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Join the discussion on forced displacement at the IMF-WBG Spring Meetings 2016

Saroj Kumar Jha's picture

With the war in Syria in its sixth year, concerns over the plight of Syrian refugees continue to capture the world’s attention. In addition to this great tragedy, their hosts in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are also struggling to accommodate the needs of so many people.

How we help the forcibly displaced people of the world – not just from Syria, but from Somalia, Afghanistan, and many other countries – is high on the agenda this week, at the IMF-World Bank Group Spring Meetings here in Washington DC.

Among the many events that focus on today’s toughest development challenges, we are looking forward to welcoming global leaders for a discussion on addressing the challenge of forced displacement.

5 lessons learned to take action for peaceful and inclusive societies

Rediet Yibekal Wegayehu's picture
Syrian refugees, Ali and his daughter, Cham are waiting to see a nurse at
the Howard Karagheusian primary health care center, in Beirut, Lebanon.

This year’s Fragility Forum themed Take Action for Peaceful and Inclusive Societies was held at a time when the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people and growing violent extremism shows real urgency. The 70 plus sessions touched on so many intersections of development, peacebuilding and governance and recurring themes from how to strengthen the global response to forced displacement; to exploring next generation technology; to ending poverty in fragile settings. The following are my key takeaways.

1. Partnerships are the cornerstone of greater success.
The panelists emphasized strongly the idea of partnerships to tackle fragility, conflict and violence. Particularly, the development community and humanitarian groups have long worked separately but with the growing development challenge of the Syrian refugee crisis, a new approach is required. President Kim stressed that “it’s time to work together”. Better cooperation also requires avoiding overlapping goals as Ali Sindi, Minister of Planning, Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq noted during the first plenary.

Jordanian venture aims to use technology to empower refugees

Christine Petré's picture
Loay Malahmeh, a co-founder of 3D Mena

The organization Refugee Open Ware is on a mission to empower refugees by giving them access to new technologies, such as 3D-printing. “We want to raise awareness about what 3D-printing can do,” explains Loay Malahmeh, a co-founder of the Jordanian company, 3D Mena and a partner in Refugee Open Ware. “How it can not only solve real problems, but also unleash immense, untapped potential.”

Just give them the money: Why are cash transfers only 6% of humanitarian aid?

Duncan Green's picture

Paul Harvey, ODIGuest post from ODI’s Paul Harvey

Giving people cash in emergencies makes sense and more of it is starting to happen.  A recent high level panel report found that cash should radically disrupt the humanitarian system and that it’s use should grow dramatically from the current guesstimate of 6% of humanitarian spend.  And the Secretary General’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit calls for using ‘cash-based programming as the preferred and default method of support’.

European Commission’s Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) finances basic services for 100,000 Eritrean refugees in EthiopiaBut 6% is much less than it should be. Given the strong case for cash transfers, what’s the hold-up in getting to 30%, 50% or even 70%? The hold-up isn’t the strength of the evidence, which is increasingly clear and compelling. Cash transfers are among the most rigorously evaluated and researched humanitarian tools of the last decade. In most contexts, humanitarian cash transfers can be provided to people safely, efficiently and accountably. People spend cash sensibly: they are not likely to spend it anti-socially (for example, on alcohol) and cash is no more prone to diversion than in-kind assistance. Local markets from Somalia to the Philippines have responded to cash injections without causing inflation (a concern often raised by cash transfer sceptics). Cash supports livelihoods by enabling investment and builds markets through increasing demand for goods and services. And with the growth of digital payments systems, cash can be delivered in increasingly affordable, secure and transparent ways.

People usually prefer receiving cash because it gives them greater choice and control over how best to meet their own needs, and a greater sense of dignity. And if people receive in-kind aid that doesn’t reflect their priorities they often have to sell it to buy what they really need as, for example, 70% of Syrian refugees in Iraq have done. The difference in what they can sell food or other goods for and what it costs to provide is a pure waste of limited resources. Unsurprisingly people are better than aid agencies at deciding what they most need.

Addressing the education emergency in Lebanon

Noah Yarrow's picture
Mohamed Azakir l World Bank

The education system in Syria is a victim of the country’s conflict; Syrian teachers and students have been displaced, along with their families, and many Syrian refugee children have now been out of school for multiple years. Of the approximately 340,000 Syrians ages 6 to 17 who are registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, about 45% are in Lebanese public schools, with additional numbers in private, semi-private and non-formal instruction. 

Yemen: so critically short of water in war that children are dying fetching it

Farouk Al-Kamali's picture
Oleg Znamenskiy l Shutterstock.com

Before the ongoing war, Yemen was already among those countries facing the most serious water shortages: experts warned that its groundwater would be depleted by 2017. The war has greatly exacerbated the situation as, along with instability, the absence of government, and spread of armed conflicts, the arbitrary pumping of groundwater has increased while government utilities like water supplies have collapsed.

The Impact of Syrian Businesses in Turkey

Omer Karasapan's picture
Istanbul, Turkey - Creatista l Shutterstock.com

In Turkey, as in other countries, refugees are often seen as an unmitigated burden, taking jobs from locals, straining public resources, and stoking fears of rising crime and terrorism. Clearly there are significant costs and risks shouldered by host countries, but there is another side to the story—the contributions made by refugees as they bring new businesses, markets, and skills to their host communities. To the extent that countries focus on an enabling business environment and a modicum of protection for refugees working illegally, the positive side of the ledger can only grow.

5 things we learned about violent extremism

Alys Willman's picture
Credit: www.weforum.org

The threat of violent extremism formed a common thread through many discussions at the Fragility Forum this month. While certainly not limited to fragile settings, these areas experience a disproportionate burden of attacks and exploitation by extremist groups. If we are going to prevent further violence, our efforts have to focus there.

UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson noted this in his opening remarks, saying, “We must get better at stamping out the flames before they pose an existential threat. We must do more prevention and post-conflict work.”
If we are ready to get serious about prevention and response to violent extremism, we need a better understanding of why people and communities support extremist groups, and why they don’t. During the Forum, the panel “Violent Extremism: What we know, and what we don’t” helped shed light on some critical empirical questions. 

Here are five things we learned:

Refugee stories from Idomeni and Europe’s baffled response

Georgia-Christina Kosmidou's picture
A newborn baby receives its first shower with cold bottled water, outside the tent where it was delivered, in the make-shift tent city of Idomeni, Greece. At the same time, two patients diagnosed with Hepatitis A, one of them a 9-year old Syrian girl, are removed from the camp in order to be hospitalized.

Migration and Violent Extremism in Contemporary Europe

Khalid Koser's picture

There is rising concern in Europe that massive flows of refugees and migrants from Syria may be infiltrated by terrorist groups such as Da’esh. In recent months President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, and Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni have all made public statements about the risk; and unfortunately attention is still being given to the fact that a Syrian passport – albeit a fake – was found by the body of one of the perpetrators of the Bataclan outrage in Paris.


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