What I learned at the Global Refugee Forum – that data has impact

I have just returned from Geneva where I was at the Global Refugee Forum – or the GRF. My main takeaway was that data is critical.

It was the standout message from Taka Masaaki, a JDC Senior Economist, when he launched Forced Displacement Microdata – a platform that captures and visualizes publicly available microdata from the UNHCR and World Bank microdata libraries.

Forced Displacement Microdata is a comprehensive study of forced displacement data. Through graphic representations, the platform shows us where there is a concentration of data (Sub-Saharan Africa), where there is a lot of data (Latin America and the Caribbean) and where there is very little (Asia). As many low-income countries are in Africa, it is critical that we have socioeconomic data from there – so that we can determine how to support economic activity that includes forcibly displaced people.

It was the conversations I had with UNHCR leadership from Africa that resonated the most with me. I spoke to Abdouraouf Gnon Konde, Bureau Director for West and Central Africa and Mamadou Dian Balde, Bureau Director for East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes who are both currently coping with the exodus from Sudan. We connected over our experience in operations, but we were also able to make the link between their operational needs and policy priorities and how the JDC, as a data provider, can best serve them.

The other thing that I realized at the GRF is that there is growing acknowledgement within the development world that refugee issues are not just humanitarian issues. This was also echoed by the speakers at our GRF side event – Data and Forced Displacement – who all described how data on refugees can shape government policy and development programming.

Data can also build bridges – between refugees and host communities, between internally displaced people and development organizations, but only when it is used, and Chad and Peru have both done this.

Both the Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática and the Institut National de la Statistique, des Etudes Economiques et Démographiques (the national statistical offices in Peru and Chad) have produced data that included refugees and this data has been analyzed by experts to determine the best policies to benefit refugees and host communities. This analysis not only supported the policy dialogue, but also impacted programs and operations.

Every four years the GRF brings together all kinds of stakeholders – refugees, donors, development actors, humanitarian organizations, the private sector and policymakers and at this year’s event, over 60 countries announced pledges to include forcibly displaced people in national statistics. This is the first step in providing data for policymaking and over the next few years, I want to have more examples like Chad and Peru, to showcase, as more countries include forcibly displaced people in their data and, most importantly, in their policy.

Yours sincerely,

Aissatou (Aisha) Dicko

Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement