Peace by repatriation : Concepts, cases, and conditions

Abstract: The focus of this study is the assumption that the return of refugees is a necessary condition for the establishment of sustainable peace after armed conflict. This assumption is often made in the peacebuilding literature as well as by policy makers, but it has rarely been the object of systematic analysis. The purpose of the study, therefore, is to test this assumption, which I label the “peace-by-repatriation thesis.” I adopt a two-step approach to analyzing the peace-by-repatriation thesis. The first step is to formulate an analytical framework. The second step is to use the framework to test the peace-by-repatriation thesis on a medium number of cases. The formulation of the analytical framework starts with an examination of previous research. I trace the theoretical foundations of the peace-by-repatriation thesis in research on peacebuilding, forced migration, and partition. The analytical framework is further informed by case studies of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nagorno-Karabakh, two cases that represent opposing perceptions of repatriation as a condition for peace. I adopt a set-theoretic approach to test the peace-by-repatriation thesis. I describe in some detail how the key concepts of the analytical framework are operationalized. I select and code forty-three cases—terminated conflicts that caused large-scale displacement—and use fuzzy-set analysis to test the peace-by-repatriation thesis. The analysis shows that repatriation is not a necessary condition for sustainable peace. Instead, ending displacement—irrespective of how this is done—turns out to be an important condition for peace. This result is consistent across tests of different combinations of cases and tests using alternative operationalizations of key concepts. Taken together, the fuzzy-set analysis and the case studies suggest that the relationship between repatriation and peace will vary from case to case and that pre-war interethnic relations is one of the circumstances that affect that relationship.