The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) believes that digital is and will further become one of the most important vehicles to deliver economic empowerment and self-reliance for refugees. The rapidly expanding global digital economy can drive positive change, allowing forcibly displaced people to build livelihoods and fostering access to employment opportunities.

However, the digital economy can also pose serious challenges and potential risks, such as a lack of decent working conditions and broader exposure to digital protection risks, which are compounded by legal limitations and the digital and infrastructure divide.

To address these issues, UNHCR and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have developed a new project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through its ‘PROSPECTS Opportunity Fund’. Promotion, Inclusion and Protection of Refugees in the Gig Economy, as this project is called, seeks to improve the working conditions of forcibly displaced people and their hosting communities when using digital labor platforms, and to mitigate associated digital risks, while working towards conducive and inclusive national and local employment strategies.

About the project

 The project targets eight countries in Africa and the Middle East: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Aiming to contribute to the overarching goal of providing refugees and hosting communities with safer and more dignified access to digitally-enabled livelihoods, UNHCR and ILO will work towards:

  • Advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to promote employment opportunities, improve rights at work and mitigate risks for digital workers
  • Enhancing the capacity of employers, online work platforms, humanitarian organizations, policymakers, workers’ associations, forcibly displaced persons, and host communities to engage in the digital economy through tool development and technical guidance
  • Testing and developing new models for safe, secure refugee inclusive digital platform work or digitally-enabled livelihoods, and putting these on a pathway to scale

Our approach and activities

Aligned with our protection mandate, UNHCR strives to identify, understand, and mitigate the risks that forcibly displaced people face in the digital economy, including the intersectional risks compounded by their age, gender, and diverse characteristics.

UNHCR aims to test innovative models for safe, secure and inclusive digital livelihood solutions through activities, including but not limited to:

  • Education and training to boost digital awareness, market-driven digital skills, and online safety
  • Enhance access to a safe and secure digital infrastructure and workspace
  • Research emerging risks in the digital economy and advocate for safer digital inclusion
  • Develop networks of knowledge sharing between digital risk specialists, experienced digital workers and communities
  • Build partnerships with governments, the private sector, communities and others to ensure updated information on online safety and tools to tackles scams and exploitation


A collection of research on cross-cutting issues of forced displacement, digital livelihoods and digital risks.


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Generously supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands


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