Rethinking System Boundaries
As early as 1999, Macrae traces and criticizes the process of the political and aid continua from conflict to peace and from relief to development, which would ideally be lineal. In spite of this, diverse aid agencies work in humanitarian aid and development and the programs have been built onto each other, which turns out to be more complex. Linking development, or in broad terms, medium-term assistance with refugee protection can provide improved protection, thus living conditions, for all refugees because it includes measures for participation and development (Krause 2013).
The systems approach to child protection provides many entry points to adequately develop and promote concepts. Protection systems aim to specify comprehensive and stable structures for children; however, this requires diverse aid agencies and government institutions to engage in in-depth analyses of the respective context to integrate national and refugee children as well as conceptualize, implement, and maintain systems. Considering that refugee situations occur in various contexts ranging from fragile, developing, and stable states, a variety of intensities are required to develop and/or improve child protection systems. For example, complex crises, such as of Syrian refugees in Lebanon or Turkey, initially require stronger safety and security structures, while PRS (e.g., Somali refugees in Kenya) demand a focus on social security, development, and participation. Despite differences, it is key in all contexts that international, national, nongovernmental, and local actors cooperate, and that donors provide the necessary funding to initiate and maintain processes. Consequently, as a basic principle, political will and commitment is required from all stakeholders.
Child protection is, however, part of a state’s responsibilities. Even though the UNHCR and its partners often take over refugee protection in the Global South, their aid falls outside of national service schemes provided by the states for their population. When durable solutions cannot be reached and refugees are stuck in protracted refugee situations, dual service structures may be developed based on humanitarian short-term projects that are often insufficient and detached from national services. The challenges for refugee children in PRS show asymmetries in the refugee systems; state, humanitarian, and development agencies neglect to see children as active rights-holders and are insufficient to improve protection measures, requiring adjustment of system boundaries. The systems approach could help to integrate refugee children as a part of all children in a state; however, the capacities of the UNHCR are limited with regard to sustainable changes of the normative framework and the wider context. As long as PRS are handled as a subsystem coordinated by humanitarian aid, long-term reforms and changes in the national system will always miss the realities of refugee children.