Round table with prof. dr. Barbarom Harrell-Bond: “The Process of return: (re)integration and home-(re)making in post-Dayton BiH”

CONCLUSIONS AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROUND TABLE In the light of the forthcoming Census of 2013, the Centre for refugee and IDP studies organized an international academic round-table entitled “The Process of return: (re)integration and home-(re)making in post-Dayton BiH,” held at Faculty of Political Sciences Department at the University of Sarajevo on March 13, 2013. Professor Emeritus Barbara Harrell-Bond, the renowned forced migration scholar from the University of Oxford, chaired a vibrant discussion on the sustainable return of refugees and IDPs in post-Dayton BiH. The participants at the roundtable included forced migration scholars from BiH, Croatia, UK and Australia. Representatives from international organizations included the UNHCR, the OSCE, the OHR, the EU Delegation to BiH, the BiH state and federal ministries for human rights and refugees, local and international NGOs (‘Vaša prava’ and ‘Hilfswerk’), and representatives of the local returnee associations (‘Izvor’ Prijedor, ‘Drina’ Srebrenica, Udruženje logoraša ‘Prijedor 1992’, Zajednica Hrvata Banja Luka, Demokratska inicijativa sarajevskih Srba).

The event was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences, Prof. Dr. Šaćir Filandra, the UNHCR Representative to BiH, Mr. Andrew Mayne, and the Director of CESI, Dr. Selma Porobić. The debate was aimed at raising the awareness and understanding of the importance of (re)integration and (re)making of home and identifying the key factors that influence the return process, its outcomes and sustainability. Above all, our objective was to focus on the needs of the displaced and returnees in their pursuit towards the restoration or transformation of a „home” at multiple levels (individual, household, community and societal). The main objective of the roundtable was hence to put in focus the sustainability of the return process to post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) by looking at the ability of the forcibly displaced and returnees to (re)integrate in their home (re)locations. This discussion brought attention to the prevailing life conditions of the displaced and returnees and the broader rights-based, socio-economic, political and cultural context of their emplacement process or (re)making of home. The return of the forcibly displaced is an essential and complex component of almost every current peace process and several United Nations bodies have recognized the importance of incorporating the rights of returning refugees and internally displaced persons directly into peace agreements. The return of approximately 2, 2 million forcibly displaced during the 1990s war in the BiH has accordingly been an important imperative of the peace building process, enshrined in Annex VII of General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) that further regulates the right of all displaced BH citizens to return to their pre-war privately or socially owned properties. Implementation of the Dayton peace Agreement’s provisions on return has not been smooth during the past 18 years. However, the comprehensive rights-based perspective on return involving particular conception of right to return, as the right to reclaim one’s original home, has been highly influential in the return process and established this right as a new international norm. While there is impressive and growing body of case-specific literature on return of displaced persons in the context of peace process in BiH, particularly looking at success of return in total numbers of pre-war property reclaimed, little attention has been given to reviewing the sustainability of return by focusing on qualitative features of the actual returnee reality i.e. broader life conditions of returnees and experiences of life after the return to pre-war locations. The debate helped us disclose pertaining problematic of sustainable return and durable and satisfactory solutions for returnees in today’s BiH and offered important guidelines for further studies, and in particular the action oriented research that aims at providing recommendations and guidelines for concrete measure undertaking towards bettering of the social position and life conditions of the displaced and returnees in today’s BiH. Discussion clearly demonstrated that the long-term sustainability of return to post-Dayton BiH is embedded in a counterproductive political context and continues to be particularly related to betterment of access to basic human rights such as security, access to education, employment and social benefits – all key factors influencing the (re)integration, (re)construction and (re)making of home. All these aspects are closely linked to implementation of legal and policy-grounded measures incorporated in the Strategy for Implementation of Annex 7 and its revised version, adopted in 2010, and the Law on Refugees and IDPs, currently in the parliamentary procedure. CESI promotes multidisciplinary and collaborative research on the following inter-related topics, which we hope can contribute to improvement of life conditions and the social position of the returnees in BiH: -course and phases of return (‘majority’ and ‘minority’ return, ‘spontaneous’ return, ‘open-ended’ return, ‘revolving’ return and so on); -rural and urban contexts of return; -(re)integration practices and (re)establishment of livelihoods, including property repossession, obtaining social security, access to basic human rights and social services such as education, health and employment and discriminatory practices in accessing and enjoying these rights); -returnee perspectives (desire and decision to return with emphasis on life reality post-return and home (re)making; -good practices of return and resilient returnees. We encourage all the participants to continue their enthusiastic involvement and contribution to the debate on sustainable return in post-Dayton BiH, and welcome individual conclusions and guidelines for further cooperation regarding this important field. Best regards, CESI team