Economic Conditions of Displacement

Project period: April 2012 – September 2015, funded by the Norwegian Research Council

Project owner: Fafo Institute of Applied International Studies (Fafo AIS)

Project  Leader: Morten Bøås (NUPI)

Project members: Ingunn Bjørkhaug (Fafo), Tewodros Aragie Kebede (Fafo), Amanda Hammer (University of Copenhagen), Timothy Raeymaekers (University of Zürich), Pamela K. Mbabazi (Mbarara University of Science and Technology), Geetor Saydee (University of Liberia)


In a world of increased displacement a substantial number of people are not only experiencing the precarious situation of being a refugee or an IDP, but many also find themselves in a situation where they have become hosts of large numbers of refugees and IDPs. Thus, the condition of displacement is not only affecting those displaced, but also a number of host communities mainly in poor countries. It is therefore the relationship between these two groups – host and refugees/IDPs that constitutes the main focus of this research project. This means that the economic condition of displacement does not consist of one, but of a multitude of transformations, and even if these obviously have negative effects for a number of people affected, they can also generate an economy of survival and productivity for others.

It is therefore these relationships and the economic arrangements between the displaced and local host communities that we study in five different case studies representing various forms of human displacement in four different countries (Uganda, Liberia, DRC and Zimbabwe). In particular, we investigate in detail through a mixed-methods approach, combining large surveys with ethnographic qualitative techniques

– What determines the extent to which displaced people participates in the socio-economic activities of the host communities?

– Who are the ‘losers’ and ‘winners’ among the displaced people as well as the host communities in terms of assets and expenditures?

– What types of coping mechanisms and livelihood strategies are adopted by displaced populations and to what extent does this influence the host communities?

– To what extent has humanitarian assistance provided to the displaced population brought about changes in existing labour and commodities markets in host communities?

This project therefore further elaborates on current research in the field of displaced economies by adopting an integrated approach focusing on the three key-stakeholders: displaced people, host communities, and national and international humanitarian actors. By recognizing the interactions of the displaced population into the wider local economy, this project empirically explores whether changes in economic behaviour of the host communities can be traced to a general trend, the arrival of a displaced population per se, or to the implementation of humanitarian- and development assistance.

The project will produce a co-authored volume, a PhD-dissertation, a special section of a peer-reviewed journal and a series of peer-reviewed articles in international journals.

This project is financed by the Research Council of Norway, under the funding scheme for Research for Humanitarian Policy (HUMPOL). This is a sub-program under the broad-based and action oriented program Norway – Global partner (NORGLOBAL).