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Individual rights, societal choices: Confronting legacies of displacement in the Nagorny Karabakh conflict

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Over one million people lost their homes as a result of the Nagorny Karabakh (NK) conflict. This is a legacy that any future peace agreement must address, and reasonable opportunities to realise the right of return, or receive alternative compensation, will be central to its overall legitimacy.

After 20 years of displacement, fulfillment of rights to justice will need to take different forms, depending on the context in which a displaced individual or their descendent finds him- or herself.

But choices being made today across societies involved in the conflict are limiting the future exercise of a full range of rights by displaced people. More sensitive policy now can safeguard that spectrum of rights in the future. This would be an investment in the legitimacy of an eventual peace deal in the interests of all sides – and allowing for justice for all individuals displaced by the Karabakh conflict.

This policy brief addresses a problem at the heart of displacement dilemmas. While pre-conflict demography and settlement patterns cannot be recreated or restored, any peace agreement failing to establish a realistic basis for some degree of return is unlikely to be seen as legitimate by all conflict parties, or by the international community.