Protracted Displacement Economies

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies


Around the world refugees and displaced people remain in limbo, unable to return home, unwanted where they are living and facing increasing difficulties to go anywhere else. The majority of refugees in the world have been in these situations for more than 5years, a threshold usually referred to as 'protracted'. As crises become prolonged, the limitations of the humanitarian response have long been recognised as insufficient and inadequate. Refugees and Internally Displaced People caught up in these situations often speak of watching their lives 'draining away'. The model of support offered to displaced people is known by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) as 'care and maintenance' but perhaps more accurately by advocates of a radical change to this policy as the 'warehousing' of refugees. Global policy interest is shifting from short term humanitarianism to longer term development focused responses to protracted displacement. This was most recently indicated by the Global Compact on Refugees, in December 2018. The Refugee Compact introduces positive language around the long-term self reliance of refugees. This project responds to this renewed political will to find new solutions to protracted displacement and builds on a body of research and advocacy work in this area. It investigates the replacement of the care and maintenance model with a new approach: the protracted displacement economy.
The protracted displacement economy introduces two key innovations that will contribute to this original analysis as well the potential for impact. 1) A whole of society approach. The focus is not just on displaced people but the 'displacement affected community', that includes the heterogeneous 'host' population, amongst others. 2) fundamental shift in the understanding of the transactions that drive the protracted displacement economy. Financial transactions are the stuff of most economic analysis, yet key human interactions and exchanges or gifts, collective organisation, care work and mutual aid are largely non-financial.
Research will involve ten countries, 5 pairs of countries each separated by an international border: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)/Uganda, Ethiopia/Somalia, Lebanon/Syria, Myanmar/Thailand, Pakistan/Afghanistan. These ten countries encompass the most serious protracted displacement crises in the world. Research will be conducted with partners in one of each pair of countries and will be attentive to the cross-border dynamics of the protracted displacement economy. International partners are: The Group for Research and Strategic Study on the Congo (GREC)(DRC), the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA)(Ethiopia), the NGOs Basmeh & Zeitooneh and Sawa (Lebanon), the think tank Covenant Institute (Myanmar) and the University of Peshawar (Pakistan). In each of these five countries, three locations will be selected for empirical research, including at least one urban neighbourhood and at least one camp in each country. Over 3 years, these 15 locations will be involved in community discussions, large scale surveys and qualitative interviews. Key stakeholders in this process from further afield will be involved in regular meetings so that every stage in the research is informed by relevant expertise. The project will introduce the new approach of video narratives, training groups of people in each location to produce five minute videos of the protracted displacement economy that will then be dubbed and shared across all research sites.
These films contribute to a wide range of innovative outputs that highlight the operation of the protracted displacement economy. Displaced people develop their own economic activities, including non-financial practices such as sharing and mutual aid as well as entrepreneurial activities. With time, community organisations begin to thrive. The project aims to support this process so that displaced people can look to the future with hope

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research? Five non-academic audiences are targeted:
1. The displacement affected community involving both displaced and 'host'
2. National and local NGOs.
3. Relevant branches of local, municipal and national government.
4. Members of the general public, in the countries where research is taking place, the UK and internationally
5. International organisations and major donors

How will they benefit?
1. Responding to concerns: All these audiences have (in various ways) expressed concerns about protracted displacement. The project will contribute to a response to these concerns. These audiences are not seen as passive recipients but as thoroughly involved in the coproduction of this research. Research recognises their expertise and provides a global channel for it.
2. New information: Research will result in new information, recognition of activities that many have overlooked, identification of barriers to more effective solutions and collaborative ways of reaching those solutions
3. Make new connections: The project will make new connections. It is unusual for many of the target audiences to meet in person. This will happen through stakeholder workshops. Video narratives will allow this to happen virtually, between research sites and through their use in expert seminars.
4. Contribute to global solutions: The project has an ambitious focus, using the wide ranging international comparison to contribute to national and regional discussions, but also to engage with the principal international initiative in this field, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Influencing the CRRF will ensure far reaching and long lasting, positive change.

What will be done to be sure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity? 11 tools will be developed to ensure that these audiences benefit:
1. Engagement with the displacement affected community will form the basis for co-production in a variety of ways, as well as an important means of evaluating results. This will occur initially through community meetings and focus group discussions in each of the 15 proposed research locations.
2. Stakeholder workshops will provide a further opportunity for co-production, bringing together community leaders with audiences 2, 3 and 5 above. Where research locations are not dispersed, a number of joint workshops will be held but where sites are widely separated (such as the DRC) separate workshops will be necessary.
3. Project Advisory Group (PAG) meetings will allow co-production at an international level with five selected experts.
4. Direct policy engagement will be sought wherever possible and will involve an expert seminar in Geneva, an event in the UK Parliament and national stakeholder groups.
5. Video narratives are the main innovation of this project. They involve five-minute accounts of the protracted displacement economy from groups of filmmakers in each location who will be trained for the purpose. They will provide an opportunity for international (virtual) exchanges between displacement affected communities. They will also allow displaced people a different vision on their own situation.
6. A final documentary will be produced from the range of video narratives.
7. Media engagement will be pursued in all countries where research will take place. The six communications officers will engage with all media forms.
8. Blog posts in sites such as ReliefWeb and The Conversation which will be picked up by members of our target audiences.
9. A volume of written narratives of the protracted displacement economy will be developed out of long oral history interviews.
10. Open access publications remain a consideration even for non-academic audiences since they may be picked up by interested professionals.
11. A bespoke project website will be set up as soon as the project starts and will be the main repository for all information about the project and all outputs.
Description two thirds of the way through the award, we have completed the first five stages of research: 1. the production of community profiles in each of the 15 areas (3 areas in each of 5 countries) where research will take place. These alone highlight how varied the definitions of displacement are, even in different areas of the same country. 2. 48 focus groups (at least 3 focus groups in each location) and 3. A large baseline household survey which we have finished cleaning for analysis. 4 and 5. the first two stages of qualitative interviews with residents and stakeholders. Key themes are emerging from this data, for example around the significance of household debt and the variety of ways of dealing with this. We are now engaged on the final stage of in-depth interviews and preparing the second survey instrument for a re-survey of 20% of the households in the original baseline survey, which will begin in March 2023. This will provide valuable insights into the nature of the changes over the 18 month period between surveys. We have completed film workshops in Lebanon, DRC, Ethiopia and (online) in Myanmar with a final workshop in Pakistan that was postponed from September 2022 to April 2023 due to the floods in Pakistan. At each workshop we have trained small groups of people from displacement affected communities to produce films themselves. Films have been polished in the UK and several have been accepted at film festivals.
Exploitation Route We have an Advisory Group established with representatives of key organisations working with forced displacement at a global level. These meetings will help us direct these outcomes most effectively. We have had a series of meetings with UNHCR about the use of their global data portal for our survey results.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description So far in the project we have produced a number of blogs for a policy audience around the conceptual foundations of the research. Policy seminars have been held in all four countries and survey findings have been presented to a wide range of non-academic organisations. In each country we have non-academic organisations who form part of the research team and they are already using the projects findings in project planning focused on our specific research sites.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Commonwealth Scholarship
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PKCN-2021-342 
Organisation Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2022 
End 01/2025
Description International summer school session 'Refugee studies and research methodologies: Challenges of data collection in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Members of the Protracted Displacement Economies (PDE) team in Pakistan ran a session relating to the PDE project during the 8th annual International Summer School (ISS) organised jointly by the University of Peshawar's Department of Political Science and the Hanns Seidel Foundation; participants reflected on their own perceptions and experiences and some showed an interest in working on the economics of displacement in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Presentation for UNHCR academic network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Michael Collyer presented at the annual Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network (GAIN) organised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Professor Collyer spoke on a session on 'Urbanisation: Refugee economies and access to essential services'. He outlined the Protracted Displacement Economies project, focusing particularly on the ways in which the non-financial elements of care and mutual aid are vital to support financial exchanges within displacement economies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Presentation to think tank in South Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Michael Collyer presented Protracted Displacement Economies work to a meeting of the Economic Policy Research Institute in South Africa. The meeting focused on 'Social protection in the context of fragility and forced displacement'. Professor Collyer presented data from the project's baseline survey regarding the critical role that informal and community networks play for displaced people involved in our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022