Local Solutions to the Global Forced Displacement Crisis

September 15, 2016

  • The ongoing Syrian crisis has provided renewed impetus for the global community to re-think the issue of forced displacement for the displaced and hosts alike.
  • Key elements for addressing this issue include involving local host communities in long-term planning, enhancing job opportunities, and improving sustainable environmental and ecosystem services.
  • The World Bank is working to expand its support for the displaced and their host communities in low and middle-income countries across the world.

Forced displacement is not a new phenomenon. Many countries—especially in the developing world—have been managing these situations for years, at times decades. The ongoing Syrian crisis has provided renewed impetus for the global community to re-think how to support local and national governments to help the displaced and hosts alike.

“All the conflicts we are seeing worldwide at the current moment have become the epitome of everything that can go wrong in a conflict situation, and a lightning rod for the international community to realize that the status quo isn’t working,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “Recognizing that every situation is different, we at the World Bank have focused on the need for tailored solutions that work for specific host country situations.  Over the years, we have found that good development programs need to be informed by a good understanding of displaced populations and the communities that host them, and the relationship between them.  We must help them help each other.”  

As the Bank works to expand its support for the displaced as well as their host communities, not only in low-income countries but in middle-income countries as well, many ongoing efforts across the world, including the Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel regions, in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as in Pakistan and Azerbaijan among others, may provide insight on approaches that work.

Every situation will have its own unique challenges, but ensuring that local host communities are supported and involved in long-term planning decisions, and enhancing job opportunities are among important elements of Bank support.  Supporting and enhancing sustainable environmental and ecosystem services, including integrated natural resources management, is also necessary to overcome the environmental degradation and loss of vegetation cover that can result from an inflow of large numbers of people.

" Over the years, we have found that good development programs need to be informed by a good understanding of displaced populations and the communities that host them, and the relationship between them. We must help them help each other. "

Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez

Senior Director

Supporting host communities

  • In the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes, areas hosting refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are often under-developed and underserved, and the Bank is taking a regional approach to improve access to services and economic opportunities. In Zambia, for example, the Bank is supporting both former refugees and host communities through a Community-Driven Development approach, strengthening large scale and community infrastructure to improve education and health services, as well as create economic and market opportunities.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Eastern Recovery Project focuses on developing agricultural markets in areas that have experienced high levels of population movement, benefitting hosting communities, displaced families and returnees.  Through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Horn of Africa Project will help harmonize policies and practices related to forced displacement with the establishment of a regional secretariat for forced displacement and mixed migration.
  • In Azerbaijan, 7% of the population (approximately 623,000 people) is displaced. After two decades, the displaced have not been able to build self-reliance, lacking access to high quality social infrastructure and housing. The problem is aggravated by the fact that most internally displaced are hosted by already poor communities. To respond to this challenge, the government of Azerbaijan has been implementing the Azerbaijan IDP Living Standards and Livelihoods Project since early 2012 to improve living conditions and increase the economic self-reliance of the internally displaced. To ease the burden on host communities and facilitate integration of IDP populations, the project finances small- to medium-sized infrastructure projects through a community driven approach. To date, more than 400 communities throughout the country have benefitted from these infrastructure developments.
  • In Jordan, where most refugees live in towns and cities, long-term predictable financing to twenty local authorities who are each hosting significant numbers of refugees has enabled them to plan and expand water and waste management services, install new street lighting, rehabilitate roads, and provide new sporting and recreational facilities. These are important steps to ensure that host communities continue to be hospitable and reduce any possible tension as a result of increased pressure on services and the environment.  
  • In Lebanon where, like Jordan, refugees live amongst host communities, the Bank is providing communities with immediate relief through investing in critical infrastructure at the local level and targeted social initiatives that promote interaction and collaboration between refugees and host communities. The Bank also scaled up its support to the government’s safety net program to host communities impacted by the Syrian crisis to reduce poverty and increase social cohesion. In addition, the Bank helped the public education system absorb a large number of school-age Syrian refugees, while at the same time ensuring Lebanese students also stay in school and overall quality of education is enhanced.
  • Pakistan has had a long history of managing displaced people—hosting over 1.5 million Afghan refugees for decades, the largest protracted refugee population globally (UNHCR). The Pakistan government is also managing a large number of temporarily displaced people within its own borders in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), supported by the Bank. The World Bank-administered Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) was formed in August 2010 at the request of the government of Pakistan and development partner countries to respond to the crisis in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), FATA, and Balochistan to support the reconstruction, rehabilitation, reforms, and other interventions needed to build peace and create the conditions for sustainable development.

Creating jobs and opportunities for both hosts and the displaced

  • In the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa, where host communities depend on traditional livelihoods, such as agriculture, fisheries, and pastoralism, the Bank is providing training to improve production practices, supporting new technologies and equipment, improving storage and processing infrastructure, and increasing access to finance. Local consultations and assessment of local markets with the communities and local governments taking the lead have informed the Bank’s approach. In Zambia, for example, the project supports livelihoods ranging from access to agriculture and vocational training, to development of small-scale sub-projects or irrigation systems, for the most vulnerable former refugees and host community members.
  • In Azerbaijan, the IDP Living Standards and Livelihoods Project supports livelihoods-related activities that provide resources and build skills for IDPs, so that they can compete in the labor market or to start their own businesses and, down the road, to help them obtain better-paid and more secure jobs. The project supports training and grants for business start-up, forming and funding of income-generating groups in IDP communities, and provision of micro-credit for business activities. Businesses are varied in nature but usually build on the agricultural skills that IDPs brought from their home communities, including cattle husbandry, sheep rearing, and crop production, but the project also financed opening of bakeries, retail shops, catering businesses and cafés. Despite the relatively short time these income-generating groups have been operating, most already generate robust incomes.  The project provides young people with vocational training and support for business start-up, and also aims to achieve gender balance and reach equal numbers of young women and men.
  • In Jordan, an upcoming program on “Economic Opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian Refugees” will support the Government meet its commitment for providing Syrian refugees with access to the labor market by improving the investment climate and formalizing Syrian employment by facilitating the issuance of work permits. In return, Jordan will benefit from favorable access of Jordanian goods into European markets. The World Bank will also leverage its municipal program to finance labor-intensive works benefiting both Jordanians and Syrian refugees.
  • In Lebanon, an upcoming program on “Roads and Employment” is expected to create about 1.5 million labor days of direct short-term jobs for low-skilled Lebanese and Syrian communities through rehabilitating the roads network of the country. Additional jobs will also be created in the supply chain industries, as well as the engineering and consultancy services in Lebanon.
  • Through the Pakistan MDTF, a total of 1,471 matching grants have been disbursed and an estimated 23,000 jobs have been created through this support in KP and FATA.

Whether it is the Bank’s support to public service provision and local authorities in Jordan and Lebanon, or local government and community-based organizations in rural Africa, ensuring long-term sustainability will require coordinated programming to ensure effectiveness and reduce duplication for improving the quality of services.

“Implementation is challenging enough,” said Markus Kostner, Global Lead for Stability, Peace and Security in the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, “but much more needs to be done to build, incentivize, and facilitate coalitions of governments, the private sector, civil society, development and humanitarian actors, and affected people to prevent, contain, and respond to current crises, and also look ahead to anticipate and prepare for new ones.”