Painting a clearer picture of refugees and internally displaced with data

Dear Colleagues,

Since the inception of the Joint Data Center in 2019, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality, quantity, and availability of socioeconomic data and evidence on the more than 100 million forcibly displaced and their host communities. After a decade of unprecedented global displacement, a significant amount of energy and attention has been directed at producing granular data about the living conditions of those affected by displacement. Collectively we have a much better understanding of their health, education, housing, and livelihoods, and importantly also their host communities. Our Annual Report for 2021 tells this story.

I was delighted to personally hand over the first copy of our Report to the World Bank Group President, David Malpass, during his visit to the Center on June 9. One of the most important improvements to the data landscape that we discussed with Mr. Malpass is the increasing inclusion of refugees and internally displaced by national statistical offices (NSOs) when they conduct national surveys.

During the pandemic, the World Bank carried out phone surveys on nationally representative samples in nearly 100 countries, often in collaboration with the NSOs. Largely thanks to the World Bank, UNHCR and with JDC’s support, those phone surveys were extended to displaced populations in twelve countries resulting in over 100,000 interviews being conducted on displaced households, thereby taking this vulnerable group out of the statistical shadows. During this time we have also seen statistical inclusion taking place in ongoing national poverty surveys in the Central African Republic and Ethiopia. This is great progress.

Importantly, the results of such surveys now have a home. A Microdata Library has been created at UNHCR – thanks to support from JDC and the World Bank – and it already houses data from some 430 surveys carried out over the past two decades in 77 countries. In parallel, the World Bank is tagging all the surveys that reside on their microdata library whenever they contain displacement-specific data.

Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, the JDC expanded its portfolio in 2021. Our work program now amounts to 55 activities, including 36 implemented in the 30 countries that host most of the world’s forcibly displaced. During this time, we also saw some of the work launched in 2019-2020 come to a close, allowing us to take stock of those achievements. We will be posting end-of-activity reports continuously, to hold ourselves to account and learn from our successes and failures.

Yet many data gaps remain, not least on some of the very most vulnerable people fleeing conflict and violence. The challenges of collecting primary data in settings such as the Sahel, DRC and the Sudans are considerable. But that is also where data and evidence can make the biggest difference by informing policy-making and guiding investments and support. The displacement resulting from the war in Ukraine and the looming food security crises make this work more demanding than ever, but also ever more important.

In short, while we are pleased with the progress that has been made in improving our collective understanding of the situation of FDPs and their hosts, much remains to fully take this group out of the statistical shadows and have them be included in national systems as a matter of course.

We are grateful to our supporters – especially the government of Denmark and the US, the European Commission, as well as the IKEA Foundation and Hilton Foundation – who allow us to support this transformation, and for our collaboration with the wider community, including academia and civil society. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter

Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement