About the project

The United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) reports that there are 25.4 million refugees and 68.5 million forcibly displaced people, and only a small fraction are able to return to their former homes (UNHCR 2019). The Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria has precipitated humanitarian tragedy on a scale comparable to the Nigerian civil war (1967- 1970) and arguably the worst of any manmade or natural disaster in Nigeria’s history. At one point, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimated that up to 3.3 million people were internally displaced due to terrorist violence by Boko Haram (International Displacement Monitoring Centre 2015). The crisis has since escalated beyond Nigeria’s border to the whole Lake Chad region comprising NIger Republic, Cameroon, Chad, and Being Republic. The number of people displaced by this conflict is one of the largest in the world. Contrary to traditional top-down approaches to humanitarian action, this proposal places a strong emphasis on the agency of displaced peoples, and how this is developed and expressed at the individual level (human capital) and the communal level (social capital). This project therefore addresses an urgent need by scrutinising how humanitarian actions can be redesigned around affected people as the main actors, not just recipients of aid.  

Traditional, mainly material approaches to interventions in disaster situations have come under increased scrutiny in recent years because they have failed to deliver desired long-term outcomes and have encountered resource and capacity constraints in the face of continually expanding humanitarian crises. In particular, scholars and practitioners are highlighting the need to shift from the current emphasis on material solutions and financial input, to an approach that combines both material and social solutions, bringing people and communities to the forefront of humanitarian action (Aldrich & Meyer 2014; Wind & Komproe 2012; Johnson et al. 2013). The study therefore seeks to examine the extent to which the displaced populations are drawing on social and human capital to withstand, cope with and recover from the adverse experiences and consequences of the insurgency and counterinsurgency. This can point to opportunities and methods for humanitarian actors to stimulate social and human capital among crisis-affected people purposively as part of their interventions, with the aim of better outcomes and value for aid money. In pursuance of the project objectives, this proposal brings together a multi-disciplinary team including, among others, development/entrepreneurship researchers, one historian, clinical psychologists, a UN partner, NGOs,  and collaborators from two affected ODA countries, to ensure a broad perspective and rigorous approach to an important global challenge.

The project sits at the heart of the UN SDG16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, for which De Montfort University was recently selected by the UN as a Global Hub. Conflict situations everywhere are typically associated with negative social capital and low levels of human capital, and these are often inter-linked with in-group bias, outgroup prejudice, and other factors that precipitate and aggravate inter-group conflicts. We therefore expect that the findings of this study will have impacts on institutional transformation and more effective humanitarian actions across the world. In addition to SDG16, the project will also contribute directly to the following goals:

  • Goal 1 poverty eradication:examine the link between forced displacement and extreme poverty, and explore how displaced households are using social capital to overcome poverty. 
  • Goal 3 on health and well-being: shed light on mental-health dimensions and outcomes in situations of forced displacement, and how they interface with human and social capital. 
  • Goal 4 on quality education: explore access to, and quality of, educational opportunities- as a source of human capital in displaced households. Specifically, the project will look specifically the impact of existing interventions on disruptions to education of children and girls.
  • Goal 8 on decent work for all: investigate the role of social capital and knowledge and vocational skills (human capital) on new venture creation, entrepreneurial growth and organisation of new markets.
  • Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities: examine the impact of social capital on transformation of temporal settlements and inter-communal peace-building. 

To learn more about the project, please contact Dr Seun Kolade via seun.kolade@dmu.ac.uk