Data and insight: monitoring internal displacement to progress towards sustainable development

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Today, IDMC is signing up as a Champion of the Inclusive Data Charter. This is one step towards linking the displacement data community with the sustainable development agenda and I believe it is an important one. The Charter, which was launched in July 2018, aims to mobilise political support to improve ‘the quality, quantity, financing, and availability of inclusive and disaggregated data’. It is also committed to capacity building in support of this, rightly recognising that stronger data is critical to meet the overarching commitment of the Sustainable Development agenda, “Leaving no one behind”.

This year, we dedicated much of our work to progressing on this overarching commitment. 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. To celebrate, we hosted last week a conference on internal displacement and sustainable development, which focused on the ways in which sustainable development can reduce internal displacement and importantly, why reducing internal displacement will be a critical factor in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our efforts in global data aggregation and validation, analysis, research and policy engagement have developed considerably since we were established 20 years ago. When the international community published the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement in 1998, it saw a clear need for an organisation dedicated solely to building the global evidence base on internal displacement. With the establishment of IDMC, the world took its first, crucial, steps to systematically accounting for the phenomenon of internal displacement and bringing internally displaced people onto the global agenda. From these beginnings, IDMC has become the authoritative source of analysis and expertise on all forms of internal displacement. Our innovative and ambitious research agenda continues to be instrumental in building a deeper understanding of internal displacement and shaping new thinking on this issue.

But data on its own is not enough. If we are to support governments, humanitarian agencies and development actors to design policies and programmes and prioritise the investment of resources aimed at preventing, reducing and resolving internal displacement, we need a broader understanding of what is at stake.

Solid baseline data and evidence at the national and global levels are preconditions for measuring the success of efforts to reduce internal displacement over the long-term and monitoring the achievement of targets under other frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Robust evidence is also crucial to advocate on internal displacement itself, which is often poorly understood, or subsumed in broader conversations about refugee and migrant flows.

This year has seen a number of events and initiatives to commemorate the Guiding Principles, such as the launch of the GP20 Plan of Action. IDMC is a member of the Plan’s Steering Group, co-leads its data workstream and contributes to its work on durable solutions. IDMC also plays a key role in the work of the IDP sub-group of the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics (EGRIS), which will develop international recommendations on official IDP statistics to be submitted to the UN Statistical Commission in their 51st session in 2020.

Given the scale of internal displacement globally – more than 30.6 million new internal displacements associated with conflict and disasters were recorded in 2017, 40 million people are living in displacement as a result of conflict, and there are no signs of these appalling numbers reducing – it’s clear that failure to address internal displacement will seriously impact the ability of countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The mutual agreement of all actors who attended our conference laid a strong foundation for improved evidence to inform efforts to address internal displacement through national development planning and programming.

Getting the most comprehensive and accurate data and evidence will require concerted efforts by all actors working on collection, analysis, aggregation, research, and training, across the internal displacement data sector. Beyond the critical imperative of getting stronger data and evidence, developing this clearer picture requires stronger coordination, information-sharing and interoperability between everyone working in the sector. It also necessitates finding or creating complementarity and clarity across different processes and initiatives on humanitarian and development data.

Through a series of data roundtables, the first of which was held in June 2018, IDMC is convening a discussion with data partners on ways to improve the evidence base on internal displacement and maintain momentum beyond 2018. This forum brings together the major actors working on internal displacement data to discuss how to address issues around coordination, information-sharing and interoperability, as well as the more technical challenges linked to data collection in often hard-to-reach areas.

Only a clear picture of the severity, duration and scale of internal displacement across all contexts will enable governments, humanitarian agencies and development actors to take the measures necessary to prevent the risk of future displacement, reduce the vulnerability of those displaced, and end the displacement of the world’s IDPs in the long term.

The Inclusive Data Charter we sign up to today provides a platform for organisations and governments to make concrete commitments and will accelerate the push for stronger data. I am proud that IDMC is now part of an initiative that so closely aligns with our core mission and with our commitments for 2019 and beyond.