strengthening knowledge sharing and exchange among research areas and programs;
- Increasing cross-discipline faculty/student interaction with IFI events and engagements.
It has succeeded in building and maintaining solid partnerships with various organizations/entities such as UNHCR (since 2017), Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) (since 2015), Oxfam (since 2015), former Ministry of State for Displaced Affairs, UN-Habitat (since 2015), and Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies (BCARS).The program is also an active member of various networks like AUB4Refugees Initiative, Alliance of Leading Universities on Migration (ALUM), and Lebanon Policy Research Network on Displacement.
Of the major achievements of the program is the Fact of the Day Campaign that seeks to dispel the myths and counter the toxic rhetoric around Syrian refugees and the growing xenophobic sentiments against them. Additionally, the AUB4Refugees Initiative aims at nurturing cooperation and building partnerships on campus and beyond to deal with the repercussions and effects of the refugee crisis. The program’s work also comprises strengthening local civil society engagement to address the protection risks and issues refugees face through a number of initiatives, which include building a platform for local civil society for displacement and creating synergies among its members.