Empowering people in fragile regions
Turn on the news, and you cannot escape the fact that we live in a turbulent world. Conflict, social-economic or political instability, inequality, weak institutions and state legitimacy, and climate change are serious threats that have pushed people to migrate and will continue to do so.
Health, education, and water services to refugees have been at the heart of humanitarian responses to sudden crises. These emergencies are the centerpiece of public compassion. And rightly so. But when initial media coverage wanes, the precarious situation of people who encountered these emergencies continues. In fact, the period of restoration after an emergency lasts much longer than the emergency itself - often for many decades. With over 7 billion people on the globe, most fertile plots of ground are taken and newcomers have to wrench themselves into existing societies, where people are trying to shake off poverty themselves - except for the small percentage of displaced people that manages to reach the shores of richer nations. This is what the OECD says, "Developing countries, which have some of the highest and deepest poverty levels and the fewest resources, host the largest numbers of refugees and IDPs. Although international attention often focuses on those who flee - refugees and IDPs - the majority stay behind."
While some refugees have settled in semi-permanent camps, many live in host communities - from urban slums (that are rapidly overtaking camps) to remote rural areas. The capacity for displaced people to improve their own life is limited by the fact that they left behind their possessions and have no land rights. In other words; they have fallen through the social safety net and ended up in extreme poverty. They manage to survive, yet have little means to invest in improving their situation. If violence and economic depression continue, they may lose their resilience and be vulnerable to the shocks of nature and economy.
Still, one way or another, everyday life takes over again and a long 'no war-no peace' period sets off. People restore some level of normality. They find work and set up basic facilities like water, sanitation, cooking, light and housing. In fact, for many young people this kind of life is not a matter of restoration, it is the only reality they know of. However fragile their situation, displaced populations often turn out to be an asset and not a burden for local growth. In fact, their presence can be a source of vibrant economic activity, for themselves and the surrounding population. Their numbers generate market demand and attract suppliers.