Opening of the Development-Displacement Nexus Roundtable on Policy Options

18.10.2018 | Vienna, Austria

Statement of OFID Director-General Suleiman J Al-Herbish on the occasion of the official opening of the Development-Displacement Nexus Roundtable on Policy Options on Thursday, October 18th, 2018 at OFID Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Your Excellency, Dr. Michael Spindelegger, Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you today at OFID, as this Roundtable convenes on the very important and most pressing subject of the development-displacement nexus. I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to his Excellency, Dr. Michael Spindelegger; for the exemplary cooperation that OFID had with its host country, Austria, during his tenure in public office, and particularly for the instrumental role played by him in this regard.

I fondly recall our close cooperation over several years on many matters of mutual interest. My most fond memory is, however, having been conferred - back in 2013 - with the Grand Decoration of Honor in Silver with Sash; in recognition of OFID’s contributions to the cause of development worldwide, and its partnership with Austrian NGOs working in developing countries, and also for the special relationship our institution has maintained with the City of Vienna, most notably preserving this beautiful historic building.

The decoration was presented on behalf of the Government of Austria by OFID’s good friend Dr. Spindelegger, who held the position of Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs at the time. It is thus a pleasure to welcome you now in your capacity as Director General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) at this event, which I regard as another milestone in our partnership and cooperation with ICMPD.

The Correlation between Displacement and Development Since 2011, we have witnessed an increased number of forced displacements of population in different parts of the world, but particularly in the Middle East, because of protracted conflicts. These add to the millions of people who leave their countries every year to escape poverty and seek better economic opportunities elsewhere. There is also increased recognition that climate change has become a major driver of migrations.

These displacements pose a number of challenges, including humanitarian but also developmental for both origin, transit and host countries, through their impacts on, economic growth, human and social welfare, and environmental sustainability. These challenges should be addressed in a coherent, comprehensive and balanced manner. Needless to say that they also require stronger cooperation among all countries concerned.

The Mandate and Mission of OFID

As a development finance institution, OFID worked relentlessly throughout the past few decades to promote global development and help reduce poverty worldwide. We have committed through our various financing windows considerable resources to address the underlying socioeconomic factors of conflict and crisis, in addition to providing humanitarian assistance and financial support to post-conflict and reconstruction efforts. We supported programs and projects aimed at tackling fragility, poverty and vulnerability to conflict and disaster through the promotion of inclusive and sustainable development approaches, as well as initiatives geared towards strengthening the capacities of our partner countries to pursue their long-term socio-economic development goals.

OFID Approach to Displacement Crises

Over the past few years, we have paid increased attention to the developmental impact of displacement on host communities within developing countries. This became a necessary shift as protracted conflicts continued to escalate, causing a dramatic rise in the numbers of refugees and displaced persons, with evident implications on sustainable development and on host communities' resilience, particularly in developing countries

We developed a three-pronged approach towards addressing these challenges. The bulk of our resources supported essential developmental projects and sustainable interventions in line with our mandate, but ensured that we prioritize resilience-based development solutions for displacement in times of crisis and conflict. This entailed working with host and return communities to address the local drivers of displacement while at the same time managing its impacts, and focusing efforts – where possible - on leveraging the potential of displacement for local sustainable development.

The second facet of our work was to support strengthening governments’ capacity to integrate displacement into regional and national development strategies and plans, which would in turn help manage displacement for long-term positive development impacts. The third aspect of our approach is quite an important one, albeit rather on a smaller scale; is supporting efforts aimed at better understanding the interactions between forced migration and development-related issues as well as developing comprehensive and sustainable policy responses.

OFID Partnership with ICMPD

It is within the framework of this latter point that we supported the study being undertaken by ICMPD, which aims to support the formulation of durable solutions and viable policy options to address the issue of displacement.

I am confident that the discussions which will take place over the course of the roundtable will be most valuable to the study, and instrumental to outline key policy options to better implement a development-displacement nexus approach.

Examples of OFID Operations Addressing the Impacts of Displacement

Operations that OFID supported in recent years serve as a good example of the diversity of our efforts and the multipronged approach towards the needs of displaced persons and refugees, especially those taking refuge in countries that are already facing their own developmental challenges, and therefore posing additional burdens on the host communities.

We worked closely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist host communities in both Jordan and Lebanon and help them cope with the increased demand on most critical services in the two countries: water supply and waste management respectively, as a result of the massive influx of Syrian refugees.

Also in Jordan, we supported a number of selected public schools in which large numbers of Syrian refugee pupils are enrolled, in order to enable them to continue to provide quality education to children from the refugee and host communities alike, by means of enhancing the schools’ infrastructure and fostering a conducive learning environment. In Lebanon as well, we supported several projects aiming at enhancing access to primary education for Syrian refugee children, including the use of mobile schools where other options were not viable.

We provided grants through different actors, most notably the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to support operations targeting some of the most vulnerable internally displaced populations within Syria through the provision of adequate shelters. Other operations addressed critical interventions in the sectors of health, education in addition to water and sanitation, which were instrumental in providing an incentive against voluntary displacement resulting from essential services being unavailable.

We continued, as we did for many years, to support Palestinian refugees in refugee camps located in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in neighboring countries. The Palestinian situation is certainly rather specific, in that it is a direct result of occupation and forced displacement – but the developmental impacts are the same, if not magnified given the additional layers of restrictions and oppression.

OFID also partnered with a number of development and relief actors to enable the provision of aid items to meet the basic needs of thousands of internally displaced people in Yemen, while continuing to tackle the situation with supporting resilience and early-recovery in mind.

Far from the Middle East, we extended support to the efforts to address the Rohingya refugee crisis and supporting the host communities in Bangladesh as well as the refugee population through the provision of sustainable shelter solutions and helping the recovery of livelihoods.

These are only a few examples of our operations aimed at addressing the enormous challenges of displacement. Nevertheless, it is undoubted that, in order to implement the aforementioned programmes, OFID had to build effective strategic partnerships across a wide range of organizations, sectors and disciplines to strengthen development-oriented responses to displacement.

I take this opportunity to reiterate the need to pursue our joint efforts in order to achieve a greater impact, and help pave the way to a more equitable and sustainable future, and to wish you every success in these deliberations. Thank you.