Children and Adolescents in Sahrawi and Afghan Refugee Households:
Living with the Effects of Prolonged Armed Conflict and Forced Migration
This study aims to bridge the theoretical and applied divide which is common to much of the research directed at children and adolescents. It is built upon the earlier ground-breaking and innovative study of children and adolescents in Palestinian households in the Middle East. Using a similar participatory research approach and querying the same basic Western assumptions, it examines the ways children and adolescents in Sahrawi refugee households in Algeria and other parts of North Africa as well as in Afghan refugee families in Iran live with the effects of prolonged conflict and forced migration. The primary objectives of the research are two-fold to contribute to a better understanding of child and adolescent development which moves beyond the Western model elaborated by developmental psychology; and to provide local, regional, and international NGOs and IGOs, and national governments with a more nuanced appreciation of the effects of prolonged conflict and forced migration on children and adolescents and their caregivers. The project integrates an organic research design with a practical agenda to improve delivery, policy, and programmes to help practitioners to provide better services. Local practitioners and researchers were integrated into the research programme by first identifying current policies and practices. These were then taken into account in designing a participatory research methodology intended to be implemented by local and international researchers. It should result in improved project, policy and programming delivery, as well as transferable lessons learned and good practice guide for refugee children and adolescents.
Overall Conclusions: Refugee Youth in Prolonged Forced Migration
Based on data collected between 1999 and 2005 and the reflections of team leaders, other researchers, practitioners, and policymakers present at the workshop, the following lessons learned were drawn from the research programme on refugee children and youth in the Middle East and North Africa:
1) Gender and generation are significant considerations to include in studies and projects which seek to understand the experiences of young refugees.
2) The ethical management of research and collaboration with local associations are vital to bridge the gap between academia and practice.
3) Participatory Research Approaches (PRA) that are mindful of social context and ethical issues can be effective tools for identifying the priorities of refugee youth and for encouraging a sense of agency and ownership.
4) Policies affecting refugee youth should a) reflect a holistic and participatory approach; b) recognise the importance of oral history and memory; c) encourage self-reliance, self-expression, and empowerment; and, d) prioritise education and vocational training.