By Angel Abbaticchio
Though the global refugee regime was developed more than 70 years ago to find solutions for refugees, progress on truly sustainable solutions remains scarce. The international community recognizes the need to strengthen the humanitarian-development (HD) nexus or, in other words, to promote closer collaboration between humanitarian and development programming, to find solutions for refugees. African states have paid attention to the HD nexus since the 1960s, demonstrating that efforts to merge humanitarian assistance with development are far from new. However, HD approaches practiced in Africa began to fade in the 1980s and 1990s due to prolonged displacement, a rise in refugee numbers, and the pressures of economic liberalization and structural adjustment.
While renewed attention to the HD nexus and its latest manifestation – self-reliance – is recognized as vital to finding solutions for refugees, dwindling international support and cooperation has made it difficult to find solutions. This paper examines the self-reliance model in the Kalobeyei Integrated Socio-Economic Development Programme in Kenya to assess whether or not the HD nexus is leading to solutions for refugees. I argue that state interests continue to dominate the global refugee regime and its functioning in Kenya. Consequently, the rights, dignity, and well-being of refugees – the majority of which are hosted in the global South – continue to deteriorate, and it is increasingly difficult to find permanent solutions to their plight. As HD approaches are increasingly understood as important for finding solutions, these approaches including the self-reliance model in Kalobeyei must be centered on refugees’ rights rather than state interests. I propose that addressing the power asymmetry within the refugee regime and the corresponding lack of inclusivity of refugees and host communities in the development and implementation of programs and policies, is crucial to realizing solutions.