Refugee economies in Uganda: creating new market-based opportunities

Drawing on research in Uganda and seeking to explore the economic lives of refugees, the report Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions was launched on World Refugee Day 2014.

By highlighting the complex economic systems of displaced populations, it aimed to offer guidance to policy-makers 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. It 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. Currently, a book based on this research is underway.

The Refugee Economies report presents research by the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP), based within the Refugee Studies Centre. HIP undertakes research on the role of technology, innovation and the private sector in refugee assistance. It focuses on four project areas: 1) refugee economies; 2) bottom-up innovation; 3) military-humanitarian innovation; and 4) governance innovation.

Alexander Betts
Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs
Naohiko Omata
Associate Professor
Josiah Kaplan

Photo: Naohiko Omata, Research Officer, HIP