Under-pressure communities hosting refugees also need world’s support more than ever

Sep 14, 2016

More than 12000 refugees find themselves in Greece unable to continue their journey towards Northern Europe as the Western Balkan route to Northern Europe shuts down. Photo: UNHCR

New York, USA -- As the numbers of refugees and migrants across the globe continue to grow to unprecedented levels, the communities that host them need the world’s support to cope with the enormous strain placed on their shoulders, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Speaking at a Global Migration Group event ahead of the 2016 United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York next week, key UNDP leaders said that it is crucial that host communities receive all the support they need to cope with recent influxes of refugees and migrants.

“Host communities and countries provide a global public good by hosting displaced populations,” said Magdy Martínez-Solimán, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

“Host communities are often the first to absorb the shock of any major influx. Increasingly, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are residing outside camps in urban areas, without access to humanitarian support, relying on the informal economy. Basic services, as well as access to legal services, jobs and livelihoods opportunities, are key in the management of this impact,” Mr Martínez-Solimán said.

He noted that there are now more people on the move – 244 million – than at any time since the end of World War II. 65 million are forcibly displaced, including 40.8 million IDPs, over 21 million refugees and more than three million asylum seekers.  While the sheer numbers have grown, so too has the average duration of displacement:  more than 80 per cent of refugee crises last for 10 years or more; two in five last 20 years or more.

Mr Martínez-Solimán said the 2030 Agenda, which includes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, provides an inclusive framework for cooperation and better coordination, and commits the world to leave no-one behind.

“Refugee, migrant, IDPs and vulnerable host community households are some of the people we have in mind when articulating the principle of an agenda for all,” he added.

He said that the creation of economic development opportunities for host communities, the protection of human rights, the delivery of basic services, and better migration governance are some of the objectives of UNDP’s work.

Also speaking at the event, Izumi Nakamitsu, UNDP Assistant Administrator leading the Crisis Response Unit, stressed the importance of changing the way we do business to respond better to protracted humanitarian crises.

“The starting point is that political leaders have a responsibility to find political solutions to these on-going crises,” Ms Nakamitsu said.

“Then humanitarian and development agencies need to redouble their efforts to work together in new ways, with shared analysis, shared planning and longer-term investments.

“This should be backed with more innovative funding from UN Member States, shifting to more flexible, predictable and multi-year financing.

“It’s important to acknowledge that there are opportunities for host communities, with the right support and development investment. For example, if refugees can work legally and pay taxes, it can generate revenue for vulnerable host communities.

“The reality is that most of these host communities are in developing countries and are often already living in poverty themselves.

“So we need to support localized responses to this refugee crisis, looking at the capacities of these host communities and helping them to maintain basic services and cope with the social strain.”

Contact information

Adam Cathro, Communications Specialist, UNDP, +1 212 906 5326, +1 917 915 9725 (cell), adam.cathro@undp.org.