Investing in refugees and their hosts: A development approach


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Today, there are more refugees in the world than directly after World War II. That is almost 26 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and fled across borders from situations of fragility, conflict and violence (FCV).

This week, the Global Refugee Forum has highlighted what the global headlines often miss: that 85 percent of all refugees are hosted by developing countries, and three quarters of refugees are still displaced after five years.  Such long displacements can be devastating.

All refugees, especially women, are exposed to higher levels of violence and exploitation. Those seeking work often find few opportunities and may be forced to work illegally or in dangerous conditions. A ‘lost generation’ of refugee children may miss out on good health, education and a stable childhood, and are left with few productive skills or job prospects.

Access to jobs, opportunities and long-term health and education for refugees are among the reasons our shareholders are asking the World Bank to get more closely involved in addressing forced displacement.  They recognize that development investments can take a long-term approach and complement the immediate humanitarian responses to crises, helping reduce the damaging impact of prolonged displacement. Moreover, this approach is aligned with the needs of host communities in developing countries, many of whom are calling for comprehensive approaches that consider their needs along with those of refugees.

The World Bank has therefore been scaling up its support to refugees and host communities for several years, in response to the growing global crisis of forced displacement. At the Global Refugee Forum this week, I announced that the IDA19 replenishment includes a dedicated window for host-communities and refugees (WHR) of $2.2 billion over the next three years, a further increase compared to the $2 billion allocated under the previous IDA cycle.

While the WHR is the principal source of financing for refugees and host communities in IDA, it is complemented by up to $1 billion from other IDA resources like the dedicated FCV allocation, which was doubled to $14 billion under IDA18. Looking ahead, the new IDA19 package increases this allocation to $18.7 billion in support for countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence.   These countries are also expected to receive a large part of a new $2.5 billion funding window to boost the private sector and create jobs.

Moreover, the World Bank’s Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) that provides concessional financing to middle income countries hosting large numbers of refugees has also ramped up its financing. Grants made to middle income countries have doubled over the same period from $160 million to $320 million.

As well as helping refugees and host communities directly, by addressing the underlying drivers of fragility and conflict the World Bank aims to reduce the factors that can cause people to flee their homes. The IDA19 package will address several areas that are most critical for long-term focus, including:

  • Education – because over half of refugees are children, we want to do all we can to prevent a lost generation;
  • Jobs – because they are key to self-reliance and dignity, for both host communities and refugees who often live in lagging regions;
  • Gender – because of the terrible ordeal many women and girl refugees are going through;
  • Prevention and preparedness – because we ought to reduce these crises and better manage them; and
  • Data and evidence – because this helps ensure our interventions reach the right people and have the desired outcome. For example, to measure better the impact of refugee inflows on their hosts and inform our responses we have established the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement with UNHCR.

This expanded focus reflects our commitment to shared responsibility, ensuring that that we are doing our part to support the longer-term needs of refugees. It also reflects a broader recognition at the World Bank that our mission of ending extreme poverty will lead us to implement more operations in situations of fragility, conflict and violence  - by 2030, almost half of the extreme poor worldwide are likely to live in these places, and our financing will follow.

The World Bank is already more actively engaged in support of refugees and host communities as part of its development mission. We have already evolved to address conflict and fragility before, during and after crises, and to ensure support and inclusion for the poorest and most vulnerable. Moreover, our support is designed to complement humanitarian efforts and tackle the medium-term economic and social dimensions of the crisis.  

Early next year, we expect to finalize our draft World Bank Group strategy for Fragility Conflict and Violence. This will systematize our institutional commitment on FCV through financing, policy dialogue, analytics, operational shifts and partnerships. Our focus on refugees, host communities and vulnerable people in fragile countries is here to stay.

Join the Conversation

Okechukwu Orisakwe
December 27, 2019

I have been on a project for over five years on creating a unique best needed platform that will enable creation of jobs to young graduates and talented people alike. I'm from Nigeria where Political umpire entirely suppressed the great opportunity the young ones and children alike to eliminate extreme poverty. So i want to use this avenue to implore for considering my project in support and funding and so the people themselves can handle refugees with all needed by their resources they generated. Thank you.

Abdullahi Ali Abdullahi
December 27, 2019

It is good to help all refugees in the world in order to access clean water,shelter,basic education and security.
The world bank is the most important institution to help the world refugees.
I would like to join with you becuase, I have more than 15 years of experienced both IDPs and Refugees.

Robert Atuhairwe
December 27, 2019

I am from Uganda, a major Refugee Hosting Developing Country. The refugee question should be encouragingly resolved and refugees given a new start in life with devt programmes and a plan for them to reintegrate back in their home countries . If not, they pose a grave security problem to host countries which may degenerate into a new cycle of violence (with indigenous communities). Efforts in this direction are much appreciated!

Aziz M. Hazizi
December 27, 2019

Hi, How would you help the refugees directly not through the hosting countries if they are entrepreneurs or innovators!
I mean is there any platform, - as a refugee - I can apply for support or investment through?
Because some countries are not allowing refugees to work or start a business, so should be there a solution for such cases.

Carlos Jaimes
December 27, 2019

I would definitely encourage both the public and private sector to coordinate efforts in hiring refugees to promote inclusive growth. Formal jobs can increase domestic demand and hence, boost investments that could be translated into job creation afterwards.