Institute of Development Policy

Voices from Abroad 2021

This year IOB and CeMIS are happy to welcome Prof. dr. Alexander Betts, Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs (University of Oxford).). Prof. Betts will give an online public lecture on Monday 26 April and an online PhD seminar held Tuesday 27 April.

The Wealth of Refugees: How Displaced People Can Build Economies

Monday 26 April 2021 19.00h to 21.00h : public seminar with registrations

We live in an age of displacement. Refugee numbers are increasing due to a proliferation of fragile states, and this problem will be exacerbated by climate change and the legacy of COVID-19.. And yet, rising populist nationalism has undermined the political willingness of rich countries to accept migrants and asylum seekers. Given these contradictory trends, how can we create sustainable refugee policies that can enable displaced people to live in safety and dignity, while operating at scale? Alexander Betts' new book, the Wealth of Refugees, draws upon a decade of original qualitative and quantitative research to offer practical solutions. Focusing on refugees in camps and cities in Africa, it identifies approaches that can be effective in improving the welfare of refugees, increasing social cohesion between refugees and host communities, and reducing the need for onward migration.  The book argues that the key lies in unlocking the potential contributions of refugees themselves. They bring skills, talents, and aspirations and can be a benefit rather than a burden to receiving societies. Realising this potential relies upon moving beyond a purely humanitarian focus to fully include refugees in host country economies, build economic opportunities in refugee-hosting regions, and navigate the ambiguous politics of refugee protection. 

Pre-order the book.

Doing Policy-Engaged Research on Refugees: Challenges and Opportunities

Tuesday 27 April 2021 9.00h to 12.00h : PhD seminar with registration

In this seminar, Alexander Betts will speak about the research methods underlying his new book The Wealth of Refugees. The book draws upon a mixed methods approach, integrating qualitative and quantitative research. It is interdisciplinary, drawing upon politics, economics, anthropology, and history. Meanwhile, it also uses participatory research methods, including through employing refugees as enumerators and research assistants. The book is also based on extensive fieldwork in Africa, including with refugee populations, raising a series of research ethics questions. Part of the aspiration of the book is engage policy-makers and practitioners. In this context, Betts will reflect upon a series of research challenges: interdisciplinarity, participation, policy-engagement, and mixed methods research, and consider the ethical and practical dilemmas and trade-offs inherent to this type of research. 


Alexander is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs, Senior Fellow in Politics at Brasenose College, and Associate Head of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford. He served as Director of the Refugee Studies Centre between 2014 and 2017. His research focuses on the politics and economics of refugee assistance. In additional to ten other books, he is co-author, with Paul Collier, of Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Penguin Allen Lane), which was named by the Economist as one of the 'Best Books of 2017'. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, was named by Foreign Policy magazine in the top 100 global thinkers of 2016, and by Thinkers50 as an emerging business influencer. His TED talks have been viewed by over 3 million people, and he has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post. He has previously worked for UNHCR and serves as a Councillor on the World Refugee Council. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS), and has published academic articles in, for example, World Development, the Journal of Development Studies, African Affairs, Migration Studies, Ethics and International Affairs, and Perspectives on Politics.  He leads the IKEA Foundation-funded Refugee Economies Programme, and is author of the forthcoming The Wealth of Refugees: How Displaced People Can Build Economies (Oxford University Press, 2021).