Assessing the Environmental Constraints of Repatriation and Reintegration in Post-Conflict Societies: Implications for Policy and a Durable Peace

Postconflict peacebuilding has come to exemplify the process of consolidating peace in war-torn socieities. For the international community, repatriation and reintegration are viewed not only as the most durable solution to addressing refugees but also as critical to postconflict peacebuilding success. This paper uses environmental constraints as an explanatory lens to understand outcomes of refugee repatriation and reintegration. Specifically, it examines two key environmental constraints – access to productive land and natural resources extraction to meet livelihood needs. This paper focuses on the refugee repatriation and reintegration processes in postconflict Mozambique, Guatemala and Rwanda and makes three substantive arguments. First, the underlying norms, assumptions and decisions of national governments and the international community – which emphasizes repatriation and reintegration to one’s home of origin or home community – may actually be counterproductive to short-term protection, sustainable reintegration and long-term stability. Second, although refugees frequently want to return home, their choices are made with the intention of seeking out better livelihoods over time and space. And third, environmental constraints are significant, and can have either positive or negative repercussions for sustained peace in postconflict societies. In the end, this paper is a preliminary assessment that raises questions for further empirical work.