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SP15 - European crisis response: the role of citizen initiatives

Convened by Hanne Haaland (University of Agder, Norway), Lau Schulpen (Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands) and Hege Wallevik (University of Agder)

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Over the last 15 years, research into citizen initiatives in international development has slowly picked up and has more recently been broadened to include initiatives undertaken by citizens and citizen groups in light of the refugee crisis in Europe. We are all familiar with the actions of such citizen initiatives in the case of Greece, but we can also think about the many different ways in which citizens across Europe stood up to support refugees from Syria and, more recently, Ukraine. At the same time, we are equally familiar with the controversies around refugees – not only in terms of citizen aid actors’ mobilisation for European refugees versus refugees from other places but also with other citizens and citizen groups that strongly oppose refugees and the support provided to them.

Through a focus on both sides of such citizen initiatives (proponents and opponents), we try to understand the European crisis response. While there are undoubtedly similarities in the way citizen initiatives respond across Europe, we are also seeking differences in the conditions of their work. What then is the role and connection of governments and established civil society vis-à-vis these diverse citizen initiatives? What are the diverse ways in which these initiatives undertake their work and with what effects? How important is the discourse of attending to people ‘who are just like us’ versus people ‘different from us’? What are the arguments and discourses used by those citizen groups resisting an influx of refugees and how do they relate to those supporting refugees?

These are just some of the questions we feel are worthwhile to ask. If you have done research in this field or are planning to do so, send us an abstract and let us discuss the same during the EADI conference 2023 in Lisbon.