Stakeholders stress the role of development in addressing forced displacement
GENEVA – UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations must step up cooperation with development partners to improve the lives and prospects of forcibly displaced and stateless people, participants heard during a two-day policy discussion in Geneva.
With three-quarters of the world’s 103 million refugees and internally displaced people and the majority of stateless people living in low- and middle-income countries, development offers solutions to many of the challenges they and their host communities face and can also prevent future displacement.
During the biennial High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which ended on Thursday, representatives from the humanitarian and development sectors, refugees, governments, NGOs, the private sector and civil society discussed the role of development in delivering protection, solutions and inclusion for displaced people and their hosts.
"Inclusion is one of the best forms of protection."
“Inclusion – opportunity – is critical to the lives of refugees, of displaced people, of returnees, and of those that are hosting them,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, told participants. “Inclusion is one of the best forms of protection. And inclusion – in societies, in services, in the economy – is often obtained or facilitated by development.”
While UNHCR would always remain a humanitarian organization dedicated to protecting people forced to flee, Grandi stressed the importance of engaging with development partners to inform and shape their responses to situations of forced displacement and statelessness.
In a conversation with the High Commissioner at the start of the event, Antoinette Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), endorsed such approaches.
“Development partnership is a very important way of addressing in a sustainable way the challenges that displaced populations and the countries that are hosting them encounter,” she said.
Sayeh pointed to a recent IMF analysis of the economic impact on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that have received millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in recent years. She said such movements can present both challenges and opportunities for development, with inclusive refugee policies crucial to the latter.
“There are considerable pressures, we know, to host countries welcoming refugees, and some of them are doing it relatively successfully. One looks at Colombia and efforts made there to welcome Venezuelan refugees, and the contributions that they are making to the economy,” she said.
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The point was echoed by Soukenya Kane, Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank, who described forced displacement as not only a humanitarian concern but also a development challenge.
In the last six years, the World Bank has provided financing worth more than US$5 billion to refugees and host communities, Kane said, but added that efforts must go beyond funding alone.
“Some host [countries] have taken the lead to better manage crises through policy reforms that target inclusion of refugees in labour markets, health, education, social protection and the financial system,” she said, adding that the World Bank would use its financing facilities to encourage more countries to follow suit.
Over the two days, the Dialogue also convened lively discussions on internal displacement, voluntary and sustainable returns and reintegration, and the role of municipalities and national governments.
Refugees featured prominently during the two days of discussions. Among them was Adriana Figueredo, a Venezuelan refugee and youth advocate now living in Saltillo, Mexico, who stressed the need for development approaches that encourage early action to boost the capacity of local communities to welcome displaced people.
“It is extremely important that local governments and communities develop the resilience needed since they will be the first ones in contact with our refugee communities,” Figueredo said.
"It's essential that refugees ... like me are part of the development agenda."
Another speaker was 20-year-old Nour from Syria, who has twice fled conflict – the first time aged nine when she and her family escaped the crisis back home to Lebanon, and again in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, having moved there aged 17 and only recently starting her college studies in speech therapy.
Now based in Germany, she argued that involving forcibly displaced people in the design of development approaches was key to delivering meaningfully.
“It’s essential that refugees and other displaced people like me are part of the development agenda from the start [so] they can contribute with their talent, skills and vision,” Nour said, adding: “Until we find a way to stop wars in our countries, we will not see the development that we need.”
Closing the event, Grandi urged participants to take forward the approaches discussed and turn them into concrete action and pledges at the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023. The countdown to the event began on Thursday with the formal handover by the co-conveners of the first Forum in 2019 – Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan and Türkiye – to the next co-conveners: Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan, Niger and Uganda.