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Forced displacement is a development challenge, not only a humanitarian concern. Around 76% of refugees are displaced for more than five years, and the vast majority of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people live in developing countries (four out of five.) As part of a global effort, the World Bank Group is focused on addressing longer term, social and economic challenges that will help both the displaced and their hosts.  

Forced displacement: Humanitarian crisis, development challenge

A surge in violent conflict since 2010 has led to historically high levels of forced displacement. More recently, the war in Ukraine has caused the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the end of World War II. Globally, there are more than 84 million forcibly displaced people including refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers who have fled their homes to escape violence, conflict and persecution (UNHCR Mid-Year Trends Report 2021). 

The hardships they endure through their displacement make these people vulnerable. They lose assets and livelihoods and are unable to plan their future. Many suffer from trauma, and women and girls are at high risk of gender-based violence. They need help to regain their agency and begin rebuilding their lives.

Host communities need support, too. The forcibly displaced often live in poor areas in developing countries that are struggling to meet their own development goals. Accommodating the sudden arrival of masses of newcomers presents a challenge for host governments, putting further pressure on their ability to deliver basic services and infrastructure. 

This is why forced displacement is not only a humanitarian crisis, it is a development challenge as well. Today, displacement situations are becoming increasingly protracted, and close to 16 million people are now in exile for over 5 years—the highest since the end of the Cold War—underscoring the need for a more sustainable and efficient way to support both the displaced and their hosts with a longer term perspective.

Many host countries in the developing world are taking the lead to better manage these crises, by including refugees in their country’s development plans and in their health and education systems, for example. The global community is also working to improve the transition between humanitarian and development assistance, aligning these efforts under the  Global Compact on Refugees led by UNHCR.  

The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) took place in December 2019 to bring the international community together, support implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees and develop a concrete workplan towards the next forum in 2023. At the Forum, the World Bank announced $2.2 billion in support for refugees and host communities as part of the IDA19 replenishment. Two years later, the IDA20 replenishment allocated another $2.4 billion for the same purpose.

Last Updated: Apr 13, 2022