Chatham House: Two new papers on resolving the Palestinian refugee issue

Posted: March 8, 2012 by Rex Brynen in new publications, peace process
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The Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House has just published two new programme papers on the Palestinian refugee issue:

International Support for Reparation Processes and the Palestinian Refugee Issue
Heike Niebergall and Norbert Wuehler, February 2012

 Key findings from this paper include:

  •  Most large-scale reparation claims processes have received considerable assistance from third parties, both during the period leading to the establishment of the programme and during the programme’s implementation. The support has ranged from facilitating negotiations leading to the establishment of a programme to its full implementation by an international body.
  • A final resolution of the Palestinian refugee crisis will require extensive international support. Political support by sponsor governments should be complemented by technical assistance from international organizations with experience in large-scale claims programmes and the implementation of residency options for refugees and displaced persons.
  • While the preparatory technical work on the Palestinian refugee file has been primarily aimed at assisting the parties in the negotiations for a two-state solution, the comparative overview shows that in other contexts the start of reparation process has not hinged on the existence of a negotiated peace agreement by the parties and that international support has been helpful in bringing about such a process in other ways as well.
  • Both the volume and shelf life of the preparatory work performed to date on the Palestinian refugee file raise issues about its validity, accessibility and usability in future and require monitoring and stocktaking to avoid repetition and inefficiency. International sponsors might also wish to take on a more active role to ensure that expectations and messages regarding available support to the Palestinian refugee issue are realistically and constructively managed.

Implementing a Negotiated Settlement on the Palestinian Refugee Question: The International Dimensions
Leila Hilal, January 2012

Key findings from this paper include:

  •  There are an estimated six million Palestinian refugees, with thousands more internally displaced inside Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Resolving their plight has been a core part of the peace agenda in the Middle East since 1948.
  • While considerable diplomatic effort in the past two decades has centred on reaching a bilateral settlement between Israelis and Palestinians on the principal framework for a permanent status solution, implementing any agreement that may be reached presents an equally massive challenge.
  • Any permanent status agreement that would see the end of conflict would have to address the moral, legal, and material aspects of the refugee question, including the provision of durable solutions to ensure permanent national protection and socio-economic development for refugees.
  • Third parties and international agency representatives will be especially critical for lending political, financial, and logistical support and needed technical expertise, which are likely to be channelled through an agreed institutional arrangement, or ‘implementation mechanism’. The mechanism should account for both dimensions of a comprehensive solution to the refugee question: repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation, and reparations.
  • Early preparations by the international community in consultation with refugees, refugee hosting-governments, and the parties would benefit an eventual implementation phase. Preparations should avoid prejudicing any future agreement to be decided by the parties while anticipating policy options. This paper outlines possible international contributions and their implications based on wide consultations and reflection on existing technical preparatory activities.

The papers are part of the “Minister Lovell Process,” an ongoing project of Chatham House focusing on the Palestinian refugee issue:

 These papers are the products of a research project, Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East Peace Process: Regional and International Components of an Implementation Mechanism,funded by the European Commission, which built on the findings of previous Chatham House work on the Palestinian refugee issue as part of the Minster Lovell Process.

This phase of the project specifically aimed at the preparations needed for implementation of the refugee component of an agreement, should the parties reach it. It is assumed that reaching a better understanding of the implementation process will in itself facilitate the attainment of an agreement.

The Minster Lovell Process has been running for over 13 years and aims to provide an informal mechanism to bridge some of the communication gaps that exist between parties directly concerned with the Palestinian refugee issue, regional players and international policy-makers.

For further information, please feel free to contact Helen Twist on+44 (0)20 7957 5735 or htwist@chathamhouse.org

PRRN reports on recent “Minster Lovell” meetings can be found here (October 2011) and here (December 2011).

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