Displaced and Disconnected

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

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.
As such, UNHCR undertook research in partnership with the GSM Association (GSMA) in the latter half of 2018 to examine these access barriers 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.
This report focuses 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 Displaced & Disconnected below

Displaced and Disconnected Methodology

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

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