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World Refugee Day

Empowering refugees and internally displaced persons through digital identity

Nicholas Oakeshott's picture
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Oria Adamo, 72 years old and the mayor of a small town in Central African Republic shows his ID card in the village of Ndu, Bas Uele province, Democratic Republic of the Congo where thousands fled after fleeing a surge in violence that began in May 2017. © Simon Lubuku/UNHCR
Oria Adamo, 72 years old and the mayor of a small town in Central African Republic shows his ID card in the village of Ndu, Bas Uele province, Democratic Republic of the Congo where thousands fled after fleeing a surge in violence that began in May 2017. © Simon Lubuku/UNHCR

Fardowsa, a 20-year old Somali refugee in Uganda, knows the vital importance of identity documents to refugees. She and her family were forced to flee her homeland in 2001 without any official documentation. The refugee ID card she was issued by the Government of Uganda not only provides her with protection and access to humanitarian assistance, but it has also given her the opportunity to study at university and open a mobile money account. With this foundation, Fardowsa is planning to start her own business to further improve her and her family’s new life. In the process, she will also be contributing to Uganda’s economy while realizing her potential as a young female refugee.

Doing things differently to help refugees and their host communities

Franck Bousquet's picture
Refugee children in Ethiopia © Milena Stefanova/World Bank
Refugee children in Ethiopia. © Milena Stefanova/World Bank


On World Refugee Day, we pause to reflect on the struggles of refugees around the world. Refugees are vulnerable, having lost their assets and livelihoods, and without the ability to plan their lives. They need help regaining their voice, becoming self-reliant and rebuilding their lives.

At the World Bank Group, we recognize that the refugee crisis is not only a humanitarian concern, but a formidable development challenge as well. Numbers help to tell this story: Over 90 percent of refugees now live in the developing world; more than half are displaced for more than four years; fifty one percent of refugees are children and are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children; and many refugees are hosted by communities that are also struggling with their own development challenges – weakened infrastructure, food insecurity and limited access to quality health care, among others. Consequently, these communities also need our support.  

This is why the Bank Group, a development institution, is broadening its support for refugees and their host communities in a way that complements – not replaces – the work of others, especially humanitarian partners. We are approaching the problem from a development perspective, addressing social and economic challenges in the medium-term. The goal is to enable refugees to go beyond simply meeting their basic needs to getting an education, accessing health care, working, traveling and opening businesses – so that they can live as ‘normal’ a life as possible, and contribute to their local economy.  Including refugees in development planning and national systems is a key part of this approach.

In World Bank art exhibition, artists unpack displacement stories

Juliana J Biondo's picture
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Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank

As the World Bank Group strengthens support for refugees, internationally displaced people, and their host communities, the World Bank Art Program curated a multi-dimensional art exhibition entitled, Uprooted: The Resilience of Refugees, Displaced People and Host Communities to contribute a unique perspective. This exhibition showcased the creative voices of those artists touched by the refugee crisis, or those artists who were refugees themselves.

Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. 

The Uprooted exhibition included a visual art exhibition and musical performances featuring over 30 artists from places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Central African Republic, Burundi, and Guinea. The artists produced works that questioned the impact of transience in individual lives and entire communities of people.

One capstone of the exhibition was the construction of a shed intended to evoke the shelters found in places such as the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. For the exhibition, the shed was enhanced with murals on its sides. Each mural was done by the hand of a different artist – Suhaib Attar, an artist from Jordan and son of Palestinian refugee parents, Marina Jaber from Iraq, a country with millions internally displaced people, Diala Brisly, a refugee from Syria, and Didier Kassai from the Central African Republic, a country in which violence and war have forced hundreds of thousands into displacement.