World Refugee Day 2019: Building a stronger international response to the challenge of forced displacement

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This year, World Refugee Day finds me in Addis Ababa with representatives from more than 50 governments to review the work of the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank Group that provides financing to the poorest countries, and discuss priorities for the years ahead. Under its current program, IDA is providing $2 billion to 14 low-income countries which together are hosting 6.4 million refugees, including in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia is among the countries that is taking major steps forward. Here, for example, we have supported the government in adopting a new legal framework for refugees which will allow them to gradually move out of camps, find jobs, and access education and health services. This is no small measure for the more than 900,000 refugees who are hosted along Ethiopia’s borders with Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan. It is the difference between having a chance to restart their lives or be condemned to dependency and destitution.

The Ethiopian government is showing admirable foresight in this effort and we are proud to provide support through a $202 million project to create economic opportunities for refugees and host communities.

As Eritrean refugee and entrepreneur Ahmedin Ibrahim told us recently, “It is better to earn a living by yourself than to expect handouts from others.” Ibrahim left the Adi Harush Refugee Camp and now lives in Shire, Ethiopia where he is teaching his daughters to make furniture and stand on their own.

And Ethiopia is not alone. Uganda is hosting nearly 1.2 million refugees and has provided large numbers of them with a tract of land, so they can sustain themselves. Turkey has encouraged Syrian entrepreneurs to start businesses and more than 8,000 companies have been created in the process. Chad is looking at ways to ensure more consistency between its nascent social safety net and the humanitarian system. Pakistan has just allowed refugees to open bank accounts.

The wider context for these positive steps, however is a rising number of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are fleeing conflict and persecution. Across the world today, there are about 29.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, more than the entire population of Australia. These are not economic migrants looking for a better job or a better life, but people who have abandoned everything to seek safety for themselves and their loved ones, often at the cost of living in destitution.  

And contrary to some perceptions, nearly nine out of ten refugees are in developing countries, often just across the border from their homeland.  In fact, because most refugees come from places that have been at war for long periods and because most of them move to a neighboring country, it is the same 12 to 15 countries that have been hosting more than two-thirds of all refugees every year since the end of the Cold War.

We cannot fully imagine the immense suffering faced by these men, women and children as they move from war zones to safety, but we can and must do all we can to help them. With the number of refugees on the rise, the system is under stress. Countries and communities that host refugees find themselves having to absorb large numbers of newcomers, often in lagging regions where poverty is already high. And the cost of sustaining refugees while they are in exile is enormous.  

Last December, the international community adopted the Global Compact on Refugees that aims to provide a better international response. That means helping refugees to become self-reliant, supporting host communities to tackle their own development challenges, and encouraging countries around the world to share the responsibility of upholding the international refugee protection system.

We at the World Bank are determined to play our role in this collective endeavor, including by financing countries’ efforts to provide jobs and services for refugees and host communities. In doing so, we need to pay particular attention to those most at risk of exclusion – people with disabilities, women and girls. This is vital for refugees, vital for host communities and vital if we are to stem chaotic population movements across borders.

With the number of refugees on the rise, the system is under stress. Countries and communities that host refugees find themselves having to absorb large numbers of newcomers, often in lagging regions where poverty is already high. And the cost of sustaining refugees while they are in exile is enormous.
Kristalina Georgieva
Kristalina Georgieva
Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank

In 2016, the World Bank launched the Global Concessional Financing Facility, together with the United Nations and the Islamic Development Bank, to provide concessional funding to middle-income countries that host large numbers of refugees. To date, over $500 million in grants provided by nine countries and the European Commission have been approved for Jordan, Lebanon, and Colombia. In the process, the World Bank is also working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure the best possible complementarity between refugee protection, humanitarian relief, and development aid.

To further strengthen our interventions, we are making support for refugees and host communities a key pillar of our upcoming strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence. You can read the strategy concept note here and we encourage you to contribute your ideas.

At the World Bank, we understand the urgent need to address what has become the most significant forced displacement crisis since World War II. On World Refugee Day, we acknowledge the losses, the hopes, the ambitions of the millions of men, women and children who have been forced from their homes into foreign lands.

We hope you will join us in our endeavor and take a moment to acknowledge the refugees in your own country or community and think about the circumstances that may have led them to where they are. And we ask you to speak up for refugees and for those who host them, so we can collectively promote local, national and global efforts to make their lives better.

Join the Conversation

Neil De Silva
June 20, 2019

We have been working in Capacity Building in Sri Lanka, for more than 25 Years and are looking for some guidance from the Various United Nations Organizations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations.

Kaganga John
June 21, 2019

Hi Kristalina,thanks for this educative and inspiring information,i will continue to engage in refugee issues so that together we can reduce forced displacement

Motto Anthony Xa
June 21, 2019

Together we can overcome the burden! When we can come together, speak the same language, join the rest and share efforts,ideas, talents, faiths and hopes for what is true and admirable, what are impacting with courage, what benefits and easy to explore, then we shall very easily overcome the global challenge arising from the forced displacement getting checked and reduced!

Eliot SOREL MD
June 21, 2019

Brilliant ideas, very well conceived and much appreciate the World Bank leadership on such an extraordinary challenge of rising tide of refugees globally. In addition to attending to the refugees' current plight we must also consider the genesis of this crisis and develop primary prevention solutions to it in tandem with carrying out the current programs & projects.

Elvin M, Banwrehn
July 01, 2019

This is a great initiative from the world bank to help Refugees around the world have a better life. For me I think Empowerment and Education is the key to help them life a betrer life while being a Refugee. This will help sustain them even without the UNHCR constant intervention. It could be vocational trainings , and those who need Education being sponsored for Higher education. I was once a refugee in Ghana a Liberian refugee, It was the empowerment that UN provided for us that most people are surviving on today in Liberia.

Cedric Yombu
July 01, 2019

How can we be sure that the growing number of refugees around the globe are to receiving some sort of learning, which will be of use and benefits to the whole world at large.

Nkiruka Aroh
July 01, 2019

I want to say thank you for the organization which have been trying to reach people who are displaced by crisis, more grease to your elbows.in such case, there are people who have no where to put their families due to Erosion manacee, please we need to reach those people, ,AIDA AROH FOUNDATION AAF Is out to reach them, please help.thank you for your help.from Nkiruka Aroh for the Aida Aroh Foundation.

B. Datta
June 25, 2019

Developing countries are already in unsatisfactory, if not poor financial condition. The burden of refugees makes the condition even worse. What the World Bank is giving to tide over the crisis makes me ask the question: is it grant or loan? If it is a loan, it barely makes sense as the burden of repayment can add to their bad financial condition. I would appreciate clarification on this aspect.

Karuhanga. Kennedy
July 01, 2019

Building their lives mentally through instilling esteem ,self love ,hope and charisma should be looked into too. This can then complement the financial support to comeup with high productivity

Wade Cheikh Fadel
July 08, 2019

merci madame la Directrice de nous avoir donné l’opportunité de nous joindre à cette discussion. Nous avons constater que la plupart des réfugiées au Sénégal se sont les communautés de pécheurs qui sont d'abord vulnérable face au changements climatique avec les phénomènes d’érosion côtière mais également avec les industries qu'on est entrain de construire et les grands projets dans ces zones de pêche contribue beaucoup a l'exode de ces enfants vers les pays d’Europe par exemple au Sénégal particulièrement dans la ville de bargny à 32 km de Dakar, on a installé une centrale à charbon qui rejette ses eaux de refroidissement dans la mer,un Port Minéralier et Vraquier qui va prendre 883 hectare dans la mer et a cela s'y ajoute le pétrole qu'on a trouvé au large de nos cotes appelé Rufisque Offshore Madame je crois sincèrement que nos enfants n'ont d'autres choix que de s'exiler ils doivent même bénéficier de statut de réfugiées climatiques