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Article Article August 4th, 2017

Reading corner: Failure & Hope: Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced

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Failure and Hope: Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced

By Christine Mahoney

Cambridge University Press


Christine Mahoney's Failure & Hope: Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced is a powerful voice of the forgotten and the unheard.

Using a blend of fieldwork and academic research, Mahoney examines the international community's response to one of the 61 major protracted displacement crises which have led to there being 60 million forcibly displaced people in 2015 - the highest since the Second World War.

Backed with analysis of Western media, the book depicts how the global agenda offers a distorted view of the reality of forced displacement. Firstly, global attention has been sporadic. While some crises are largely ignored by the international community, a few crises dominate most of the media coverage and capture most of the public's attention. These include the Palestinian crisis, which has lasted for decades and, more recently, the Syrian crisis, which has forced 11 million people to flee their homes.

Mahoney, though, points out that nearly 4 million people have been forcibly displaced in Colombia yet this has received barely any coverage in the Western media. This disconnect has seriously hindered the ability to effectively advocate for the rights of the forcibly displaced.

The dispossessed have to pay a double penalty. Firstly, they have to leave their homes to survive and, by doing so, they have to give up on their houses, jobs and communities. And then, when they arrive in the host country - and after a perilous journey - they are confined in camps or left with nothing if they settle in urban areas.

Mahoney illustrates what the future looks like when you are an 18-year-old living in a refugee camp, one that will likely be set-up in a hostile location, hours away from the nearest city. As a refugee, you will almost certainly not have the right to move freely outside the camp anyway.

As a refugee, you will almost certainly not have the right to move freely outside the camp anyway. The camp might be the only place that you have known for your entire life; in some camps built decades ago, people were born, have lived and will likely die in that exact same place. Meals are the same mix of corn meals and lentils every day, and as for housing, white UNHCR tents offer no privacy whatsoever.

If you are lucky, you will have received primary education and if you are among the smartest, you will have received secondary education as well. But what would you do once you graduate? You are not allowed to work in your host country, and you probably can't go back to your homeland as it might still not be safe for you. As Mahoney points out, you are 18-years-old and you don't have any hope for your future.

The situation facing today's generation of forcibly displaced people is extremely critical but, thankfully, some fresh solutions are emerging. Mahoney uses the final part of her book to highlight recommendations including leveraging social entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and micro-finance to address the issues from a new perspective.

The challenge is huge but, as Mahoney demonstrates, there are new and innovative solutions on offer. As a result, she leaves the reader with a strong desire to get involved and the belief that a new approach can lead to better results.

Written by:

Sophie Gebel
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