Guy Grossman offers a model for refugee hosting

The political science professor investigates the effects of Uganda’s refugee-hosting reforms on preventing public backlash.

There are roughly 26 million refugees in the world. Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with approximately 1.5 million refugees, largely from South Sudan. School of Arts & Sciences Professor of Political Science Guy Grossman has spent more than 15 years conducting research in Uganda and recently co-authored a new paper in World Development titled “Inclusive Refugee-Hosting Can Improve Local Development and Prevent Public Backlash” that finds Uganda may be a model for the rest of the world for refugee-hosting, particularly for low-income countries.

Guy Grossman.
Guy Grossman, political science professor in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences. (Image: Courtesy of OMNIA)

“I embarked on this research because I noticed, having spent considerable time in Uganda, that the country had an inclusive refugee policy without seemingly experiencing the negative backlash that we’ve seen in other places like Europe where its citizens may perceive refugees as competing for jobs and resources,” says Grossman, who is academic director of the Penn Development Research Initiative.

Together with Yang-Yang Zhou of the University of British Columbia and Shunning Ge of MIT, Grossman studied the effects of Uganda’s inclusive refugee-hosting policies—freedom of movement, the right to work, access to social services, and the provision of small plots of land—and attitudes toward migration in Uganda from 2001 to 2020.

Specifically, the researchers looked at two different periods in Uganda's history of refugee hosting: before and after significant reforms that began in 2003. Grossman says, “In 2003-05, the Ugandan government decided that international aid that goes to host refugees needed to be used in a way that took into consideration the needs of the local population, and they did that in two ways that are quite entrepreneurial in nature and unique from a kind of regulatory perspective.”

This story is by Katelyn Silva. Read more at OMNIA.