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Challenging popular myths about refugees

Isangano market in the centre of Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda © RSC / N Omata
Isangano market in the centre of Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda

The report Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions was launched on World Refugee Day 2014. Drawing on research in Uganda, the report sought to explore the economic lives of refugees. By highlighting the complex economic systems of displaced populations, it sought to offer guidance to policymakers on how to promote more sustainable opportunities for market-based approaches to refugee assistance. The report has had a significant impact on policy, practice, and public debate.

This report received media coverage from The Independent, The Guardian, BBC World News, Central China Television, Thomson Reuters, and for a documentary on NPR. It has been presented at key policy meetings: UN ECOSOC’s humanitarian section, UNHCR’s annual NGO consultations, the World Bank, the Danish Red Cross annual summit, and a joint UNHCR-RefugePoint meeting at Harvard University. Invited presentations and workshops have taken place in key government ministries, including DFID and the GIZ. Within the region itself, launch events have been held (in collaboration with UNHCR and funded by the Norwegian MFA) in Kampala and Nairobi, with governments, NGOs and international organisations; and in the refugee settlements in Uganda.

UNHCR Uganda has now integrated the data set into their programming, and has built a livelihoods programme directly informed by the research, which is aiming to create new market-based opportunities through, for example, business skills training for refugees across the settlements in which we undertook the research. The work has also had global policy impact, shaping the discussions of the Solutions Alliance, and feeding into UNHCR’s global policy on refugee livelihoods and self-reliance.

Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and DevelopmentA book on this research has now been published, in November 2016, by Oxford University Press: Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development.

Our team

Humanitarian Innovation Project

This Refugee Economies research was carried out by the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP), based within the Refugee Studies Centre. HIP undertook research on the role of technology, innovation and the private sector in refugee assistance. It focused on four project areas: 1) refugee economies; 2) bottom-up innovation; 3) military-humanitarian innovation; and 4) governance innovation. HIP is now known as the Refugee Economies Programme.

Selected publications