Displaced and Disconnected
UNHCR recognizes that one of the ‘hard stops’ in facilitating mobile connectivity and access to finance for displaced populations is non-conducive regulatory environments.
In particular, ID-related legal requirements have proven a significant barrier to access. For example, a refugee who cannot legally activate a mobile connection, open a bank account or access a mobile money wallet in his or her own name may be further marginalized and disempowered as access to information, communication, cash assistance, and transfers is severely limited. Moreover, the lack of legal certainty, inconsistently applied regulations or sudden changes in regulatory expectations as regards identification can disrupt the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
UNHCR’s Innovation Service embarked on the Displaced and Disconnected research initiative to better understand these legal and regulatory barriers.
Displaced and Disconnected – Part One
UNHCR undertook research in partnership with the GSM Association (GSMA) in the latter half of 2018 to examine barriers to accessing digital connectivity across 20 priority countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia.
These reports focus on a relatively under-explored, but nonetheless significant barrier to access among refugees and other displaced persons: legal and regulatory requirements mandating that an individual’s ID is authenticated before accessing a mobile connection, bank account or mobile money wallet. This research is the first of its kind to systematically understand and address the combination of these challenges.
Download the Displaced and Disconnected reports below:
Desplazados y Desconectados – Americas
In the wake of the initial Displaced and Disconnected report, UNHCR extended the scope of its analysis to the Americas where organised crime, armed groups, statelessness, and decades of conflict all pose a serious risk to populations in the region. Over seven million people are now displaced and asylum applications, particularly from Central American countries, have sharply increased.
Since 2019, UNHCR has been mapping the legal and regulatory barriers that are hampering refugees and other forcibly displaced persons’ digital and financial inclusion. The main findings are captured in the following reports:
- Desplazados & Desconectados Americas Part I (2020) – Covering Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
- Desplazados & Desconectados Americas Part II (2022) – Covering Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Displaced and Disconnected – Asia and the Pacific
In Asia and the Pacific, two protracted crises – in Afghanistan and Myanmar – as well as continued conflict, climatic extremes, and impacts of other natural hazards have led to record high levels of forced displacement and continued risks to marginalised groups.
As of 2022, there are more than 14 million forcibly displaced and stateless people in the region. In fact, more than half of the world’s recorded population of stateless individuals (around 2.5 million) live in Asia and the Pacific. Numerous countries in the region are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The lack of legal status, valid identity documentation, and options for safe access to connectivity and financial inclusion constrain the opportunities of displaced and stateless individuals and expose them to risks of exploitation and abuse.
Building on mapping and analysis begun in 2019, UNHCR conducted research on the legal and regulatory barriers stymieing digital and financial inclusion for displaced communities across multiple locations in the region. The resulting Displaced and Disconnected reports for Asia and the Pacific, which contain findings for each country along with recommendations for action can be found below:
Displaced and Disconnected Indonesia
Understanding the legal and regulatory barriers to accessing mobile connectivity and digital financial services faced by refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and stateless applicants in Indonesia
Displaced and Disconnected Malaysia
Understanding the legal and regulatory barriers to accessing mobile connectivity and digital financial services faced by refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and stateless applicants in Malaysia
Displaced and Disconnected Philippines
Understanding the legal and regulatory barriers to accessing mobile connectivity and digital financial services faced by refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and stateless applicants in the Philippines
Displaced and Disconnected – Middle East and North Africa
As of the end of 2022, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was hosting an estimated 15.5 million forcibly displaced people, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless persons. The Syria crisis persists as one of the largest displacement situations in the world, and the brutal conflict in Yemen continues to unfold.
From April 2022 to December 2022, against this backdrop of political and economic instability, UNHCR’s Innovation Service conducted research into the digital and financial inclusion of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons in the MENA region.
This Displaced and Disconnected report provides a comprehensive review of the legal and regulatory environments governing the telecommunications and financial sectors in several key hosting countries: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. It explores forcibly displaced persons’ legal access to mobile connectivity and financial services in these settings, particularly in light of proof of identity barriers related to SIM registration and Know Your Customer (KYC)/Customer Due Diligence (CDD) requirements.
The research timeframe means that the impact of the 2023 outbreak of violence in Sudan – which, as of August 2023, has forced nearly 4 million people to flee – was not explored. Nevertheless, the findings could feed into an effective response to this emergency, supporting organizations to develop programming and advocacy focused on the digital and financial inclusion of those newly displaced.
Displaced and Disconnected MENA
Understanding the legal and regulatory barriers to accessing mobile connectivity and digital financial services faced by refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and stateless applicants in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Displaced and Disconnected – East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes
The East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes (EHAGL) region is host to some of the most complex and protracted refugee situations in the world. By the end of 2022, the region hosted 4.9 million refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as 10.7 million internally displaced people. It also faces a challenging combination of security risks, volatile conflicts, and increasing vulnerability to climate change-related shocks.
This report identifies relevant legal barriers that forcibly displaced and stateless people face in accessing mobile connectivity and financial services in nine countries across the region.
It builds on research carried out in 2018–2019 in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, and provides updates regarding the legal and regulatory environments governing the telecommunications and financial sectors in those countries. In addition, it provides an in-depth examination of the legal and regulatory environments in Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, which have not been covered previously in UNHCR’s Displaced & Disconnected reporting.
Displaced and Disconnected EHAGL
Understanding the legal and regulatory barriers to accessing mobile connectivity and digital financial services faced by refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and stateless applicants in the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region.
Drawing on past experience analysing the policy, legal and regulatory frameworks to digital inclusion of forcibly displaced persons through the Displaced and Disconnected workstream, UNHCR has developed a methodology toolkit based on its Displaced and Disconnected reports to support others in undertaking assessments.
This methodology toolkit combines the learnings from elaborating the previous D&D assessments carried out by UNHCR in collaboration with the GSMA with the knowledge from various technical units within UNHCR to ensure a comprehensive analysis.
The methodology toolkit is aimed at humanitarian organisations and institutions working with forcibly displaced persons interested in adopting an evidence-based approach to evaluate how conducive an environment is in supporting the digital and financial inclusion of refugees and other displaced populations.
The tools and processes are designed to help users gain insights into the applicable frameworks for connectivity, financial services, and digital financial services, their impact on forcibly displaced persons and identify opportunities to improve pathways for legal access and inclusion. The resources included in this toolkit can be tailored to address specific needs in an operational context.
Download the Displaced & Disconnected Methodology Toolkit below