Forced Displacement

June 15, 2017


Globally, there are an estimated 65.6 million people who have fled their homes either as refugees (22.5 million), internally displaced persons (40.3 million), or asylum seekers as a result of conflict and persecution (UNHCR, end 2016). The situation may worsen still without a clear end in sight of conflicts that are the main drivers of displacement.

Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. At its root are the same 10 conflicts which have accounted for the majority of the forcibly displaced every year since 1991, consistently hosted by about 15 countries – also overwhelmingly in the developing world. At the end of 2015, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, Syria’s neighbors, hosted 27 % of all refugees worldwide; Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbors, hosted 16%; and Ethiopia and Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan’s neighbors, hosted 7%.

Forced displacement also tends to be protracted, with more than half of the global total of displaced for over four years. In 2015, only 201,400 refugees were able to return to their home countries. There is now clear recognition that this is not only a humanitarian concern but a development challenge as well, requiring close coordination between humanitarian and development partners from the outset of the crisis. 

Under its mandate to reduce poverty, the World Bank Group is concerned about the welfare of the displaced as well as their host communities. Forced displacement causes enormous human suffering, particularly for the extreme poor and vulnerable including youth, women and children. Economic and social impacts are significant: the displaced have limited social capital and few assets, unable to make plans or find livelihoods with poor access to basic services. They are often traumatized, facing considerable uncertainty and at times discrimination. Host communities and countries, some low-income countries themselves, also face challenges such as fiscal shocks and increased demand on services and infrastructure. 

The Bank is actively engaged to address this challenge through financing, data and analytics and operations, working with the United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR and across humanitarian-development partners. 

The flagship report Forcibly Displaced: Toward a Development Approach Supporting Refugees, the Internally Displaced, and Their Hosts, examines available data to better understand the scope of the challenge, and suggests a development approach that aims to help the displaced access jobs and services so they can become self-reliant and rebuild their lives with dignity. It also emphasizes the need to support host communities manage the arrival of large numbers of people.   

For low-income countries, the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the poorest, will provide $2 billion to support refugees and host communities. 

For middle-income countries, the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) seeks to raise $1 billion in grants for Jordan and Lebanon over the next five years, and an additional $500 million in grants to help other middle-income countries address refugee crises. 

The GCFF has approved nearly US$200 million in grants to leverage five times that amount in concessional financing for projects to improve the lives of Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them by promoting job creation and expanding vital public services and infrastructure.

  • In Jordan, the GCFF is supporting a US$300 million project to promote investment and job creation for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees, which has led to more than 40,000 Syrian refugees receiving work permits, a US$250 million project to improve the management and delivery of water and electricity, a US$150 million project to expand health services, and two projects to strengthen wastewater infrastructure totaling US$93 million.
  • In Lebanon, the GCFF is supporting a US$200 million roads and employment project that aims to connect less developed regions with centers of economic activity, while also creating construction jobs for Lebanese workers and Syrian refugees, and a US$150 million project to expand health services.

Other World Bank operations on forced displacement include:

  • Afghanistan: livelihoods, cash-for-work and access to services for Afghan returnees to integrate with host communities (2017; $125m)
  • Azerbaijan: living standards and livelihoods for IDPs (2011/2016; $50m/ $50m)
  • Bangladesh: Emergency Repatriation and Livelihood Restoration of Migrant Workers Project (2011-12; $40m)
  • Great Lakes: DRC, Zambia and ICGLR (community driven development, infrastructure, livelihoods, and capacity building; $73m); 
  • Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) (social services, economic opportunity and environmental management; $278m); 
  • Pakistan: IDP return, early recovery, child health, and emergency response (2015);
  • Sri Lanka: community livelihoods (2009; $65m)

In the long term, the Bank is doing more to help fragile and conflict affected areas address the drivers of conflict and create more stable societies that provide opportunities for all, so that people will not need to risk their lives and flee in the first place.


Last Updated: Jun 20, 2017