Paper: Refugees as entrepreneurs: A challenge to the HDP programs

Paper details

Paper authors Daniela Nascimento
In panel on 'Nexus Thinking Revisited: Bridging Humanitarian, Development, Peace, and Climate Change.'
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Protracted refugee situations in territories of war or natural disaster challenge the logic of the humanitarian- development- Peace (HDP) nexus that inspires liberal humanitarianism. Refugee camps in those contexts are conceived and managed in a way that illustrates the move from the HPD strategy to the contention and resilience humanitarianism of neoliberal times. Relevant literature underlines the centrality of concepts like self-reliance and resilience in the discourses and political documents that sustain the new philosophy of refugee camps.
In this article, we analyze the experience of camps for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan and for South Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Uganda as expressions of this questioning of some basic assumptions of the HPD program. Policies adopted in massive camps like Za’atari (Jordan) and for urban refugees in Kampala (Uganda) in the last two decades show a twofold reconfiguration of the HPD liberal program: first, their background is the aim of containing humanitarian crises locally, in the peripheries, therefore preventing the spread of their effects to the core of the international system (contention humanitarianism); second, they focus on victims’ own capacities to become more resilient and entrepreneur in moving out of that vulnerable condition (resilience humanitarianism). This article will focus mainly on measures like favoring the involvement of refugees in small agriculture activities or adopting cash-for-work policies in those two refugee territories and how they work as mechanisms for the improvement of self-reliance and of the entrepreneur-oriented perspective of refugees’ agency.
With these two case studies, we intend to identify some basic dynamics of change in the hegemony of liberal humanitarianism aimed at structurally transforming the root causes of violence in the turbulent peripheries of the international system. The organized expression of that hegemony is the so-called ‘integrated approach’ in which humanitarian aid, development aid and peacebuilding are intertwined and interlinked in missions aimed at promoting a durable peace. Contrasting with this project, a new formula has emerged in the last two decades, in which the responsibility for overcoming a condition of existential vulnerability is transferred from power structures and humanitarian aid agents to the victims themselves.