Universal Health, Digital Livelihoods and Jobs: World Bank Announces Winners of Innovative Ideas Competition to Improve the Development Response to Forced Displacement

June 20, 2016

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2016 — From providing universal health care to finding jobs, the World Bank’s Global Program on Forced Displacement (GPFD) today announced three innovative ideas to improve the development response to forced displacement, selected from an open call for proposals. As the number of refugees and internally displaced persons reaches historic highs with many displaced for years, development programs are urgently needed to complement humanitarian assistance in transformational ways.

“Forced displacement causes tremendous suffering, leaving people in uncertain situations for years without the ability to take advantage of opportunities. We hope these ideas will contribute to expanding and deepening development support in new ways, to help the displaced and host communities alike,” said Xavier Devictor, Advisor, Global Program on Forced Displacement at the World Bank.  

The winning teams are: Universal Health Care for Refugees submitted by UNHCR and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Digital Livelihoods Initiative: building resilience for forcibly displaced persons through remote ICT accessibility work, submitted by UNHCR and International Telecommunication Union; and Creating safe and legal work migration pathways for refugees submitted by Talent Beyond Boundaries.

The Universal Health Care for Refugees proposal aims to provide affordable health care for refugees while improving health coverage systems in host countries, which are often weak and overburdened in the aftermath of a crisis. By transforming how health is provided to refugees in emergencies, current funding for parallel and costly health systems can be channeled into strengthening and expanding existing systems. Health care schemes for local populations would also receive a large influx of pooled funds. The idea of universal health care was not considered feasible in the past, but this is an area where humanitarian and development actors can work together in different ways to reduce costs as well as dependency.

One of the major obstacles faced by forcibly displaced persons is their inability to generate sustainable income. They are often denied access to jobs and forced into the informal economy. The Digital Livelihoods Initiative seeks to bring jobs to both displaced people and host community youth by providing training and matching them to work, to meet the growing demand by governments, non-profits and the private sector to make public documents and other material digitally accessible to all.

The Creating safe and legal work migration pathways for refugees proposal also looks at improving opportunities to find employment. While many refugees cannot work legally in the countries where they are hosted, they may have skills that are in high demand elsewhere. This idea would help the forcibly displaced secure safe and legal labor migration channels by establishing a migration resource center to provide information, and by establishing a revolving mobility fund to provide loans to cover essential migration costs. 

An expert panel reviewed more than 480 submissions following an open call in December 2015 from development agencies, the private sector, civil society, academia and others who are exploring different approaches in finding development solutions to this global issue.  The winners will receive up to $40,000 to develop their idea into a full concept note which would meet World Bank Group standards.

Proposals were selected based on whether they were innovative — not rolling out existing work; replicable — relevant for more than one country or context; and transformative — contribution to truly change the way we work; and bankable — potential to turn the idea into relevant programs, policies or analytical work that could improve the development response to displacement situations.


The Global Program on Forced Displacement (GPFD), housed in the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, was established in 2009 with support from Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Switzerland to enhance the global development response to forced displacement through economically and socially sustainable solutions. GPFD focuses on development responses to situations of crisis, protracted displacement and return, through operational support, partnerships, analytical work, and knowledge dissemination.

The World Bank Group and Forced Displacement

Forced displacement is a growing global crisis which needs to be managed through collective action by humanitarian, development and other partners, working in new and complementary ways. To achieve our goals to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity, the World Bank Group is strengthening its support, providing technical and financial support to help both the displaced and their hosts across origin, transit and destination countries.

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