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fragile and conflict affected states

How many years do refugees stay in exile?

Xavier Devictor's picture
"The average length of time that refugees spend in camps is 17 years." This cruel statistic has been quoted many times, influencing our perception of refugee crises as never-ending events which are spinning out of control. It has significant implications when deciding the type of aid that is needed, the combination of humanitarian and development support, and the possible responses to the crisis.

But is it true? Not so.

In fact, the "17 year" statistic comes from a 2004 internal UNHCR report, and it was accompanied by many caveats which have been lost along the way. The statistic does not refer to camps, since the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside camps. It is limited to situations of five years or more, so it is an average duration of the longest situations, not of all situations. Most importantly, it refers to the duration of situations, not to the time people have stayed in exile.

Take the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya. Refugees started to arrive massively around 1993, about 23 years ago. Their number now stands at 418,000. But can we say that all 418,000 have been in exile for 23 years?

In fact, forced displacement situations are inherently dynamic. As we see in Figure 1, numbers vary every year: they reflect political and military developments in the country of origin. In fact, a large part of the current total could not have arrived before 2008, i.e. about 6 or 7 years ago.
 
 

Figure 1 Number of Somali refugees in Kenya (UNHCR data)

Along these lines, and using data published by UNHCR as of end-2015, we re-calculated the earliest date at which various cohorts of refugees could have arrived in each situation (see working paper). We then aggregated all situations into a single "global refugee population" and calculated global averages and median durations.

So what are the results?

When we look at the "global refugee population" (See Figure 2), we can now distinguish several distinct episodes of displacement.
 


Figure 2 Number of refugees by year of exile

There is a large cohort of about 8.9 million "recent refugees," who arrived over the last four years. This includes about 4.8 million Syrians, as well as people fleeing from South Sudan (0.7 million), Afghanistan (0.3 million), Ukraine (0.3 million), the Central African Republic (0.3 million), and Pakistan (0.2 million).

Another large cohort, of about 2.2 million, has spent between 5 and 9 years in exile. It includes refugees from Afghanistan (0.5 million), the bulk of the current Somali refugees (0.4 million), and people fleeing from Colombia (0.3 million) and Myanmar (0.2 million).

About 2 million people have been in exile between 10 and 34 years. This includes years during which numbers are relatively low, and two episodes where they are higher, around 14 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.2 million Sudanese refugees, and around 24 and 25 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.1 million Somalis and 0.1 million Eritreans.

Lastly, a large group of refugees has been in exile for 35 to 37 years: these 2.2 million refugees include mainly Afghans, but also about 0.3 million ethnic Chinese who fled into China during the 1979 war with Vietnam. Finally, there are few very protracted situations, up to 55 years, including mainly Western Sahara.

We can now turn to average durations. As of end-2015, the median duration of exile stands at 4 years, i.e. half of the refugees worldwide have spent 4 years or less in exile. The median has fluctuated widely since the end of the Cold War, in 1991, between 4 and 14 years, and it is now at a historical low. By contrast, the mean duration stands at 10.3 years, and has been relatively stable since the late 1990s, between 10 and 15 years.

But this leads to another important finding: trends can be counter-intuitive. In fact, a decline in the average duration of exile is typically not an improvement, but rather the consequence of a degradation of the global situation. The averages increase in years when there are relatively few new refugees, and they drop when large numbers of people flow in, for example in 1993-1994 (with conflicts in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), in 1997-1999 (with conflicts in DRC and other parts of Africa), after 2003 (with conflict in Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan), and since 2013 (with the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic).

We also looked at the number of people who have spent more than five years in exile. As of end-2015, this number stands at 6.6 million, and it has been remarkably stable since 1991, at 5 to 7 million throughout most of the period.  For this group, however, the average duration of exile increases over time – largely because of the unresolved situation of Afghan refugees which pushes averages up. It is now well over 20 years.

This short analysis of UNHCR data shows that available refugee data can be used to clarify some important parts of the policy debate. It is important to ensure that this debate is informed by evidence, which can help provide a more nuanced perspective of a complex issue.

Transcending fragility – The importance of inclusive leadership

Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan's picture

2016 continues to witness a growing incidence of violent conflict around the world. These conflicts are particularly problematic in the group of 60 countries often referred to as Fragile States. Donor agencies pour billions of dollars annually, through policy advice and conditional loans to alleviate fragility and promote development. For the citizens living in these countries, change cannot come soon enough.
 
Development, however it is defined, involves economic, social and political transformation. Such a transformation is shaped by ideas, engages multiple interests, and proceeds within rules and norms set by political institutions. Since the structure of political institutions is influenced by human agency, leadership becomes an important factor in determining development trajectories. It is clear that leadership is crucial particularly in fragile states, where institutions are weak or have been destroyed by conflict. Leadership as an institution is paramount because it provides a transitioning society with the means to solve problems, make decisions, and craft policies. Leaders can help shape institutions that reduce uncertainty.[1]
 
There is widespread agreement in the international community and among researchers that institutions matter for stable and secure states, economic growth, political democracy and inclusive social development. Policy makers and international financial institutions have been insisting on the adoption of ‘appropriate’ political, economic and social institutions in the belief that these would promote economic growth, accountability and responsiveness through good economic governance and political democracy.[2] It takes effective leadership to achieve this.
 

How can we afford not to provide power when countries are fragile?

Charles Feinstein's picture

Earlier this year I was on a panel organized during the Fragility Forum 2016, where the question posed to a panel of five was, “what can we do on energy in fragile states?

But I found myself thinking, "how can we afford to do nothing?"

Modern energy is a cornerstone of sustaining and empowering people, as much as it is for economic growth. When I think about it, the first thought that comes to mind is that children in any country have the right to learn to read and write without being put in danger through kerosene lighting at night. It is precisely this new generation in fragile states that we cannot afford to lose if we do not want countries to become failed states.

Why Juba?

Jean Lubega-Kyazze's picture
Construction in Juba
 
The World Bank Group continues to engage in South Sudan despite the odds, and for good reason

Tell people you work in Juba – capital of South Sudan and now the newest member of the East African Community – and more often than not they won’t know where to find it on a map. Those of us who know are often met with doubtful stares when we talk about enhancing trade and competitiveness in a country that is struggling to emerge from decades of grueling civil war, not to mention a 98 percent illiteracy rate, inadequate capacity, a maternal mortality rate of 254 for every 100,000 births and a 250 out of 1,000 infant mortality rate.

Fact is, Juba is situated in the heart of Africa, where such challenges, and the daunting figures that go along with them, exist. But look deeper and you see commitment, potential, and signs of the World Bank Group’s positive impact. In short, you see opportunity.

Jordan’s queen and high-level officials urge rapid solutions to refugee crisis

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and Queen Rania of Jordan. © Grant Ellis/World Bank

Jordan’s Queen Rania and other high-ranking officials said Friday that the world needs a new approach to deal with historically high numbers of forcibly displaced people.

“This is a global crisis, and we’re deluding ourselves if we think it can be contained,” the queen said at the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings, where forced displacement is a top issue on the agenda amid a refugee crisis that has spread from the Middle East into Europe over the last year. 

Queen Rania said Jordan has received 1.3 million Syrian refugees over the past five years. The influx has been a “demographic shock that is exhausting our social and physical infrastructure to its absolute limits,” she said. International contributions have made up less than a third of Jordan’s expenses.

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.

Is diversifying exports a path toward peace in Syria?

Saurabh Mishra's picture
"Syria". Drawing by Rajesh Sarkar.



Resource rich nations face unique challenges when attempting to move from low to high value added activities.

Resource sectors (such as mining and oil) tend to be highly capital intensive and offer limited employment opportunities to accommodate workers exiting from other sectors with lower average productivity, such as agriculture and informal services.

Forging partnerships for peaceful and inclusive societies

Ozong Agborsangaya-Fiteu's picture

Maybe it’s the urgency of this real-world challenge that brings us closer together. The World Bank Group is hosting the Global Fragility Forum 2016 Take Action for Peaceful and Inclusive Societies for three days until tomorrow, featuring more than 70 sessions organized by over 100 partners.
 
This year’s program builds on the momentum of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and takes a hard look at implementation in fragile environments to achieve our own twin goals. It also highlights emerging challenges including forced displacement and violent extremism, where development actors have an important role to play. With three months to go before the World Humanitarian Summit, many of the discussions are focusing on improving humanitarian - development collaboration.
 
Communities from humanitarian, development, peacebuilding, security and more are represented, as well as my own colleagues at the World Bank Group. Among policy makers and practitioners, Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tunisian Quartet’s Ouided Bouchamaoui, Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, former President Danilo Turk of Slovenia and Afghan Rapper Sonita Alizadeh are also taking the stage.

Strengthening the global response to forced displacement

Bassam Sebti's picture
With the refugee crisis gaining the world’s attention since war broke out in Syria, many ideas have been raised to address forced displacement, both in the Middle East and in countries around the world. Displacement has emerged as a critical development challenge, one that affects not only the people displaced but also the communities hosting them.
 

Making the 2030 sustainable development agenda work for fragile and conflict affected states

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture

At a technical meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states, participants from Haiti to Timor Leste gathered with a mission: to sift through the many proposed indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and select 20 indicators for joint g7+ monitoring.
 
Hosted recently in Nairobi by the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, it was the first time that 17 out of 20 g7+ members were present, including senior officials from the National Statistics Offices and others. West African countries were particularly well represented. Their discussions were passionate: “We were mere spectators to the Millennium Development Goals. Now we want to actively push our specific challenges to the center of SDGs implementation,” said one.  “Our motto is that no one is left behind,” said another.


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