World Bank calls for a new approach towards forced displacement crises

World Bank calls for a new approach towards forced displacement crises

The World Bank’s latest report ‘Cities of Refuge in the Middle East’ highlights the need for a new approach towards addressing forced urban displacement.

Currently, forced displacement is one of the most pressing issues within the Middle East North African (MENA) region. The numbers of displaced people is rising on a global scale, but this is notably high within the MENA region where conflict and unrest continues to drive displacement.

An unprecedented 65.6 million people are displaced around the world with approximately 25% of these living in the MENA region.

The World Bank report highlights that the majority of these displaced people live outside of refugee camps. Turkey is home to approximately 2.8 million displaced people, but only 9% of these live in refugee camps. Similarly, in Egypt and Lebanon there are no refugees living inside camps.

A majority of displaced people today live in towns and cities across their host countries where the provision of services is already established.

Across the MENA region 80% of displaced people live in towns and cities, challenging the common perception of standalone camps run by humanitarian agencies.

This significant shift in displacement from camps to towns and cities requires a new paradigm for how humanitarian and development agencies address displacement crises.

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice commented:

 “The reality in the Middle East is that the forcibly displaced are actually urban residents in cities that are struggling to meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable.”

 “With the forcibly displaced no longer residing in segregated areas in camps, but, in fact, blending into existing urban populations, traditional programs targeting individuals based on their IDP or refugee status are no longer sufficient.”

The World Bank report identifies that rather than providing standalone solutions to camps and rural areas agencies face a new challenge of supporting host communities to scale up existing services, shelter and jobs to meet the needs of existing residents and the displaced.

This renewed form of targeted assistance should build existing governance structures and service delivery mechanisms to promote the welfare of all residents. The World Bank highlights that measures that target assistance for the displaced may heighten social tensions between the host and displaced communities.

The report’s key recommendation for humanitarian and development agencies is to integrate their approaches in urban areas from the start of a displacement crisis.

Sameh Wahba, Director for Urban Development, Territorial Development, and Disaster Risk Management, World Bank noted:

“Although addressing forced displacement in cities is a relatively new challenge, there is much that we can learn from proven urban development approaches, adapted to each situation. Investing in urban services, promoting social cohesion, and building resilient communities and institutions are critical to respond to protracted crises effectively.”

The collaboration between humanitarian agencies, local governments and national governments is key to the management of urban displacement to ensure services have sufficient capacity.

Within the report the World Bank emphasises the need for sensitivity towards the political dynamics surrounding forced displacement. A holistic approach should expand the focus from reducing vulnerabilities of the displaced to also mitigating the effects on the host country.

Axel Baeumler, Senior Infrastructure Economist, World Bank, co-author of the report, highlighted:

“A development approach to urban forced displacement expands the focus from reducing the vulnerabilities of the displaced to mitigating impacts on host communities. Supporting the community as a whole in this way can help to shape the overall policy dialogue.”


Infrastructure & Camp Management will be a key discussion theme at the Aid & Development Summit Africa in Nairobi on 27-28 February.

If you’d like to stay informed on the latest updates in aid and development, please sign up for the AIDF newsletter.

Photo credit: World Bank

Be part of the humanitarian aid and development community!

Register now to receive AIDF's newsletter with insights into latest trends, innovations and best practice in the humanitarian and development sectors