Reclaiming refugee agency and its implications for shelter design in refugee camps

Natalia Paszkiewicz, Daniel Fosas

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding

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Refugee agency refers to the notion of decision making exercised by forced migrants, and their efforts aimed at improving life in the context of displacement. As such, it has emerged as a useful concept to channel discussions about the challenges of current refugee encampment practices, which we argue encompasses consequences for the design and provision of shelter solutions. Building on the evidence collected in selected refugee camps of Jordan and Ethiopia, we suggest that acknowledging and incorporating the voices of refugees
can not only enhance their well-being in climatically, socially and politically challenging environments, but it could also be beneficial to other actors such as humanitarian agencies and host governments. While we recognize the constrains arising in these contexts, we focus on the importance of adaptations and customization of shelters that we found to be the leitmotiv and, more critically, a fundamental humanizing factor of refugee experience in camps. The refugees’ freedom to make choices about their own shelters can then be used to
rethink how to deliver better environments in which camp inhabitants can live in dignity. Although engineering design can only facilitate agency, rather than give it, it could help build the consensus about the pre-requisites
of what constitutes truly ‘appropriate’ shelters.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on: Comfort at the Extremes: Energy, Economy and Climate
Place of PublicationDubai
PublisherEcohouse Initiative Ltd
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019


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