European Commission - SPaN (2019) Operational Note 10: Forced Displacement

This Operational Note is part of the Supplementary Volume of 10 Operational Notes to the Reference Document No 26 on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus. A Game Changer in Supporting People through Crises. It was produced as part of the ‘Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian- Development Nexus’ (SPaN). It is the outcome of an initiative jointly led by the European Commission’s Directorate- General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) with the support of DEVCO Unit 04 and the MKS programme. Numerous Commission staff members working in various Delegations of the European Union (EU) and ECHO field offices provided comments on early drafts. Further comments were received from EU Member States, United Nations agencies (such as WFP and the World Bank) and reputable Think Tanks (such as OPM) and research institutions (e.g. Witwatersrand University). As this is an emergent field of knowledge, the guidance and recommendations of the Operational Notes reflect the independent views of the authors. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. 

About this Operational Note:

The EU approach to forced displacement and development is a development-oriented approach to refugees, IDPs and their hosts with a focus on their specific vulnerabilities and capacities. It calls for a multi-actor response, including the private sector, based on improved evidence of what works and does not work in different contexts. Building on strong partnerships with hosting countries, it calls for greater synergies between humanitarian and development actors regarding shared analyses, programming and the predictability and flexibility of funding, including at local level, where the most innovative responses emerge. The aim is to foster the resilience and self-reliance of forcibly displaced people through quality education, access to economic opportunities and social protection.

This approach is part of a global move towards more effective responses to forced displacement. Over the past few years, international commitments have created closer links between humanitarian and development programming. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the Grand Bargain commitments coming out of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit recognise refugees and displaced persons as categories of vulnerable people who should not be left behind, and stress the need to strengthen the resilience of communities hosting refugees. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in 2016, all world leaders committed to jointly respond better to refugee situations. This has laid the foundation for the adoption in December 2018 of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome.

In this context, the United Nations system, notably the UNHCR and the IOM, is adapting its approach, while the World Bank is stepping up its engagement. Social protection has become a cornerstone of any long-term strategy to mitigate the impact of forced displacement on the lives of refugees, internally displaced persons and their hosts. The increasing use of cash transfers as a humanitarian response modality, and robust evidence on the efficiency of social protection, and particularly, social assistance, in both development and crises contexts, led to the recognition of the multiple complementarities and growing convergence between humanitarian assistance and social protection.

The motivation for creating closer links between social protection and humanitarian interventions is to better meet the chronic and acute needs of crisis-affected populations (including forcibly displaced populations and their hosts), contribute to reducing humanitarian needs and ultimately, secure a path to peace and sustainable development. Social protection systems, when in place, can be scaled up to deliver fast response and enhanced outreach. They also allow host communities to be assisted equitably in the event of crises, mitigating tensions between IDPs and refugees and local populations.

This note provides an overview of how to foster greater links between social protection and humanitarian assistance in contexts of forced displacement. It illustrates what working with social protection approaches and systems may look like in contexts of forced displacement, and highlights practical tips drawn from past and ongoing experiences.


Note to reader

For updates on SPaN, readers are invited to join two specific communities of practice created to offer a direct link between learning and performance:

• The global, open online community on ‘Social protection in crisis contexts’ on, 

• The unrestricted group, mainly for EU staff members and on ‘Social Protection across the humanitariandevelopment nexus’ on capacity4dev.

These spaces are exclusively designed to collectively and progressively build the knowledge base around the nexus between social protection and humanitarian assistance. Through these groups, readers can share ideas and news, ask questions, share experience through testimonials, upload and access documents, take part in online events, expand your network and much more.

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