Once established, the future of a refugee city should be heavily determined by the refugees occupying the city and by the surrounding country. A basic principle of Refugee Cities will be to avoid dictating or overly planning how the settlement should evolve.
Instead, the focus should be on providing legal freedoms and options for residents and allowing them to innovate and improvise solutions to problems on their own. Development interventions will, therefore, be focused on expanding capabilities and opportunities, with the goal of refugee self-sufficiency.
Eventually, a refugee city will likely result in one of three scenarios, each of which would be a major improvement on the current prospects facing refugees:
1. The host country’s government eventually allows refugee city residents greater freedoms across the entire country until there is little to no legal distinction between the refugee cities and other cities in the country.
2. Refugees gradually and voluntarily move back to their home countries after conditions have improved. Because these refugees have been engaged in productive, life-affirming work while displaced, they will be well equipped to lead in the economic, social, and political rebuilding of their countries.
3. The government forces refugees to return home. Precautions can be put in place to make this scenario less likely:
First, the development corporation should form a contract with the host government that obligates the country to:
(i) lease the land to the company for a long number of years (long enough for the company to receive a return on investment, perhaps at least 20 or more), if the land isn’t sold outright to the company;
(ii) issue a certain minimum number of refugee city work and residence permits to refugees per year and allow a certain minimum number to legally stay; and
(iii) provide access to the national utility grid (to compliment power being generated onsite).
All of these obligations should be made enforceable against the government through international investment arbitration, such as at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), in which foreign investors can bring lawsuits against governments and have judgments enforced in nearly every country in the world.
Second, forcing out large numbers of residents is likely to drive out investors from the area, which would undercut all of the economic benefits (including tax revenue) the country realized from the city.
Third, if support from other governments and international institutions is obtained for the project, such an action would be severely damaging to the country’s reputation.