Launching a Quarterly Digest on Long Term Consequences of Forced Displacement

Dear Colleagues,

The newly released UNHCR Global Trends 2019 shows how the number of forcibly displaced people around the world has increased over the last decade, reaching 79.5 million people at the end of 2019. Expressed differently, around 1 percent of the world population is displaced. Over the last decade, the number of refugees has doubled and now includes more than 26 million people, to which one can add also 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. Among refugees, at least 77% are in a protracted situation: they have been living in a host country for at least five years.

This last figure reminds us of the fact that refugee crises can often have prolonged effects that shape the long-term living conditions of both refugees and host communities. Policy interventions have to be designed to take into account the possibility of long-run consequences. History tells us that refugee crises are not just contemporary events. Researchers around the world have been investigating the causes and effects of forced displacement over long time horizons. Therefore, their work can be used to better understand the challenges we face in today’s crises and inform policies that can ultimately benefit those forcibly displaced and their hosts. Recognizing this, the JDC is stepping up its efforts on discussing displacement research and policy responses also over a longer period of time.

Hence we found it appropriate to have long-term effects consequences of forced displacement to be the focus of our new knowledge product: a Quarterly Digest. The Digest complements our monthly Literature Review Update – which is a roundup that covers the latest research across many aspects of forced displacement – in that it has a clear thematic focus, includes an introductory piece by a guest editor, and almost exclusively draws on published works. We thank Professor Sascha Becker who accepted our invitation to lay the ground and offer guidance in the selection of the pieces summarized and in the interpretation of the results.

The articles referenced in the Digest show – almost universally – how refugees, host communities and even the countries of origin benefit from the interactions across the members of their respective communities. Becker makes three observations:

a) Forcibly displaced people often bring skills that exceed or complement those of the receiving population and benefit the receiving nations;
b) Even massive flows of forced displacement can have positive economic effects. They may, however, only materialize after some time, through agglomeration forces and from the impact of infrastructure investments;
c) Forced displacement differs from voluntary migration in its (often sudden) life-changing character, and it may trigger a stronger preference for education among descendants of those displaced by force.

While the Digest takes a historical perspective, the examples of socio-economic net benefits should not be seen as pertaining only to large forced displacement events that happened in the distant past: a recent report by Deloitte shows how the resettlement of a few hundred Karen refugees in Australia has positively impacted both the social and economic development of the city of Bendingo.

The Quarterly Digest is the latest addition to the Center’s strategy to engage with researchers and practitioners to reinforce the evidence-based discourse on forced displacement. We hope that the analysis and conclusions presented in this report will inspire further work, contribute to deepened country dialogue and further strengthen program design.

Beyond the Digest and the Literature Review Update mentioned above, our knowledge products also include a Quarterly Seminar Series, a Primer on Research Activities on the Consequences of COVID-19 on Forcibly Displaced People, and an Annual Research Conference, whose call for papers for the 2021 Conference is open until the end of October this year.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions for future editions of the Quarterly Digest or papers to be included in the Literature Review Update to Zara on [email protected] or me on [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement