International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM)

The 13th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) will be hosted by the Refugee Law Project, Kampala, Uganda from June 26 to 30, 2011. Abstracts are due by October 31, 2010.
IASFM 13: Governing Migration

Introduction

This conference aims to explore key dimensions of the relationship between forms and tools of governance on the one hand and patterns and experiences of forced migration on the other.  To what extent is lack of ‘good governance’ a factor in generating forced migration?  Are some rights violations and particular types of ‘weak state’ more intimately related to forced migration than others?  How does the governance of migration intersect with other areas of governance, such as identity, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity?  What can be said about the international refugee rights regime and the more recent IDP Guiding Principles as forms of international and/or global governance which both contribute to and detract from the protection of forced migrants?  Does the gradual emergence of regional blocs such as the EU, OAS, SADC, ECOWAS and the East African Community create another layer of governance with particular beneficial or negative impacts on forced migration?  Do discourses and policies of ‘Good Governance’ help to stabilize situations and thereby contribute towards ‘durable solutions’ and a reduction in forced migration, or can they be better understood as a direct or indirect cause of it?  How is the relatively new field of Transitional Justice related to that of Good Governance, and do the fields of Transitional Justice and Forced Migration have anything to offer each other and the broader discussion of Good Governance?

In summary, the conference, under the title ‘Governing Migration’, will enable a wide-ranging exploration of both the direct and indirect relationships between conflict, governance and forced migration and transitional justice.  While relevant to forced migration situations around the globe, the theme has particular resonance in Uganda (the host country for IASFM 13) and the Great Lakes region of which it is part, Latin America and some Asian countries.   The Great Lakes region has seen some of the most extensive forced migration in recent times, including but not limited to the ongoing cycles of violence and forced migration in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the exodus of Rwandans following the 1994 Genocide, the mass internal displacement of people in northern Uganda as a result of interminable ‘war’ between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army, and an influx of Kenyans in the wake of rigged elections in early 2008.  The tabling of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill in late 2009 has also foregrounded the intimate relationship between attempts at governing sexuality and people being forced to move.  Whereas such dynamics are clearly emerging in the Great Lakes region of Africa and in Asia (e.g. in Sri Lanka, Burma and Indonesia), Latin American countries were among the first to experience internal forced migration caused by political conflict while in Central America lack of labour and post-conflict contexts force people to travel within countries and from country to country.

To enable broad involvement while at the same time seeking to significantly inform key policy discussions, we propose to structure IASFM 13 around the following three major themes and one cross-cutting theme, each of which has multiple strands:

  1. Governance and Patterns of Forced Migration
    Strands within this should include causes, perpetuation and solutions, meanings and practices of citizenship as part of the experience of forced migration, and the potential of citizenship policies to alter the relationship between forced migrants and the state.
  2. Governance and Protection
    Sub-themes may include regimes of rights, entitlements, and social protection, in addition to other related issues such as the linkages between transitional justice, displacement and reparations; transitional justice and property restitution; identities and citizenship (as a means of accessing certain rights, an indicator of or an antidote to migration); and governance & sexuality.
  3. Conflict, Forced Migration, and Transitional Justice
    Key themes within this strand include: to understand how forced migration may be a focus of, and challenge for, post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice; Transitional Justice as an instrument of good governance; to consider the trauma associated with forced displacement, and the extent to which transitional justice remedies may be used to address this trauma.  Should therapy be at the individual, household, or state level?  At what point in processes of displacement and return can transitional justice mechanisms best serve to address the traumas involved?  When is justice (or the lack thereof) a cause of forced migration? Could it serve to consolidate durable solutions?
  4. Relating domestic (and local), international and global governance,
    whether in respect to climate change, which, understandably, is not limited to state responsibility, but also as a wider global responsibility to protect as causes of destabilization, factors in (lack of) protection, or help and hindrance to domestic post-conflict recovery.

Specific objectives of IASFM 13

  • To juxtapose a number of discourses and areas of policy within the overall theme of governance (e.g. transitional justice & forced migration, sexuality and forced migration, justice & durable solutions) in order to prompt greater recognition of their mutual significance and the need to address them holistically;
  • To thereby widen and deepen the field of forced migration studies while at the same time promoting the importance of democratic citizenship as an anti-dote to forced migration;
  • To examine the extent to which existing international instruments and adjudicative institutions adequately address forced displacement (e.g. UNHCR, IOM, ICC, ICTR, ICTY, Special Court in Sierra Leone, CAVR in East Timor, etc.);
  • To examine the key variables affecting the number of refugees and IDPs and the variables affecting emergence of new legal instruments, such as the African convention on the Protection and Assistance of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons.  Alongside this is the related topic of how refugees and internally displaced people face and rebuild their lives after forced migration.

Structure of Conference

The Conference will create a space in which academic rigour engages with the compromises inherent in policy, as well as the challenges of practical work in the field. As such, while presentations of academic research will continue to provide the intellectual backbone of the conference, these will go hand in hand with round-tables engaging policy makers and governmental stakeholders, as well as presentations and discussions around practical approaches to dealing with forced migration from a range of practitioners.  Furthermore, the conference will draw on non-academic analyses, interpretations and representations of forced migration(e.g., portrayals of displacement using art & crafts, music and dance, fictional literature) in order to diversify the entry points into discussion of the major themes identified.

Alongside traditional panel presentations, the conference will also consist of plenaries, round-table discussions, public dialogues, film shows and cultural events. While the core of IASFM membership is academic, and academic contributions will be at the heart of the conference, there will also be a strong presence of policy-makers and activists, as the conference seeks to influence the relevant policy discussions and civil society interventions.

All participants, whether academic, policy-makers, donors, activists or forced migrants themselves, will present from their particular perspectives, but with an emphasis on stimulating live debate and pushing the boundaries of the discussion about the relationship between forced migration, key areas of governance, and justice (including transitional justice), as well as the boundaries of these respective fields. RLP, for example, is particularly concerned to continue our dialogue on gender, sexuality, masculinity, and their connections to violence, and the extent to which these can and should be accommodated in transitional justice thinking, as well as being factored into our understanding of forced migration. In relation to this, conference participants are encouraged to identify and establish panels examining comparative experiences, for example on Latin America and the Great Lakes.

Perhaps most importantly, the conference will include direct participation from refugees, asylum seekers and deportees. It is essential that refugees and asylum seekers—across a wide range of sex, class, national, and educational backgrounds—can participate directly in these debates which concern their very livelihoods and well-being. As the host organisation, and with a client base representing all the countries in the region, Refugee Law Project will ensure refugee representation in the conference as well as interpretation where possible. In this regard, the Conference methodologies will be adjusted to accommodate the presence of affected persons and therefore the Conference shall also consider ethical issues and psychological needs of people as it progresses.

Outcomes of the Conference

The conference is expected to be agenda-setting, and to produce tangible outcomes, including but not limited to press releases, an edited collection summarising key debates and discussion, and the publication of a book and a short documentary. Most importantly, however, the conference intends to insert the linkage between forced migration and governance into the larger policy debate, thus setting an agenda that is better able to address the human rights of forced migrants in the Great Lakes Region and elsewhere.

SUBMISSION OF ABSTRACTS

We invite submissions of abstracts of 250 words from academics, graduate students, practitioners, policy makers, individuals working with forced migrants and forced migrants themselves.  Submissions from all disciplines are welcome.  We wish to encourage practice-based presentations and other non-traditional means of exploring forced migration and its study, including film screenings, installations, and exhibitions.

Submissions may be of two types:

  • individual paper presentations,
  • proposals to organize a panel of up to four individuals on a particular theme or topic.

The submission deadline for abstracts is October 31st, 2010.  Submissions will be reviewed by the Programme Committee.  Presenters should expect to receive confirmation by 15 January 2011 if their submissions have been accepted.

Conference participants are responsible for their own expenses for attendance at the conference.  Some financial assistance may be available to assist those who might be otherwise unable to attend the conference.  Priority will be given to graduate students and individuals from the Global South.

Financial assistance will generally only be available to individuals presenting at the conference.  Details of this assistance will be posted on the IASFM website in the second half of 2010.  Further details about the conference and the online submission form can be found on the IASFM conference website: www.iasfmconference.org

Requests for further information can be made to the following email address: iasfm13 [at] iasfm [dot] org.