Research Project Goals

by Beth Mitchneck and Susan Kaleita; posted 2009

Recent reports estimate the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide to be 26 million.
IDP populations often live in the poorest areas, with little access to food, appropriate shelter, or employment opportunities. As a consequence, the development of coping mechanisms and strategies for the accumulation of resources for livelihood become very important. Over the past twenty years, a number of intergovernmental, international humanitarian aid organizations and a large variety of other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have worked with governments and local populations to manage the IDP situation and to help provide necessary emergency relief and resettlement assistance. But in spite of the mobilization of resources and assistance, IDPs remain displaced for long periods of time.

Our study explores the case of forced migration in Georgia, a country between Russia, Turkey, and two other Caucasian countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Because of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the recent non-violent Rose Revolution resulting in political regime change, and a series of violent conflicts resulting in IDPs, the entire population of Georgia has experienced significant social and economic displacement but only a portion has experienced territorial displacement.

A series of civil wars beginning in the early 1990s, two in Abkhazia, a Georgian region along the Russian border, and another in South Ossetia, created an estimated 260,000 IDPs. The Russian civil war in Chechnya generated an additional inflow of roughly 4,000 refugees into Pankisi Gorge, just south of the Russian border in Georgia. After more than a decade, neither the Abkhaz or South Ossetian conflict situation has reached a stable resolution. The Russo-Georgian war in August 2008 created another flow of new IDPs into the Georgian system.

    This multi-disciplinary research project has three overarching research goals:

  • to analyze how forced migrants in "post"-conflict situations, and IDPs in particular, use social networks in the construction of livelihood strategies (means of accumulating resources for human security, both material and non-material, and financial and in-kind);

  • to analyze the extent to which those strategies and networks result directly or indirectly from interactions between IDPs and governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in "post"-conflict management;

  • to analyze the extent to which in "post"-conflict situations there are differences across gender and dwelling type as well the local and the IDP populations in the ways that they construct livelihood strategies and social networks

Funding Organizations

National Science Foundation
The University of Arizona
Rutgers University