Turning the Tide on Internal Displacement

A Development Approach to Solutions

November 30, 2022

Turning the Tide on Internal Displacement: A development approach to solutions calls for a renewed emphasis on development solutions to internal displacement

UNDP Iraq Photo

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today to present the findings of this timely report.

I would like to thank Robert Piper, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement and representatives of Colombia, Germany and Nigeria on our panel, together with partners and participants who are with us today.

I also want to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and express my gratitude for their collaboration on this important work.

The product of that work represents a fundamental step forward in the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement and the Secretary-General’s Action Agenda on Internal Displacement, which both highlight the need for a more developmental approach to internal displacement.

Our report - Turning the Tide on Internal Displacement: A development approach to solutionsprecisely calls for a renewed emphasis on what we call development solutions.

Through UNDP’s new analysis of data provided by IDMC, we looked at the socio-economic impacts of internal displacement on individuals and affected host communities in some of the most fragile and protracted settings.

What we found was a long overdue need for greater investment in development out of crisis and displacement.

As the report makes clear: Humanitarian assistance is critical in the first stages of displacement to save lives and foster stability. But development holds the key to long-term solutions.

Our report connects the dots between available data and proven solutions to paint a clearer picture of the actions that governments, national actors and development partners must take to prevent displacement, protect those forced to move and offer them opportunities to integrate and contribute to the economies and societies of their host communities.

With this report we hope to contribute to lifting the veil of indifference that has led to the marginalization of entire generations of internally displaced persons.

This year, as reported by UNHCR, the global number of forcibly displaced people passed 100 million for the first time.

For many, displacement conjures images of refugees crossing international borders. Yet, most people fleeing from their homes – almost 60 million in fact – remain within their own countries.

In Ukraine alone, more than 14 million people have now been forced from their homes with 6.5 million people displaced within the country. 

Globally, IDPs have doubled over the past decade, disproportionately affecting women, children and marginalized groups.

And some 80 percent are hosted in fragile settings according to the OECD. 

The analysis in the Turning the Tide report comes from data collected by IDMC between January 2021 and January 2022 from people both internally displaced and from within host communities across Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Somalia and Vanuatu.

These data, while not nationally representative, can provide insights in the absence of national and global estimates, and reveal a series of distinct development deficits.

We found, a third of IDPs surveyed fell into unemployment.

Sixty-eight percent didn’t have enough money to meet their households’ needs and a third said their health had worsened.

Compared to members of host populations, displaced children were on average 28 percent more likely to have stopped going to school.

This lack of integration harms individuals and the localities that host them simultaneously.

IDPs themselves are unable to rebuild their lives while communities fail to benefit from the work, knowledge and skills these individuals can offer.

The resulting divisions invariably lead to distrust in local institutions, increased inequality and instability. 

It is a volatile mix of fragile conditions that, on our current course, we will see expand in the coming decades.

As climate change intensifies, the World Bank estimates upwards of 216 million people could be forced to move internally by 2050.

And yet, these events rarely make headlines. Gaps in development support have led to a crisis hiding in plain sight.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

These findings supply important evidence for the effectiveness, value and sustainability of nationally owned and locally led development solutions to protracted displacement.

Turning the Tide emphasizes the urgent need for investment in people-centred approaches to basic services and pathways to integration.

Too often these efforts have come in the form of humanitarian interventions that stop short of addressing root causes.

As in any crisis, internal displacement requires, long-term, integrated and gender-responsive development solutions that help countries break the cycle of fragility, get ahead of the crisis curve and sustain development to invest in hope – from jobs to justice.

With this type of system-lens in mind, the report suggests five key pathways to development solutions. They focus on people, their opportunities and choices to outline what the end of displacement looks like. Through a human development approach, we propose to renew the social contract between displaced citizens and the state. Restoring their human security and dignity should be at the heart of rebuilding equity and a prosperous society.

The first pathway is about strengthening governance institutions at national and local levels. This implies incorporating internal displacement into national and local development plans. It is also about capacitating, reinforcing and building resilient institutions to lead, coordinate and respond to their own citizens’ needs.

The second pathway focuses on fostering the socio-economic integration – or reintegration – of IDPs and displacement-affected communities through access to healthcare, education, employment and social protection, among others.  

Third, we must improve the security of IDPs and displacement-affected communities by supporting governments and national actors in restoring the rule of law and access to justice, while joining forces with stabilization and peace actors to foster a return to peace.

Fourth, enhancing IDPs’ civic and political participation means we must address exclusion by safeguarding IDPs’ full rights as citizens and residents of their own countries.

The fifth pathway focuses on promoting social cohesion in displacement-affected communities to prevent conflicts and foster peaceful coexistence.

We have put forward this new development solutions framework to support member states to achieve an end to displacement through development approaches.

Our report also illustrates the proven success that is possible through these pathways.

In north-east Nigeria, where the UN and European Union have worked with government partners to build energy-efficient housing and restoration of basic services in the community, thousands of families have returned home after decades of conflict and instability.

In a subsequent survey of the region, 89 percent of community households reported satisfaction with government performance.

In Colombia, with strong community engagement, IDPs have been able to engage in the peace process, ensuring their voices are included in development plans. Helping repair the social contract, UNDP has strengthened local government capacities to implement victim reparation schemes, promote income generation and facilitate returns and relocation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

Earlier this year, as the UN Secretary-General called for development approaches to displacement, he said “more of the same is not good enough” – UNDP agrees.

With this report, we offer our vision for a better approach and to begin a conversation towards a more common understanding of how the end of displacement can look like from a development perspective. 

And UNDP stands ready to do our part:

  • As core members of the UN Steering Group on Solutions to Internal Displacement, we will support the mandate of the Special Adviser and promote a more joined-up approach to solutions, globally and in countries.
  • We commit to supporting the role of UN Resident Coordinators (RCs) in leading UN efforts on the ground and have agreed with the Special Adviser to host a UN Facility for the provision of additional support to RCs and UN Country Teams.
  • We will consolidate our collaboration with humanitarian partners – for example, during the High Commissioner’s Dialogue next week in Geneva, we will unveil a new Global Collaboration Framework with UNHCR focusing on inclusion and solutions.
  • We will strengthen our partnership with IDMC, the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) and other entities to devise better data and analytics to enhance our understanding of the longer-term impacts of internal displacement. These strengthened data and analytics are intended to support decision-making and to monitor progress towards the implementation of development solutions.
  • We will invest in internal capacity, through staff training and guidance tools to leverage our broad development mandate and the wide range of in-house expertise.
  • We commit to working with governments willing to champion the cause of IDPs and adopt national solutions strategies – and call for development partners, especially Multilateral Development Banks – to support such efforts.

All this will be outlined in our new UNDP strategy on supporting development solutions to internal displacement.    

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Report of the High-Level Panel and the Action Agenda of the UN Secretary General provide a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to reframe and reset our collective approach and effectively “turn the tide” on internal displacement.

Let’s work together to make this ambition a reality. Just as no one is immune to forced displacement, no one can solve it alone.