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Tackling the Realities of Protracted Displacement: Case Studies on What’s Working and Where We Can Do Better

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Cindy Huang, Sarah Charles, Lauren Post, and Kate Gough


The international community has come together in new ways to address forced displacement—one of the biggest challenges of the early twenty-first century. A series of high-level events in 2016 acknowledged record levels of displacement, and international actors responded with concrete commitments that recognized the protracted nature of displacement, the centrality of host governments, and the need to support the well-being and self-reliance of both refugees and host populations.

Refugee compacts, such as those first deployed in Jordan and Lebanon, are a new model for bringing together a range of actors, flexible financing, and other investments in support of countries hosting significant numbers of refugees. At the same time, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is shepherding the first Global Compact on Refugees, which includes a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) that similarly promises to bridge the humanitarian-development divide.

This policy brief examines progress since the 2016 convenings, including how partnerships and financing—especially implementation of the CRRF and World Bank financing—are playing out on the ground. It examines initial efforts in Ethiopia and Uganda, where the CRRF is being piloted and World Bank financing has been approved, and takes stock of the latest progress in Jordan, where the compact is entering the third year of implementation.

Host governments, the World Bank, UNHCR, and their partners should be commended for novel approaches to a difficult global challenge. But there is much room for improvement in execution. Experience so far indicates that overall governance structures are fragmented; goals, policy changes, and program plans are not yet clear or fully aligned with resources—and there are few mechanisms holding all actors to account for achieving results for refugees and their hosts.

This brief makes four overarching recommendations to address these challenges and ensure implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees and World Bank financing leads to positive changes in the lives and livelihoods of refugees and host communities:

  1. Define shared outcomes and targets at the global and country levels. It is not yet possible to systematically assess if efforts are improving the lives of refugees and their hosts. Agreement on collective outcomes and shared targets is required to ensure approaches are complementary and have impact. Country-level target setting should not wait for 2019, when the Global Compact on Refugees is expected to incorporate global indicators.

  2. Engage a wide range of stakeholders through improved partnership and coordination models. Effective stakeholder engagement is critical to avoid duplication of effort, encourage broader support for projects, promote learning between stakeholders with different expertise and perspectives, and ensure refugees’ concerns are adequately addressed. An improved model should empower line ministries, local government and municipalities, NGOs, and refugee and hosting populations in the decision-making process.

  3. Conduct joint analysis and planning to align approaches and processes, and ensure actions are responsive to refugee and host needs. All actors should use the government-led CRRF to align analysis, planning, and funding. Standardized tools should be used to identify needs and constraints to achieving shared outcomes. This process should be accompanied by an explicit exchange of knowledge and expertise among development and traditional refugee-response actors.
    Truly joint planning will mitigate the risk of actors using new financing to simply expand existing programs and approaches.

  4. Put in place clear accountability mechanisms. The proposal of ministerial-level refugee summits in the first draft of the Global Compact on Refugees is a good start, and must be accompanied by a set of shared outcomes against which to measure progress, as well as accurate, timely data to support such measurement. Host governments, donors, and implementers will also need to work together to increase transparency on financial flows and their impact.