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Meeting the Development Challenge for Refugees and Hosts

  • Photo: Hitsats refugee camp in northern Ethiopia. (Credit: Jade Ndiaye / World Bank)
  • As we mark World Refugee Day, we are reminded of the need to strengthen the global response to forced displacement. As part of this effort, teams across the World Bank Group are moving ahead, in areas where development approaches can make a difference in the long term—health, education, social protection, gender, jobs and economic opportunities, to name a few. 


    In fact, 90 percent of the forcibly displaced live in the developing world, and more than half are displaced for over four years. Refugees are often hosted in marginal areas where basic services are lacking for host communities. The development approach focuses on the social and economic aspects of these situations, and emphasizes support for both refugees and host communities through investments and policy dialogue.


    "Forced displacement is not just a humanitarian crisis, it is also a development challenge. Although we are newcomers to this agenda, we are seeing great progress, with teams across the Bank collaborating with each other and with new partners to do things differently, to help both refugees and their hosts," said Franck Bousquet, senior director, Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group.


    One year in to IDA18 implementation, eight countries have been found eligible to access the $2 billion regional sub-window for refugees and host communities, and Cameroon became the first to receive support as part of a $274 million package that takes a programmatic approach. In Uganda, two projects were recently approved that will improve physical planning, land tenure security, small-scale infrastructure investment, as well as water and sanitation services for rural and urban refugee hosting communities across the country. For middle-income countries hosting large numbers of refugees, the Global Concessional Financing Facility has unlocked $1.4 billion.


    Through these engagements, working with new partners and ensuring government ownership is one of the key lessons learned by Bank teams. Strengthening the partnership with UNHCR and other partners has been a critical part of the Bank's engagement, and backed by additional resources, the Bank is helping to provide impetus for policy change. Governments are taking positive steps which have potential for transformative impact, paving the way for new support to grow economic opportunities. 


    In Ethiopia, for example, the government is currently developing a new Refugees Proclamation, which encompasses a wide range of rights for refugees, including the right to live out of camps, work, access education and legal documentation, as well as the ability to open bank accounts.


    Private Sector Specialist Jade Ndiaye, Senior Private Sector Specialist Senidu Fanuel, and Senior Social Protection Specialist Lucian Bucur Pop are the co-Task Team Leaders (TTLs) for the Ethiopia Economic Opportunities Program, which focuses on providing refugees economic opportunities in wage earning employment as well as self-employment and the right to engage in commercial activities.


    The program supports Ethiopia's Jobs Compact—a pledge by the government to create 100,000 jobs for Ethiopians and refugees. Given that there are limited opportunities in productive sectors, the program aims to create an environment to expand investment and jobs growth in the manufacturing sector that will also benefit Ethiopians. 


    "A key lesson learned is that addressing the complex set of issues around forced displacement requires broad consultation within government and amongst development and humanitarian actors. This often means bringing together institutions and actors who don't normally coordinate, but who are essential for weighing-in on solutions that address socio-economic inclusion, refugee protection, access to services, host community dynamics and a range of other complex issues," said Ndiaye.


    In Turkey, the government passed a regulation in January 2016 to allow Syrians under temporary protection to obtain formal work permits. The goal is to help the Syrians become economically independent, graduate from social assistance, and enable them to contribute to the Turkish economy.


    The Bank team is currently implementing three projects in educationlabor, and creating job opportunities, while providing technical assistance in these and other areas. Multiple global practices are working together to analyze the situation, and prepare projects building on a breadth of assessments done to measure the socio-economic, poverty and labor market situation and impacts of the Syrians. Here, too, working with the whole-of-government is critical.


    "The teams continue to lead complex dialogue with multiple client ministries and agencies, carry out broad stakeholder consultations, increase support in education provision and labor market integration, identify new areas of support such as municipal construction and insurance against catastrophic events, and navigate unknown bureaucratic and administrative hurdles to ensure proper support is provided for the beneficiaries," said Ximena Del Carpio, program leader, Social Inclusion, Turkey.


    Varalakshmi Vemuru, lead social development specialist, the TTL of the Development Response to Development Impacts Project, leads an innovative regional response in the Horn of Africa to improve access to basic social services, expand economic opportunities, and enhance environmental management for communities hosting refugees.


    On working with new partners, "The challenge is that we use different implementation processes and procedures—we support government-led and community centric approaches while there is parallel implementation by others. We use similar terms but may mean very different things, like our understanding of community consultations or area-based planning. The humanitarian vision is focused on rapid response, but we need to find a way to transition to development, paying more attention to efficiency and sustainability," said Vemuru.  


    An important part of the development approach is helping countries in conflict-affected regions to prepare for refugee crises, which is part of the conversation in Uganda. Uganda, known for its progressive policies, hosts refugees in 11 districts in four regions, which are among the poorest in the country, as well as the capital city.


    "There is a lot of empathy right now, but the host communities do not have much," said Vemuru. "They gave land for the refugee settlements a while ago hoping for better services and infrastructure, but haven't seen many dividends. And in this context of protracted displacement, we need to respond strongly and comprehensively with more visible results. For this, we all must come together, become more efficient and leverage better."


    This article was originally published on the World Bank Group website