Modeling the Political and Social Dynamics of Protracted Refugee Situations
Thematically, our projects look at the macro, meso, and micro-level causes and effects of protracted refugee situations. We are interested in understanding the international affairs that lock refugees in camps or along country borders, how NGOs contribute or exacerbate length of stay in refugee status, and how refugees themselves change through the process and experience of displacement. We are working on modeling the macro-level processes (international affairs) as well as micro-level processes (refugee identities) and the interconnection of NGOs working between the two using system dynamics and agent-based models. We’re hoping this leads to insights about possible alternative durable solutions to the three proposed/promoted by the UNHCR. Our ongoing projects are listed below.
Health Dynamics in Protracted Refugee Situations
This project looks at the effects of protracted refugee status on chronic health conditions. Refugees are provided food through international nongovernmental organizations that provide the bare minimum caloric intake for human survival, often at the cost of severe malnutrition and chronic diseases that result from nutritional deficiencies and idleness. Refugees in these situations often feel that some conditions—inability to digest corn or diabetes—are death sentences. This project will collect primary data in Greece and Rwanda among refugees and refugee stakeholders to develop models and simulations of health and health consequences in a protracted refugee context. These model(s) could be adapted to understand the dynamics and evolution of protraction in other areas of the world. The data collection and model-building effort would also be supplemented by a data visualization component that would allow one to virtually walk through a refugee camp and learn about the health consequences of life in protracted exile.
Shifting Refugee Identities in Protracted Situations
This project uses agent-based modeling and extensive survey datato understand how refugees integrate with local communities, apply coping mechanisms during the integration process, and shift their identities and behaviors over time. Our first model-building session occurred in Lesvos, Greece in May 2017, the second in Kristiansand, Norway in August 2017. This ongoing project is focused on developing algorithms that speak to underlying challenges with integrating vast numbers of refugees into a host community for extended periods of time.
Citizen Initiatives & Pop-up NGOs in Humanitarian Crisis
In this project, we are collaborating with two Global Development experts from the University of Agder in Norway to try to model the way that nongovernmental organizations arise and adapt in contexts of immediate humanitarian crisis. This work is inspired by the varied typology of humanitarian actors that emerged in response to the European refugee crisis, specifically as it happened in Lesvos, Greece. The team met in Lesvos, Greece in May 2017 and Kristiansand, Norway in August 2017 to work toward a model that will help policymakers evaluate the responses to the refugee crisis in Lesvos. This work currently uses a system dynamics modeling approach to investigate the relationship between actors in the humanitarian response efforts.
Internal Displacement Predictions in the Democratic Republic of Congo
We are working on a pilot project with UNOCHA to try to develop an agent-based model that provides better predictive capabilities of internal displacement than traditional statistical models. The project is currently in its early phases, with a prototype model of North Kivu Province, DRC is in development.