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Driving change in challenging contexts: four issues to address

Verena Fritz's picture
During war, markets help people survive. Salad traders in Garoule market, Mali.
© Irina Mosel / ODI

Recently, I participated in an ODI-organized conference on ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe as well as the adoption of the SDGs is bringing efforts to revive and accelerate development in challenging contexts to the forefront of political attention.

​Progress in such contexts is inevitably difficult. But actual practices are also still far from the possibility frontier of what could be done. Four issues stand out:

Much ado about nothing? The economic impact of refugee ‘invasions’

Massimiliano Calì's picture
Stranded Refugees and Migrants camp in Hungary - Spectral-Design l

To those European Union citizens who think that the ongoing “refugee invasion” into the EU is quickly becoming economically unsustainable: If the experience of Syria’s neighbors is anything to go by, you may need to think again.

Record number of forcibly displaced people has reached 60 million worldwide, data show

Leila Rafei's picture

As we continue to see headlines and editorials almost every day about migrants and refugees, it's not surprising when UNHCR reports that the number of forcibly displaced people has reached 60 million worldwide for the first time since World War II. This figure includes internally displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers.

While many are on the move as refugees, others migrate willfully at rates that have also reached unprecedented levels. Below, I've explored some trends in regional, country- and economic-level migration and refugee data. But first: What's the difference between a migrant and a refugee?

According to UNHCR, a refugee is any person who has been forced to flee their country of origin because of a fear of persecution. A migrant, on the other hand, is one who leaves their country voluntarily for reasons such as employment, study, or family reunification. A migrant is still protected by their own government while abroad, while a refugee lacks protection from their country of origin.

Managing public opinion in the epic migration crisis

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Refugees line up at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, LebanonIn all the affected countries, the ongoing migration crisis centering on both the Middle East and Europe is many things. But it is also a public opinion management challenge of impressive girth and height. This is one of those instances where wise leaders will not make policy first and only thereafter ask communication advisers to go and ‘sell’ it. They will have their sharpest communication/political advisers in the room while making policy, especially as the situation evolves in ever more dramatic directions. And those advisers will, one hopes, be monitoring public opinion, consulting panels of voters, talking to deeply experienced players in the political system… all as vital inputs into the policy process.

Why is this a particularly ticklish public opinion management problem? Here is why: the fundamental emotional and values drivers of public opinion at work here are powerful ones, and they clash clangorously. The temptation in host communities is to keep outsiders out, especially people who look different, speak different tongues, worship different gods, and have all kinds of fundamental commitments that host communities might be wary of.  People often think that these primordial sentiments come into play only when transnational movements of people in large numbers happen. But for people like me who grew up in geographically plural, multinational societies (where different ethnic groups live in distinct parts of the country) we know that moving to another part of what is supposed to be your own country to live permanently can be an ego-shredding challenge. As we used to say in Nigeria, the ‘sons of the soil’ might not accept you.

Water & war: Life is tough in Somalia, but it is getting better all the time

Dawud Abdirahman's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

Children in Somalia

​As I made my way to the mosque, I started to think about how violence has defined my country.  Most intractable conflicts have been caused by a lack of basic resources: water, food, fertile land. Somalia is no different.
We have a large nomadic population, and climate is a life system for many. Severe droughts interrupted by devastating floods occur frequently. Water can be as precious as gold and praying for rain is not uncommon.
Sharing water can create solidary and unity, but it can also cause bloodshed. It is one of the oldest causes of conflict; often a small clash between two people over water can erupt into years of bloody violence between clans or communities. People mobilise their clan to get the resources necessary for survival; particularly when wells and rivers run dry.

Who will help Syria’s displaced university students?

Omer Karasapan's picture
UNHCR / A. McConnell / March 2014

Pre-war, 93% of Syria’s children attended schools and some 25% of eligible youth attended tertiary institutions. But well over half of Syria’s youth in higher education are estimated to be displaced, unable to pursue their education due to insecurity or because their university facilities have been destroyed and their faculty scattered. 

I have a dream … to go back to school

Aryam Talal Al-Mofti's picture

I still remember that day, Thursday, March 26, 2015, when it was announced that my school, along with all the other schools in Yemen, was being closed because of the armed conflict and war. This news was a shock to me, as it meant I would no longer have any way to relieve the pressures of living in a country that lacks even the basic necessities of life.

Quote of the Week: Justin Farrell

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Justin Farrell, author of The Battle for Yellowstone"Environmental conflict is not ultimately about scientific true and false, but about moral right and wrong. It is not about the facts themselves, but what makes the facts meaningful. There are important moral and spiritual bases of conflict that observers and participants in the conflict have ignored, muted or simply misunderstood."

- Justin Farrell, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University and the author of The Battle for Yellowstone

Campaign Art: Refugees are Not that Different

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Last year, the United Nations announced the global population of refugees had reached levels not seen since the Second World War. Moreover, the Global Trends Report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2014, conflict and persecution forced an average of 42,500 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere— either within their home countries or across national borders— resulting in 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of the year. 
It’s easy to get lost in the statistics and forget about the individual stories of each refugee.  Refugees leave behind neighbors, homes, and jobs. They once battled their morning wake up calls, watched football on television, and had their family over for dinner— just like other people.

To capture the similarities and to highlight that what makes refugees different from others is simply circumstance, CARE Canada launched a campaign called #NotThatDifferent.  As part of the campaign, they produced a video in which average Canadians and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon were interviewed and filmed; their life stories have much in common.
VIDEO: #NotThatDifferent