Enabling environments and non-linear processes
Findings of this study highlight the complex ways in which different aspects of life contribute to wellbeing. The example of sport and play is critical here. While providing an immediate psychosocial benefit in terms of a distraction from the daily grind of camp life, participating in sports activities also has a wider set of knock-on effects in terms of facilitating sociability and social networks, as well as strengthening a sense of visibility and voice. These could in turn potentially feed into further outcomes in terms of greater access to information and opportunities, and greater youth engagement in refugee civil society.
Reassessing relevance and effectiveness in difficult circumstances
Young people’s complex experiences of education and vocational training in the camps outline the way that support designed to help move beyond survival can run into a wall when faced with a restrictive context that prevents skills and knowledge being converted into meaningful opportunities. This challenges actors providing assistance to think creatively about what effective and relevant support actually looks like in practice.
Meaningful participation is key
Agency is repeatedly emphasised by both the findings of this study and the wider literature as a critical component of wellbeing for young people in particular. This means ensuring that young people have a say in decisions that affect their lives, especially when their interests and aspirations may differ from both those offering assistance and others in their communities.
Wellbeing is a rights issue
Ultimately, many of the barriers to youth wellbeing in this study amount to a question of rights. Denial of the right to work, the right to move, the right to access education, or even the right to hold cultural celebrations are political choices and are challenging in nature – over decades of displacement, the landscape for young people in Thailand has only become more restrictive. While humanitarian actors in Thailand have been working hard to advocate on behalf of refugees on these issues, this serves as a wider reminder that wellbeing is linked not just to people’s immediate material needs, subjective experiences, or relations within their communities, but ultimately sits within a wider political landscape of rights upheld, or rights denied.