The numbers are staggering. By the end of 2019, persecution, conflict, and violence forced nearly 80 million people from their homes and their communities. That is an increase of 2 million people over the previous year– the world’s forcibly displaced population remains at a record high.
The crises pushing people from their homes range from long-term conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Syria to the humanitarian breakdown in Venezuela. Assisting large-scale flows of people can strain the ability of host governments to deliver basic services and can spark community tensions. Yet, despite the huge challenges facing both displaced people and communities hosting them, their presence can also be a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic opportunity. For example, in Colombia, Venezuelan migration is expected to boost GDP growth by increasing size of the labor force and because of migrants’ high levels of education and skills.
Ways to Help the Helpers
To help governments and communities cope with displaced people, the International Republican Institute (IRI) has created a Social Cohesion and Displacement Toolkit offering guidance on two vastly difficult challenges:
- community tensions over scarce resources, and a lack of information for both host and displaced people about how to get help,
- and a lack of planning and coordination among local governments, which impacts service delivery and limits access to resources.
Local governments are on the frontlines of coping with the enormous challenges stemming from forced displacement. IRI’s toolkit helps local governments understand and address displacement, and it offers advice on best ways to engage communities on human rights issues, the root causes of conflict, and the necessity of dialogue as a tool to defuse tensions over scarce resources.
In general, the toolkit aims to build trust between the local governments and host and displaced communities. It also addresses ways to strengthen government responsiveness and accountability among all parts of society. IRI developed this toolkit in collaboration with local facilitators in Colombia and Uganda. It was piloted in Colombia, Uganda and Lebanon, three countries coping with massive inflows of people.
The toolkit is meant for hands-on use. It takes an in-depth look at the concepts behind, and ways to manage:
- social cohesion and displacement,
- civic engagement and collective action,
- and conflict resolution and integration.
It touches on the factors that shape social identity, rights and laws that protect refugees, strategic planning, conflict resolution and facilitating community dialogue.Top