Painting the Full Picture: Persistent Data Gaps on Internal Displacement Associated with Violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

Álvaro Sardiza Miranda, Adrián Calvo Valderrama and Michelle Kissenkoetter

IDMC, November 2019


Internal displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) is a serious and growing issue. However there are no comprehensive and reliable data on internal displacement to properly understand the scale, triggers, drivers, patterns and impacts of the phenomenon, prevent the conditions that lead to internal displacement, and inform programming, policymaking and advocacy for IDPs’ protection and assistance. This report presents the current situation in terms of data on internal displacement in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, highlights critical data gaps and recommends areas for improvement.

The report identifies several challenges:

  • Complex drivers and triggers of displacement in the region, many of which overlap or are interlinked, make it difficult to capture reliable data.
  • Governments’ unwillingness to recognize that internal displacement is taking place in their country and that they are required to lead an effective response.
  • The lack of a shared conceptual framework of internal displacement.
  • Lack of communication and coordination between civil society organizations that collect and analyze data on internal displacement, leading to isolated pockets of data. Additionally, governments have been reticent to share data that might reveal the magnitude of displacement in their country.
  • Significant security risks associated with recording information on internal displacement and being identified as an IDP in the NTCA.

The authors recommend:

  • Government authorities should formally recognize the phenomenon of internal displacement, regardless of its causes, triggers and drivers.
  • Defining and framing internal displacement in the context of each country to enable the definition of populations and groups in scope of those definitions, and subsequently, the official statistical categories and their indicators.
  • Tools and methods for collecting, aggregating and sharing of data should be identified and developed taking into account requisite data protection mechanisms and responsible data management to avoid the dissemination of sensitive or personal data.
  • Governments should invest, with the support of civil society and international organizations, in efforts to establish a comprehensive set of baseline data.
  • Coordination and alignment in terms of concepts and indicators, and the tools and procedures to capture, share and disseminate data.
  • Better coordination among donors, and the allocation of resources and support for the development of shared and harmonized data collection, aggregation and dissemination tools would ensure more tangible outcomes and results.
  • Extensive capacity building for government and civil society entities with responsibilities for capturing and addressing internal displacement, to ensure they can apply the required practices, tools and methodologies.