World must stand with refugee-hosting nations

June 19, 2024
A group of refugees standing and smiling towards camera

With the right support, both refugees and host communities can thrive. In Peru, UNDP has promoted entrepreneurship opportunities for over 2,000 displaced people from Venezuela, migrants and host communities.

Photo: UNDP Peru

“I can now dream and hope for a better tomorrow,” said Patrick Anyanzo. A refugee from South Sudan, he has carved out a new life in Uganda. The 22-year-old is putting the final touches on a piece of furniture. He uses tools received as part of a UNDP-supported training in carpentry.

With his new skills, he earns enough to put aside some money to invest in his business. “I plan to open a bigger workshop, which will give me the capacity to become a mentor to the youth,” Patrick told UNDP colleagues. 

Uganda has welcomed more refugees than any other country in Africa – over 1.5 million people. The country’s approach has been one of inclusion rather than marginalization. Refugees have received lifesaving aid, homes and plots of land, access to services and the chance to work and to feel part of local communities. 

Host communities have benefited too from the investment in skills, livelihoods and infrastructure. While challenges remain, especially on gender inequality, Uganda has been climbing up the development table – with significant progress in areas like life expectancy, education and national income. 

Images of men and women building wood furniture

Patrick Anyanzo, a refugee from South Sudan, now lives in Uganda and has completed training to become a carpenter.

Photos: UNDP Uganda

Most refugees live in countries with least resources

Addressing forced displacement has never been so urgent. The rise in overall forced displacement – to 120 million by May 2024 – was the 12th consecutive annual increase. One in 69 people or 1.5 percent of the entire world’s population was forcibly displaced by the end of 2023, nearly double the 1 in 125 people a decade ago.

New crises like the conflict in Sudan contributed to the record-breaking numbers. However, host countries are providing refuge and asylum for longer periods or even indefinitely, while addressing development challenges of their own. Sixty-six percent of refugees were in protracted situations by the end of 2023, including 10.9 million Afghans and 13.8 million Syrians. 

Low-income countries continued to host a disproportionately large share of the world’s displaced people. These countries represent 9 percent of the global population and only 0.5 percent of global gross domestic product, yet they hosted 17 percent of refugees. As well as Uganda, this included very large refugee populations in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan. 

Without the necessary international support, infrastructure and services, low- and middle-income countries can struggle to meet the immense needs of forcibly displaced people and host communities, putting a strain on their economies, public services and social cohesion.

A woman and children surrounded by tent shelters

Syria is one of the world's biggest displacement crises, with 13.8 million people forced from their homes living both inside and outside the country.


Strategies to resolve, prevent and respond to forced displacement

In 2023, some 8 million displaced people, returnees and host community members benefitted from UNDP’s work on forced displacement. UNDP’s project budgets that included internally displaced persons and refugees amounted to US$809.8 million with over 100 projects across nearly 50 country offices. 

In the Lake Chad region, UNDP support to governments has allowed 435,000 displaced persons to return home. In Georgia, the Ukrainian House in Tbilisi provides socio-economic services for Ukrainian refugees. In Peru, the CREANDO digital platform promotes entrepreneurship opportunities for over 2,000 displaced people from Venezuela, migrants and host communities.

This support will be scaled up in 30 plus countries over the next three years, helping them unlock long-term financing, invest in access to services, livelihoods, decent jobs and justice, while strengthening peacebuilding, climate action, and national and local coordination and management. 

Men working on a farm and on a construction site

Working with UNHCR, UNDP supports governments hosting Syrian refugees. Over half a million jobs have been created for refugees and host community members.

Photos: UNDP Syria/Abdalmalek Alabdalaa and UNDP Lebanon

A cornerstone of the efforts is the more than 60-year collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. A newly published report, Partnership in Action – UNDP and UNHCR Cooperation on Forced Displacement and Statelessness, shows how forcibly displaced and host communities benefit from closer collaboration between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding action.

In Afghanistan, the agencies have combined support in 25 priority areas, including on education, health, shelter, community infrastructure, clean water and livelihood opportunities. Responding to the crisis in Syria, the agencies lead the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), a platform which has helped create jobs for 500,000 Syrian refugees and host community members. In South Sudan and Sudan, UNDP and UNHCR will boost local capacities and socio-economic inclusion for displaced people and host communities.

Migrants walk in a line against a desert landscape

With UNDP support, governments have created the security, work and living conditions that have allowed 435,000 displaced persons to return home in the Lake Chad Basin.

Photo: UNDP Nigeria

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is the international day when we honour refugees. People do not become refugees by choice. They cross international borders fleeing war, violence and disasters. When displacement has no end in sight, the cycle of aid dependency and poverty continues. 

Reversing these trends requires more investment in humanitarian, development and peacebuilding action. National and local governments need long-term development and peacebuilding support that they can rely on when humanitarian aid recedes. 

As a good carpenter, Patrick Anyanzo knows that any fool can knock down a home, but it takes the right tools to build one.