Building knowledge on those affected by forced displacement – JDC’s contribution so far.


Dear Colleagues,

As we look back at 2020, it was a year in which the role of data and evidence became increasingly important in relation to policymaking. However, it was also a year in which the data gaps on certain groups of the population became painfully clear. As we – collectively – tried to understand the impact of the pandemic on some of the most vulnerable people in the world, it became evident how limited our capacity is to collect data in a timely manner, especially when having to deal with unexpected obstacles.

It is by addressing these gaps that the Joint Data Center aims to fulfill its mandate to enhance the ability of stakeholders to make timely and evidence-informed decisions. In this newsletter we look back at what the JDC did in 2020 in terms of knowledge-sharing, as a way to reflect on the past 12 months with a view to doing more and better in 2021.

• The 1st Research Conference on Forced Displacement, in January 2020, was a large event focused specifically on the data challenges related to forced displacement. It was a high-level academic event that brought together some 130 leading researchers, practitioners and policymakers and contributed to put the spotlight on the importance of data gathering and analysis to enable appropriate policy responses for those forcibly displaced.

• We further drew attention on some of the most relevant advancements in the research on forced displacement through our Seminar Series. In 2020, we hosted three seminars, with presentations from prominent researchers. They provided stimulating views on various topics such as the role of data in policymaking, the design of new labor market interventions for migrants and refugees, and the measurement of perceptions among those forcibly displaced. Moreover, we complemented these events with a dedicated webinar series, held in collaboration with the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on forcibly displaced people in the Global South.

• In 2020, we were pleased to launch two JDC-funded reports: the first looked at understanding the socioeconomic conditions of refugees and host communities in Kakuma (Kenya) compared to national averages; the second focused on the impact of the pandemic, associated lockdowns and economic shocks and other misfortunes which have compounded the crisis, in some areas of the Mashreq region. These investments were the results of the JDC’s work program, which includes some 40 activities that focus on improving the quantity and quality of available primary microdata for policymaking and programming.

• A recent op-ed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filippo Grandi, and the World Bank’s Managing Director of Operations, Axel van Trotsenburg, highlighted the devastating consequences that COVID-19 has had and will continue to exert on the forcibly displaced. COVID-19 has featured prominently across our activities and we have dedicated several publications to it. The challenges of gathering data on forced displacement were analyzed in an article published in the Forced Migration Review, a few months after the beginning of the crisis. A paper published in November – Highly vulnerable yet largely invisible: Forcibly displaced in the COVID-19-induced recession – provides insights on the macroeconomic implications of the global recession for major hosting countries affected by forced displacement. This paper marked the inaugural issue of the JDC Paper Series on Forced Displacement and provided several evidence-based facts referred to in the op-ed by Mr Grandi and Mr. Van Trotsenburg. Meanwhile, research efforts on the consequences of COVID-19 on those forcibly displaced are becoming relatively numerous. We have summarized these projects in a Primer on Research Activities, which allows researchers to describe their work and disseminate their preliminary results.

• Throughout the year, we have been in touch with you through our newsletters. The newsletters have helped us distribute our Literature Review Updates, which highlight recent publications, academic scholarship, and thought leadership on issues related to forced displacement. All the articles featured in the Updates are now available in an online database, which currently includes summaries of around 400 articles or reports.

• Academic scholars and researchers have studied forced displacement for many years. To capitalize on this wealth of knowledge, we have complemented the Literature Review Updates with two Quarterly Digests. The first issue (which featured an introductory piece by Prof. Sascha Becker) sought to understand whether any short-term benefits from forced displacement accruing to host countries dissipate or persist over time, particularly when refugees return or relocate elsewhere. The second issue (with an introductory piece by Dina Abu-Ghaida and Karishma Silva) focused on the impacts of forced displacement on education outcomes for internally displaced populations, refugees and their host communities.

We look forward to further developing our knowledge sharing efforts in 2021, and to keep on engaging with you as we progress with our activities and initiate new ones. As usual, we welcome your feedback on our dissemination products: for any comments or suggestions do not hesitate to contact Domenico Tabasso ([email protected]) and consider answering our anonymous survey.

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement