Using research to inform policies and operations


We are experiencing the unfolding of the fastest developing humanitarian and refugee crises in Europe since WWII. Our thoughts are with those currently fleeing the violence in Ukraine. As the international community assists the internally displaced and those who are seeking safety in neighboring countries, we hope that the lessons of past crises can strengthen the international and national responses.

At the recent JDC 2nd Research Conference on Forced Displacement, some 500 researchers and practitioners took stock of the latest knowledge on the socioeconomic dimensions of forced displacement. It was reassuring to learn how far we have come in understanding what works, and what doesn’t, in terms of policies and programmatic interventions to benefit those forcibly displaced, and their hosts.

The Conference was hosted by the Joint Data Center, in collaboration with the School of Economics at Universidad de Los Andes, and the World Bank’s Development Research Group. The main findings and lessons learnt from the Conference are summarized in this High-level Read-out, and, more extensively, in the Conference Report. All presentations can be accessed on the dedicated webpage.

Exploring and reinforcing the links between research and policies is part of the Center’s mission. During the Conference we learnt about relevant examples of research which have shaped policies and interventions. This was the case of a study on the impact of the amnesty program implemented by the Colombian Government in 2018, which granted temporary work permits to nearly half a million undocumented Venezuelans. The study gave evidence to policymakers that the program did not have negative effects on host communities, which in turn paved the way for a second amnesty in 2021, granting temporary protection status for 10 years to all Venezuelans on Colombian territory.

This is not a unique example. Findings presented at first Research Conference, held in 2020, are contributing to shape policy interventions in national and local contexts. For example, the project Teaching Students Perspective-taking to Mitigate Social Exclusion of Refugee Children in Turkey, aims to support the social integration of Syrian refugees, and it has informed the Turkish Ministry of Education’s socio-emotional skills programming. Based on the short-term results of the study—which indicated that the intervention lowered peer violence and victimization, reduced social exclusion and ethnic segregation, and enhanced pro-social behavior—the Ministry of Education has decided to scale up the curriculum developed by the research team throughout the country in the second phase of its refugee integration program, PIKTES.

Similarly, the results of the project The Impact of Inter-Religious Soccer Leagues on Social Cohesion in Post-ISIS Iraq have influenced the work of local authorities and informed a wave of supplementary research by different organizations. Specifically, noting that inter-ethnic community programs can foster social cohesion, the Ninewa Provincial Council in Northern Iraq included inter-ethnic programming as one of the aims for an upcoming Master Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the Old City of Mosul. This work, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was funded by the provincial government, the Iraqi federal government, and international sponsors. The project has attracted the attention of a number of institutions, including NGOs and international organizations, which are looking into the portability of the program into different contexts.

Research can also form the basis for interventions by international organizations. According to Volker Schimmel, Head of UNHCR Global Data Service, this was the case for the work that a team of World Bank and UNHCR researchers, led by Paolo Verme, conducted in Jordan and Lebanon. The methodologies developed for the assessment of refugees’ welfare in these countries informed several operational dimensions, from cash transfers to durable solutions, and led to significantly faster decision-making and service delivery to refugees, better targeting, and improved donor confidence.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions on the Newsletter, for future editions of the Quarterly Digest or papers to be included in the Literature Review Update. Please don’t hesitate to contact Domenico Tabasso ([email protected]), Zara Sarzin ([email protected]) or myself ([email protected]) directly.


Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter

Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement