In theory, refugee situations are resolved through the pursuit of three “durable solutions” to displacement: voluntary repatriation, local integration in host states or resettlement to third countries. Over the past 30 years, these options have become increasingly elusive. The failure to enable durable solutions has left 75 percent of refugees in situations of protracted displacement. How to unlock durable solutions for refugees has literally become a billion-dollar question as humanitarian agencies struggle to secure the funds necessary to support refugees hemmed in camps and barred from working. But the search for solutions is about more than money; it is about the rights, dignity and well-being of refugees themselves, and a matter of global justice: the vast majority of refugees — some 84 percent — remain in the Global South, often in states grappling with instability and widespread poverty, while Northern states fail to accept and enable durable solutions for large numbers of refugees. Building on this recognition, this paper reviews recent developments, ideas and opportunities associated with the search for durable solutions to the displacement of refugees and other forced migrants, in particular, internally displaced persons.

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Research papers are policy documents commissioned by the World Refugee Council from world-renowned experts to help inform the work of the Council and its final recommendations. The measures and concepts in these documents do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Refugee Council.
  • Megan Bradley is an associate professor of political science and international development studies at McGill University in Montreal. Her research and teaching focus on refugees, human rights, humanitarianism and transitional justice.