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November 25, 2020 Centre for Peace and Justice

Centre for Peace and Justice, Brac University, hosted a virtual inaugural ceremony on November 24, 2020, to celebrate the official start of the Refugee Studies Unit (RSU). The establishment of RSU is a major step in furthering CPJ’s vision to support Bangladesh’s humanitarian and development sectors in building expertise and skills for peacebuilding, justice and social cohesion.

In order to support the Rohingya humanitarian response as a knowledge partner, CPJ began developing RSU in 2018 to generate knowledge, understanding and capacities for the intersecting crises of statelessness, displacement and forced migration affecting Bangladesh. As a central element of CPJ’s strategic plan for 2021-2023, RSU will build a research agenda and focus on four thematic areas in order to ensure appropriate and empirically informed responses by policymakers, donors and the humanitarian community that meet the needs of refugees and others living in fragile settings. These four thematic areas are: Participatory Action Research, Situation and Context Analysis, Research & Knowledge Repository, and Higher Learning.

Gracing the launch ceremony were CPJ’s three distinguished guests: the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, His Excellency Robert Chatterton Dickson, the Vice Chancellor of Brac University Professor Vincent Chang and Her Excellency Laetitia van den Assum, former member of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chaired by Kofi Annan.

H.E. Robert Dickson officially launched the RSU and stressed the importance of the Unit’s work in keeping the spotlight on the Rohingya refugee crisis by bringing critical expertise and knowledge to the ongoing humanitarian emergency in Bangladesh. “It’s important that the humanitarian operation in Cox’s Bazar continues because the longer-term solution that will enable the Rohingyas to return to Rakhine will not happen quickly… it would take a while for a million people to return to a state that has been very badly damaged.” Thus, “the setting up of the Refugees Studies Unit is really useful.“ H.E. Dickson continued: “I’m really glad that within part of a longer-term partnership with the Centre for Peace and Justice, we, in the High Commission and the British Government, have been able to support this.”

H.E. van den Assum highlighted that “the demands on the Unit are many and complex” and as a former member of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, she is willing to assist in any capacity.  She believes that the RSU’s active research and outreach to policy makers can make a difference in the lives of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh.

Professor Chang said he fully supports the Centre for Peace and Justice’s engagement with the Rohingya people through education, research, training and advocacy. “One of the RSU’s objective is to conduct research and ultimately generate new knowledge,” he said. In doing so, the RSU will be able to contribute toward possible solutions to the Rohingya refugee issue and other crises.

CPJ Executive Director Manzoor Hasan moderated the inaugural ceremony. M. Shahidul Islam, Research Fellow and Jessica Olney, Visiting Research Fellow of CPJ made a presentation on the Refugee Studies Unit.