Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities (PROSPECTS)

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By ILO (International Labour Organization)

The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. In recent years, forced displacement has increased in scale and complexity. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2019 there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced persons, of whom over 30 million were refugees and asylum-seekers. Eighty-five percent of the world’s displaced are in developing countries and more than half are women. As displacement has become increasingly protracted, responses are focusing more on durable solutions backed by more dignified, inclusive and comprehensive programmes for refugees and the communities that host them.

In this framework, the Netherlands, International Finance Corporation (IFC), ILO, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, and the World Bank (WB) joined their efforts to develop a new paradigm in responding to forced displacement crises through the involvement of development actors. Partners include). The Partnership is grounded on results-based and country-led approaches (“bottom-up”). The Partnership aims to help transform the way governments and other stakeholders, including the private sector, respond to forced displacement crises — and in particular: (1) to enhance the enabling environment for the socio-economic inclusion of forcibly displaced persons ; (2) to enhance access to education and child protection for vulnerable children on the move; and (3) to strengthen the resilience of host communities through inclusive socio-economic development that also benefits forcibly displaced persons.

ILO’s approach to employment for peace

The impact of forced displacement is substantial both among those in displacement and hosting communities. Forcibly displaced persons face specific vulnerabilities, including loss of assets and psychological trauma, limited rights, lack of opportunities, a protection risk as well as a risk to be out of school, and a lack of planning horizon. Host communities, which tend to be among the poorest in their country, typically in lagging regions, have to pursue their own development efforts in an environment that has been transformed by a large inflow of newcomers. Economic opportunities and access to jobs as well as services, especially education and protective services, are key to a successful management of such situations — for both refugees and host communities.

For refugees, the opportunity to access decent work is fundamental to their protection and well-being, to restore their dignity and life purpose. Being able to access employment, maintain and expand their skills and find a decent job prevent long gaps in education and economic activity. The opportunity to access decent work is integral to the restoration of human dignity, strengthening resilience. Further, working allows for more interaction between refugees and host communities and helps thereby foster a climate of trust and peaceful coexistence.

Lack of contact across different social groups, particularly between host communities and forcibly displaced population; lack of economic opportunity and existence of grievances over horizontal inequality, lack of participatory processes and decent work deficits exacerbate mistrust and sense of injustice. The mechanisms of constructive contact, sustainable economic opportunities and addressed grievances, in turn, provide a plausible “theory of change” of how employment may contribute to peace and social cohesion as part of a broader framework of inclusive and sustainable development.

In this framework, the ILO adopted the Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation (Recommendation №205) in June 2017. It provides a normative framework focusing on the world of work-related measures to prevent and respond to the devastating effects of crises evoked by conflict or natural disaster on economic and societies, while also paying special attention to vulnerable groups like children, young people, women and displaced persons (chapter XI).

COVID-19 and social cohesion

Epidemics and economic crises can have a disproportionate impact on certain segments of the population, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, which can lead to increasing inequality, thereby posing a severe threat to social cohesion. Countries that are already experiencing forced displacement will face a multiple burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are less equipped to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, as access to basic services, especially health and sanitation is limited, but also to cope with the socio-economic impact, particularly for the informal economy and forcibly displaced populations. Furthermore, the crisis can potentially ignite or exacerbate grievances, discrimination, mistrust and sense of injustice over access to health services, decent jobs and livelihoods, which are potential conflict drivers that could undermine development, peace and social cohesion.

In response to this context, social cohesion and peace is mainstreamed throughout the PROSPECTS program through specific conflict-sensitive, inclusive and right-based approaches. In this Partnership, the ILO aims to develop and implement evidence-based solutions, tailored to each context, as well as to test and learn from innovative operational solutions on how this approach can contribute to peace, which will be extended to other countries and by other partners.

The ILO is therefore developing a specific innovative intervention model and indicators to measure how inclusive employment and decent work approaches can create economic opportunities, mitigate impacts on local resources, promote contact between displaced and host communities, and reduce individuals’ grievances and sense of injustice, thus promoting social cohesion in hosting regions. These approaches will be presented in November 2020.

To learn more about ILO’s activities within the Partnership, visit: ilo.org/prospects

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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