Seminar: 'The Urbanization of Forced Displacement'

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Event details

Thursday 26 January 2023


Title: Book discussion - The Urbanization of Forced Displacement

Dr Neil J. W. Crawford (School of Geography, University of Leeds, United Kingdom)

Abstract: Displacement in the twenty-first century is urbanized. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the world’s largest humanitarian organization and the main body charged with assisting displaced people globally, estimates that over 60 per cent of refugees now live in urban areas, a proportion that only increases in the case of internally displaced people and asylum seekers. Though cities and local authorities have become essential participants in the protection of refugees, only three decades ago they were considered to sit firmly beyond UNHCR’s remit, with urban refugees typically characterized as aberrations. In The Urbanization of Forced Displacement Crawford examines the organization’s response to the growing number of refugees migrating to urban areas. Introducing a broader study of policy-making in international organizations, Crawford addresses how and why UNHCR changed its policy and practice in response to shifting trends in displacement. Citing over 400 primary UN documents, Crawford provides an in-depth study of the internal and external pressures faced by UNHCR - pressures from above, below, and within - that explain why it has radically transformed its position from the 1990s onward. UNHCR and global refugee policies have come to play an increasingly important role in the governance of global displacement. The Urbanization of Forced Displacement sheds new light on how the organization works and how it conceives its role in global politics today.

Bio: Neil J. W. Crawford is a Research Fellow in Climate Action at the School of Geography, University of Leeds (United Kingdom) and a Research Associate at the Refugee Law Project, Makerere University (Uganda). Neil works on the UK Research and Innovation-funded project, ‘Gender, Generation and Climate Change (GENERATE): Creative Approaches to Building Inclusive and Climate Resilient Cities in Uganda and Indonesia’, leading work in Uganda. They are the author of the monograph, The Urbanization of Forced Displacement: UNHCR, Urban Refugees, and the Dynamics of Policy Change (McGill–Queen's University Press, 2021), and co-editor of The Climate Connection – Cultural Relations Collection (British Council, 2021) and Climate Justice in the Majority World (Routledge, 2023).

Discussant: Ali Bilgic, Reader in International Relations and Security; Director of Global Engagement, Loughborough University, UK

Bio: Ali is a Reader in International Relations and Security at Loughborough University and served as the 2017-19 Prince Claus Chair (PCC) in Development and Equity at the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.As PCC, Ali worked under the theme of 'Migration and Human Security. He is conducting research in Loughborough as a leading expert in international migration in the Secure and Resilient Societies Global Challenge. Ali is the Research Lead of 'Challenges to the Public Space and Democracy' at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities. His research interests include migration, Middle East politics and international relations, security studies, postcolonial and feminist international relations, emotions in global politics, trust-building in politics and international relations. 

He is the author of Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration: Trust and Emancipation in Europe (Routledge, 2013), Turkey, Power and the West: Gendered International Relations and Foreign Policy (Bloomsbury, 2016), Positive Security: Collective Life in an Uncertain World (Routledge, 2022, co-authored with Gunhild Gjorv Hoogensen).

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