More and more countries recognize the importance of making their official statistics more inclusive of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). From anchoring government leadership, to strengthening National Statistical Systems and shaping the development agenda in line with the ‘leave no one behind’ paradigm – official statistics and data are instrumental to progress towards Durable Solutions to displacement and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But how, concretely, can official statistics on IDPs best support the achievement of Durable Solutions for IDPs? And what can we learn from current efforts underway across countries?
These questions were central for JIPS at the 2022 all-members meeting of the Expert Group on Refugee, IDP, and Statelessness Statistics (EGRISS), held in Addis Ababa in December. The meeting brought together over 70 participants from National Statistical Offices, international and regional organisations in-person, with many more joining online. It was especially important as it not only marked the midterm of EGRISS’ third mandate but it also comes at a crucial moment in the follow-up to the United Nations Secretary-General Action Agenda on Internal Displacement: bringing countries together around collective responses and concrete Solutions to displacement.
JIPS, as a leading member of the EGRISS since its inception, took an active role in the organisation and implementation of the event, in line with our mission to boost collaboration and national ownership around data on Internal Displacement, Here is what we learned from the many sessions and discussions during the event, and specifically the three sessions we co-facilitated on challenges on the production of IDP statistics, the launch of the new EGRISS e-learning course, and the work on standard questions to identify forcibly displaced in data sources for statistical purposes.
The EGRISS all-members meeting highlighted exciting progress on collective outputs such as the completely revised Compilers’ Manual (to be published soon), the draft International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics (IROSS) to be endorsed at the UN Statistical Commission this March, the IRIS “Solutions Measure” currently being refined, the new e-learning course on IDP and refugee statistics, and the regional dissemination and capacity development initiatives. But first and foremost, countries presented their ongoing efforts for the inclusion of IDPs and refugees in government-led data collection exercises such as censuses, surveys, and administrative registries.
JIPS was proud together with the Somalia National Bureau of Statistics (SNBS) to share the ongoing work in Somalia developing an IDP Statistics Sectoral Plan. The approach of Somalia supported by JIPS was seen as an innovative pathway to incorporate statistics on internal displacement into the National Statistical System and to ultimately accelerate progress towards Durable Solutions. The strategic approach will allow Somalia to bring together government and non-government actors towards a trusted and agreed-upon IDP figure, stated the representative of the SNBS.
The importance of establishing coordination mechanisms was stressed, specifically in regards to the strengthening of strategic linkages and collaboration between the NSO in a country and other ministries and actors working on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons. Technical support and a standard approach to identify IDPs in censuses and household surveys were highlighted by statistical authorities as a priority. It was agreed that developing common guidelines on how to build a sampling frame for IDPs would facilitate the monitoring of Durable Solutions over time and the comparison with non-IDP population through official data sources. Building on JIPS’ long-standing experience in supporting the methodology design for IDP specific surveys, it is important to highlight the numerous challenges the creation of sampling frames for IDPs exist and the creative approaches it requires to build them (we reflected on it in the review of sampling approaches used in JIPS supported-contexts).
The launch of the EGRISS e-learning course was positively received and met with concrete requests by regional platforms, such as STATAFRIC and the regional UN Economic Commissions, for tailored facilitated sessions to discuss challenges in the implementation of the IRIS and the IRRS at the field level and promote regional peer-to-peer exchange. The course was developed by EGRISS with substantive contribution from the UN Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (UNSIAP) and JIPS. A first cohort will be welcomed in the spring of 2023.
The session on the standardisation of questions to identify IDPs and refugees in data sources drew attention from many participants, reflecting the growing interest from countries to include forced displacement in existing national official statistics. Several experiences were shared by statistical authorities where IDPs and refugees had been captured in censuses and surveys. However, most of these efforts had been ad hoc and very specific to the context. JIPS and UNHCR presented the ongoing work of Subgroup 3 on standardising questions to identify refugees and IDPs in data sources, the latter in alignment with the definition of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It expands on JIPS’ previous work on approaches and recommendations for Identifying IDPs in surveys. The session highlighted two key areas of technical work ongoing for EGRISS where concrete guidance is required: creating common guidelines for the development of sampling frames for IDPs and IDP identification questions.
The work of Subgroup 2 on capacity development received the highest participation and attention, underscoring the common agreement on the need to accelerate capacity building on the IRIS and using regional platforms and established coordination mechanisms to do so. In a dedicated session, JIPS, IOM and UNHCR presented the recent work with the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), all aimed to promote national assessments to identify enablers and synergies to establish a statistical system for IDPs and refugees. Participants in the session highlighted the importance of expanding the work to other regions in Africa and Asia, but also to promote these activities with existing working groups at country level, such as on migration data, SDGs, and Durable Solutions. Capacity building should be a cornerstone to trigger the implementation of the IRIS at the country level, as well as a mechanism to strengthen technical knowledge of the recommendations, promote coordination, and mobilise resources.
The EGRISS meeting was not only an opportunity to present the current work and discuss the future, but it was truly a forum of networking, technical exchange, and knowledge sharing. Newcomers to EGRISS benefited from the rich sessions and discussions during the three days, while long-standing members such as JIPS highlighted the long way EGRISS has come since its inception over five years ago. Subgroup 2, where JIPS will continue its co-leadership role, welcomed new country members and reaffirmed the commitment with regional partners such as SICA, Statistics Sweden, ECOWAS, STATAFRIC and IGAD, among others. Participants called for an active promotion of the new capacity building tools, like the E-learning, and direct technical support from EGRISS experts to provide guidance to implement the IRIS in alignment with the methodological work on the Compilers’ Manual.
As JIPS enters the last year of its current strategy, the promotion of the IRIS continues to be an integral part of our work, capitalising on our long-term experience of collaborating with NSOs in the countries we support and recognizing that the implementation of IRIS is crucial to measure the success of Durable Solutions. The provision of technical guidance and the development of capacities at country level will incorporate the field testing of EGRISS’ new methodological tools.
Looking forward, participants at the EGRISS meeting discussed the relevance and focus of the Expert Group beyond 2024. The regionalization of the EGRISS structure, the refining of the recommendations based on practice, and the monitoring of IRIS implementation in countries over time, resonates with JIPS’ vision of stronger government ownership of displacement data and data use with IDPs at the centre.