What is it about?

The article discusses the Rohingya refugee crisis from the perspective of protection, capacity development, and localization, and argues that: ...protection is about the actual realization of rights in practice; that achieving such a goal requires a range of capacities among a diverse set of stakeholder that align with the needs of refugees in a particular context; and that local protection capacity, "requires a well-coordinated platform, committed to inclusivity and collaboration among all relevant stakeholders across a whole-of-society approach."

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Why is it important?

States in South and South-East Asia have failed to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to refugees stranded at sea. Stateless Rohingya refugees across the region face multiple and overlapping protection challenges, including a lack of documentation, detention, lack of access to justice, lack of access to basic services such as education and affordable healthcare, lack of access to livelihoods, risk of trafficking and exploitative work, tensions with host communities and lack of access to information. Meanwhile, human rights defenders and humanitarian relief workers, rather than advocating for improvements, rather than making progress, are finding it increasingly necessary to defend against the deterioration of well-established protection principles. How do we engage with challenges that seem so intractable? This paper argues that the starting point for the practitioner must be understanding the needs of stateless Rohingya refugees themselves and of host communities, and determining how those needs can be met. The starting place for improved protection outcomes in South and South-East Asia should be the development of local protection capacity among a diverse set of collaborating actors, including, but going well-beyond, the State.


It is easy to feel exasperation and hopelessness in the face of the big picture: State neglect, responsibility-avoidance rather than responsibility-sharing, and a lack of any foreseeable solutions. This paper attempts to remind us of the impact that can still be had in practice, particularly by non-State actors on the ground, and particularly when pursued collaboratively.

Brian Barbour
University of New South Wales

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A Whole-of-Society Approach to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Strengthening Local Protection Capacity in South and South-East Asia, Asia Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law, June 2021, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15718158-22010003.
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