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On 12 December 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Diffa region in Niger. Here, the forcibly displaced population is spread across more than 100 sites in a stretch of arable land along the border with Nigeria. He used the opportunity to highlight the importance of data in protecting and assisting more than 250,000 persons (refugees, IDPs, and Niger nationals that returned from Nigeria as a result of conflict).

“Throughout my visit, our team in Diffa provided me with a wide range of information on each site we passed or visited. In Diffa town, a Data Centre on Forced Displacement was established in 2013, funded by UNHCR, and implemented by our partner REACH.

Data is at the heart of good decision-making. Only with accurate information can we make the right decisions on how to support displaced people in Niger and elsewhere. And eventually, we should enable people, including refugees, IDPs, and persons at risk of statelessness, to access their own data – so that they can make informed decisions about their lives and that of their children.

UNHCR has made data collection and analysis a priority for the organization by putting in place a multi-year strategy for the collection and use of good data, placing people – refugees and others – at the centre of these efforts.

We believe that access to information is almost as important as security, food and water when it comes to ensuring protection for the displaced and their families. With accurate information, refugees and other displaced people can be made aware of their rights, where they can receive assistance, the conditions they face, and where they can access safety. UNHCR aims to work with them and share the information we obtain through assessments and evaluations, and also to give them the means to manage their own personal information and protect their identities, and help them become part of the global information community.

We are also working with our partners – states, UN agencies and NGOs, to ensure that data is made available, that it meets the needs for decision-making, and most importantly, is shared in an transparent and responsible way. In that respect, the Diffa Data Centre is an excellent example of UNHCR’s efforts to improve data and information and bring digital empowerment to the people it serves.”

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