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Formation of a Resource Centre on Forced Migration in South Asia

MAHANIRBAN CALCUTTA RESEARCH GROUP (known as Calcutta Research Group or CRG) has undertaken steps to develop a South Asia Resource Centre on Forced Migration Studies in congruence with its research and orientation activities in this area. The activities of the Resource Centre (RC) will serve South Asian programmes on forced migration studies in which participants from all over South Asia will join. The RC will have various components and hold exchange activities under it. It will be an open access centre. It will be linked to RRN.

Formation of a Resource Centre on Forced Migration in South Asia

Developing as research and training centre on issues relating to issues of human rights and justice, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group’s (MCRG / CRG) work on among others issues protection of the victims of forced migration (such as refugees, IDPs and other victims of border violence, militarization of borders, and partitions) has earned attention and appreciation. Around the Annual Orientation Programme on Forced Migration (beginning in 2003 and till date seven courses held; for reports please visit - http://mcrg.ac.in/winter.htm) and the journal, REFUGEE WATCH, CRG’s relevant research, training, and publication activities have taken shape. The other areas of CRG’s work are: (a) Aspects of Post-colonial Democracy and Governance, covering issues of autonomy, social justice, development policies etc; (b) Peace Studies and Peace Dialogues in South Asia; and (c) Work on specific policies such as minority rights, development rights, gender rights, and globalization.

Through all these, CRG’s pioneering research and orientation activities in the field of displacement and forced migration have taken shape. Its study of the historical evolution of the state practices of asylum and protection in India is well-known. CRG has been able to show its ability to treat the issue of “forced migration” as holistic concept; the programme combines for its studies various forms of forced migration – internal and trans-border – and the basic rights and issues of refugee protection and internal displacement. Various types of forced migration – violence induced, environmental disaster induced, mixed forms of migration, development induced, gender oppression induced and other types of discrimination induced migration have been studies in CRG’s research programme. CRG’s research has also focused on state policies

CRG is perhaps the only research institute in eastern India, which offers an annual orientation course on forced migration. This course certified by the UNHCR and supported by the Government of Finland and the Brookings Institution, is an outcome of the ongoing and past work by the CRG, and other collaborating groups, institutions, scholars, and human rights and humanitarian activists in the field of refugee studies and the broad studies on displacement, human rights and humanitarian work for the victims of forced displacement. Policy analysis of laws and administrative measures in this field also inform the course. The duration of the course is three months. A two and a half month long distance education programme precedes the fifteen-day Kolkata workshop. Field work is the significant part of the course. Apart from classes and other sessions, the course has public lectures, discussions, and round tables. There is a media segment also. Participants come from all over South Asia, with some more joining from all other parts of the world, including Africa. This is important for the promotion of South-South collaboration.

The programme demonstrates CRG's reputation as an excellent research and training centre. It has also strengthened its links with several universities in South Asia and abroad. One of the salient features of the course is its public dimension, made possible with the cooperation of several institutions. Due to the growing popularity of the course the programme has now developed short courses in collaboration with willing centres and departments of Universities.

As an outcome of these activities and following the recognition that CRG is a centre of excellence CRG now intends to establish a Resource Centre on Forced Migration in South Asia. CRG is in a position to develop this resource centre comprising a library and a documentation unit. This centre will encourage new researches on issues of forced migration, displacement, protection of oustees, and rights of victims of forced migration. It is also intended that this research and resource centre will facilitate inter-country research collaboration in South Asia, award short term scholarships to young researchers and document myriad aspects of forced migration. CRG will also publicize its research results as widely as possible and organize short term training programmes for dissemination of knowledge thus culled. However, for that purpose CRG needs not only substantial financial support but also valuable advice from its distinguished members, colleagues, compatriots and friends. Towards this CRG held a consultative meeting on 2 December 2009 with Directors of various research centres and university department professors participating in the discussion.

The Centre will have the following components:

  • Books
  • Video material
  • Documents
  • Statistical information
  • Electronic referral system
  • Various reports and articles related to the annual winter course on Forced migration and links to various sources and sites
  • Short term visiting fellowships
  • Exchange programmes

As indicated, the Centre will offer small duration visiting fellowships to South Asian human rights and migration studies, so that researchers and activists can use the resource centre. Likewise the Centre will facilitate exchange visits of South Asian human rights activists and scholars working in the area of forced migration. Dossiers and relevant reports will emerge from these visits. There will be also a reading cum seminar room.

The Resource Centre is seen as an outcome of not only the Annual Orientation Programme on Forced Migration, but also a result of other associations and collaborations, for instance participation in the Refugee Research Network (RRN), International Association for Study of Forced Migration, partnership with PANOS South Asia, and collaboration with the Oxford University Refugee Studies Programme, and the Forced Migration Review. The Resource Centre will have links with them.

CRG’s research associates will run the Centre under the guidance of the CRG senior researchers conducting the entire programme on forced migration.

  • The amount will be directed towards the development of resource centre.
  • There is also a digitization plan as the collection grows.
  • The centre will become a ‘regional’ institutional repository for electronic resources that will be open to other organizations. Its resources will be of open access nature. Therefore other institutions will be able to always access it. There will be a registration procedure. Because the funding of the resource centre will come from more than one source (as I see it, mostly in small ways), CRG will be the repository, also it will act as the regional gathering centre for archival material.
  • We are starting the resource centre with the support we have for the Winter Course. The RRN support for its development will be vital. We feel little more assured now because the salaries for the development of the resource centre is now assured for one year due to RRN support. Therefore if the RRN resource development officer can help us in some way in developing the centre and projects related to the centre, it will be of great help.
  • As soon as the resource centre starts developing I think online collaboration with the RRN will not only be possible but necessary also. In order to develop collaboration it is important that the resource centre grows up as the regional centre at least to certain extent in order for all to access its resources. However I also think that even at the present stage with our meagre resources (web-based and other documents and books) on-line collaboration is possible. May be on the occasion of the next meeting we can find some time and discuss this as a priority issue.

 EXPECTED OUTCOMES

  • With the Resource Centre developing CRG will be able to serve better the South Asian research and human rights communities working on forced migration issue.
  • There will be greater online access of material in this region.
  • With the Resource Centre serving as a referral point on forced migration studies in this region will benefit.
  • There will be more effective collaboration with the RRN.

RELEVANCE TO THE REFUGEE RESEARCH NETWORK
The Resource Centre will be relevant to RRN in three ways :
1. Its digitization will help other members of the RRN to access it.
2. As a regional institutional repository for electronic resources it will strengthen RRN.
3. With the Resource Centre taking off online collaboration with RRN will become possible and necessary.
 

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