Global Engagement Network on Internal Displacement in Africa (GENIDA)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Pretoria
Department Name: Faculty of Law

Abstract

The Global Engagement Network on Internal Displacement in Africa (GENIDA) brings together academics, policy-makers and civil society to address two major development problems: (i) the paucity of research on internal displacement in sub-Saharan Africa; and (ii) the inadequate response to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in law, policy and practice in these countries.

Internal displacement is a major cross-cutting development challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2017 alone, in sub-Saharan Africa, over 5 million people were internally displaced by conflict and another 2.5 million by disasters linked to natural hazards. Its impact is felt in the losses and livelihood and reintegration challenges experienced by IDPs, disruption of social fabric and distortion of local economies and politics. Yet, despite a humanitarian stop-gap response in some countries, longer-term innovative solutions to situations on the ground are needed.

The first initiative of its kind, the GENIDA project aims to: (i) promote high-quality interdisciplinary research on IDPs by building and supporting research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa; and (ii) facilitate evidence-based policy change and innovative solutions in DAC-list countries in this region.

The project adds real value to current research. Firstly, it will connect existing IDP researchers in universities and civil society groups to build a robust research community on this challenge. Secondly, it will promote research on IDPs among outstanding researchers in African universities not yet working in that field, supporting them within this community. Thirdly, by reaching out to a range of disciplines, it will promote interdisciplinary engagement on IDPs. Fourthly, through the work of this research community, it will develop innovative solutions to the IDP challenge in Africa.

It also feeds directly into policy/practice. Firstly, it will create a policy forum to bring in policy-makers from selected national governments and international agencies. Secondly, it will build capacity and work with these stakeholders to identify key internal displacement challenges in practice. Thirdly, through researcher/practitioner exchange, it will develop innovative and practice-oriented solutions to IDP challenges and action plans to address them. Fourthly, it will provide technical support to these policy-makers in adopting and implementing the action plans and on any IDP-related query where they seek expert input from GENIDA members.

The project is an international collaboration between Centre for Human Rights at University of Pretoria, South Africa, and Refugee Law Initiative at School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK. The expertise and networks of these two specialised research centres underpin the success of this open network, which will draw in researchers from universities, research institutions and civil society across Africa, as well as key development policy-makers from countries affected by serious dynamics of internal displacement.

It facilitates co-production of knowledge in this area through such activities as:

- 2019 Online training programme for network members
- 2020 Policymaker workshop on identifying key IDP challenges
- 2020 Researcher workshop on building interdisciplinary research
- 2020 Joint work on developing solutions to respond to key IDP challenges
- 2020 Joint workshop to develop action plans to implement solutions identified
- 2020 Policymaker activities for adoption of actions plans at national level
- 2020 Researcher activities to integrate IDPs on university/research agendas
- 2021 Final interdisciplinary conference and publications
- Ongoing expert technical advice to policymakers

Alongside the academic benefits, the project will generate user impact by improving law, policy and practice on IDPs in African States and promoting informed public debate, as well as giving international visibility to Africa/UK academic-practitioner research.

Planned Impact

The GENIDA project's main practical objective is to assist in resolving the acute development, humanitarian, security, environmental and infrastructural challenges that internal displacement presents for national and international policy-makers in DAC-list countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This long-term impact will be realised through the fulfilment of five short-to-medium term impacts. These will be secured through targeted activities to maximise opportunities for users in governments, international organisations and agencies, third sector/civil society, as well as wider public, to benefit from work and outputs of the network.

(a) Law, policy and practice: Government policy-makers

Key officials from selected States will contribute directly to the work of the project (two as part of the steering committee) in order to maximise its impact on users. Specific capacity-building activities for these participants are integrated into Work Programme 1 (e.g. online training programme), who can also request expert technical advice from the project on an ongoing basis. The workshops to identify key challenges (month 7) and develop responses to them (month 12) provide an important basis for impact to be achieved through the design and implementation of action plans by these participants (months 12-24), with the ongoing support of the other network members.

(b) Policy and practice: AU (international organisation)

The membership of the AU is particularly affected by the problems addressed by the network project. The key AU official is part of the steering committee and will thus participate in the policy impact activities described above (a). Through the AU government participants, the State-related activities mentioned above constitute another pathway to impact at this level, also to be utilised by the project.

(c) Policy and practice: UNHCR (international agency)

UNHCR requires research and debate to orient policy and practice with governments, implementing partners and displaced persons. At the regional level, the key senior official in this field will contribute to the steering committee and in the policy impact activities described above (a). Impact upon the international agency will be multiplied through its activities in advising States and funding local partners in the field.

(d) Practice: Third sector/civil society

Civil society has the potential to play an important role in responding to the challenges posed by internal displacement. Key officials from selected organisations will contribute directly to the work of the project (two as part of the core steering committee) in order to maximise its impact on users. They will do vital work in bringing other civil society researchers and organisations into the network and into its activities, including the policy impact activities described above (a).

(e) Perceptions in media and wider society

Social and mass media perceptions of internal displacement in Africa can be shallow and misleading, which can impact on law, policy and practice in those countries. The project aims to promote more informed debate and understanding not only through engagement by the network with mass media (e.g. interviews on radio and television) but by building the capacity of the local research community to contribute with stong voices and evidence-based input to such national debates and processes on internal displacement.

Additional impact will be created by ongoing dissemination of research outputs via academic/practitioner networks, forums, websites and journals. Impact via all of the above pathways will be mutually reinforcing, e.g. impact on policy of international agencies influences State policy, which is later adopted on the regional level.

The project also yields 'international leadership' and 'partnerships' impacts by extending academic-practitioner collaboration, stimulating the co-production of knowledge, and increasing the visibility of RC/GCRF research.

Publications

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