Implementing and refining statistical standards on refugee and IDP statistics


Background and context

In March 2016, at the 47th session of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC), Statistics Norway, Eurostat, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) and UNHCR presented a joint report[1] acknowledging the importance of quality data on refugees and IDPs as well as the challenges associated with the production of statistics on these populations. In its decision 11/2016, the UNSC endorsed the proposal to establish an expert group mandated to develop a set of international recommendations on refugee statistics, acknowledging the need for improved systems on refugee statistics, and at the same time suggested the expert group should include IDPs in its scope of work. The Expert Group on Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Statistics (EGRIS) was therefore formally established as a country-led group which now consists of statistical experts from national authorities of around 45 countries and territories and almost 25 regional and international organizations. Membership in the Expert Group is open to all national statistical offices and international organizations. A Steering Committee which included UNHCR, Eurostat, World Bank, UN Statistics Division (UNSD), Turkstat, Statistics Norway, and the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) was also established to oversee the work of the group during its initial phase. UNHCR has since the inception of the work hosted the EGRIS Secretariat.

As part of the first phase of its work, the Expert Group submitted two documents to the UNSC at its 49th session in 2018: The International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS)[2] and the Technical Report on Statistics of Internally Displaced Persons[3]. Both documents were formally adopted and EGRIS’ mandate was extended to develop International Recommendations on IDP Statistics (IRIS)[4] and an online Compilers’ Manual[5] that provides guidance for practitioners to implement the two sets of Recommendations. Both documents were endorsed at the 51st session of the UNSC in March 2020.

These achievements mark significant progress in the international community’s efforts to systematically address a number of recurring and interlinked challenges associated with data on forced displacement, including:

  • Lack of common definitions and methodologies making comparisons difficult
  • Competing data sources produced by various stakeholders
  • Limited integration in national data systems delinking forced displacement from evidence-based development planning processes
  • Limited socio-economic data on refugees and IDPs and how they compare to national populations
  • Limited visibility in reporting progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The growing number of forcibly displaced persons globally and the increasingly protracted nature of both refugee and IDP situations, created further urgency to address these gaps, as did recent policy advancements – most notably through the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR)[6] – which promote inclusive national policies and enhanced development engagement as a key mechanism for improving the lives of forcibly displaced persons and their host communities. Improved data on and inclusion of forcibly displaced in national data systems is an integral part of this process (GCR Section 3.3 on Data and Evidence (para 45-48)).

In 2020, the UNSC decided again to extend the mandate of the expert group[7] to focus on the implementation of the IRRS and IRIS, and the coordination of necessary capacity building activities. EGRIS’s third phase, 2020-2024, will therefore focus on the implementation of the recommendations at country, regional and global level, through promoting the recommendations, strengthening national statistical capacity with partners in the area of forced displacement,  provide technical support in the implementation of the recommendations, and support improvements to the Compilers’ Manual. Throughout this process it will be important to monitor progress to better understand how the implementation of the recommendations is progressing and to identify where more efforts need to be inserted. The EGRIS has committed itself to regularly report back to the UNSC and donors on progress. During 2020, new members also joined the Steering Committee of EGRIS including Colombia, the Ukraine, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the African Union Commission, UNESCWA, the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement, IOM and IDMC.


Activity description

This project will feed into the wider objectives of the Expert Group to improve national and international refugee and IDP statistics through further development and implementation of the International Recommendations on how to produce, compile, and disseminate them. Key objectives outlined in the terms of reference for EGRIS phase 3 include:

  • Advocate for improved quality and availability of statistics on refugees and IDPs by disseminating and promoting the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS) and the International Recommendations on IDP Statistics (IRIS) along with the associated Compilers’ Manual;
  • Strengthen the statistical capacity of national statistical systems, relevant regional institutions, and international organizations/UN agencies and facilitate and coordinate technical support as needed to enable wider implementation of the Recommendations and the use of the Compilers’ Manual to produce, analyze and disseminate quality statistics on refugees and IDPs;
  • Support monitoring, regularly evaluate and capture lessons learned from implementation processes in both refugee and IDP contexts to continuously refine the recommendations on statistics on refugees and IDPs, including the refinement of the statistical measurement of progress towards Durable Solutions as well as the Compilers’ Manual (online collection of tools and guidance), and to enable capacity sharing across contexts;
  • Facilitate and strengthen reporting on the Global Compact on Refugees and SDG progress related to forcibly displaced persons, including disaggregated data collection by forced displacement;
  • Support coordination, collaboration, and partnership with key stakeholders including national, regional and international entities to enhance knowledge dissemination, improve capacity and identify best practices;
  • Function as a pool of technical experts which can be drawn upon in the provision of technical support and capacity building activities.


With funding from the European Commission, the JDC will support this project which will feed into EGRIS’ overall objectives through the following activities divided into the activities of three complementary subgroups during the period 2020-2024:

  • Subgroup 1 – Promotion and dissemination at country, regional, and global level:
  • Subgroup 2 – Capacity building:
  • Subgroup 3 – Improvement and refinement of the Compilers’ Manual:


Overall objectives

The overall objective of the work is to enable improved policymaking and response to forced displacement through strengthening the capacity of national and international institutions in the collection, management, and use of official statistics on refugee and IDP populations. Moreover, EGRIS will aim at increasing awareness of National Statistical Offices (NSO) representatives and policymakers, including relevant line ministries and directorates, on the importance of including questions on migratory status, with a sub category of forced displacement in the data collection to improve information on forcibly displaced populations, but also to enable comparison with host populations and inform longer-term development strategies in this area.


Engagement with partners

EGRIS is a strong partnership between 45 countries and about 25 regional and international organizations and academia. Consultation with its members fed into the development of an implementation plan for phase 3.  Engagement of national partners and NSOs will be essential in the implementation of the third phase of EGRIS’ mandate, especially considering national partners’ experience and expertise on the topic and already initiated processes of implementation of the recommendation in some national contexts.

EGRIS members were asked to join subgroups on the basis of both interest and capacity. During 2020, workplans for each subgroup have been collaboratively developed and reviewed by the Steering Committee for implementation in 2021 and beyond. EGRIS is constantly seeking to expand its membership and is currently extending its engagement with regional statistical organizations. The EGRIS is an inclusive group and stakeholders with relevant experience and expertise are always welcome to join.

To ensure a holistic and streamlined approach, work on the International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics (IROSS) has been included under EGRIS with partners forming a dedicated subgroup on this continuing activity (also supported by JDC)[8].



For further details on this activity, please contact: