Stronger bonds between hosts and migrants build more inclusive societies

UN Development Programme
5 min readDec 16, 2021


UNDP supports Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan, including a project with the government to improve waste management in Jordan and create sustainable livelihoods. Photo: UNDP/Sumaya Agha

Migrants have the potential to expand their own income, education, health and life choices, to fill labour gaps, create businesses, innovate and pay taxes in their host countries. They send remittances to their families left behind, investing and financing local development initiatives.

By extending a welcome, host communities can play a vital role in powering economic growth, reducing inequalities and connecting diverse societies. Host countries, often struggling with development challenges themselves, offer asylum, protection and safety to people fleeing danger.

At the same time, the numbers of people forcibly displaced as refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people has reached record highs. Images of thousands of people chaotically crossing borders has politicized the debate and led to policies aimed at stopping human movement.

Refugees often lack security, healthcare, and education. Their presence can add an extra burden to infrastructure, the employment market, and basic services, creating tensions with local populations. Without support to host communities, refugees can be subject to discrimination, exploitation, and gender-based violence.

The UN General Assembly has acknowledged the crucial link between human mobility and development in the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The four-yearly Global Refugee Forum and the High-Level Officials Meeting chart progress on delivering the Global Compact on Refugees. The first Forum was held in 2019, and the first High-Level Officials Meeting was 14 and 15 December 2021.

UNDP is working with governments and partners in about 45 countries that are either hosting large refugee populations, are vulnerable to forced displacement crises, or are encouraging people to voluntarily return.

Development solutions to forced displacement

Widespread violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has led to people being forced from their homes, especially in North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri and Kasaï. The country also hosts half a million refugees from neighbouring countries.

A reintegration project in the Democratic Republic of Congo that provides work and livelihood opportunities for vulnerable people while also tackling soil erosion. Photo: UNDP DRC/Aude Rossignol

UNDP works in partnership with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to provide humanitarian assistance, support integration of displaced people, strengthen local governance and improve people’s participation.

One project in Ituri helped people displaced by conflict integrate better into new communities by offering small business support, while another in Lake Kivu provides work and livelihood opportunities for vulnerable people while also tackling soil erosion.

Amineta’s family were able to buy a hand press to extract palm oil. She and her family have settled down in their new home. “After just two months of work, the list of orders keeps growing every day,” she says. “Our life is now in Mambasa. We have bought land and are constructing our home.”

UNDP is also assisting regional support platforms including the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan to the Syria crisis. It addresses the needs of refugees and affected communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.

Sene is one of the 3.6 million Syrians refugees in Turkey. With the wage she earned during the summer cotton harvest, she rented land and started to cultivate and sell vegetables. The training she received allowed her to expand her business.

“Turkey has become a home for us and allowed us to earn an income” she says. “My family would face more challenges without my support.”

One project provides Syrian refugees and Turkish youth with access to skills development and labour markets, with highlights including 30 computer classrooms and social cohesion activities in five provinces. At a hackathon in Ankara, the young people sought innovative solutions for social cohesion. Photo: UNDP Turkey

Strengthening the bond between host and migrant communities

Social cohesion is a key issue, with tensions created by increased job competition, rising costs of living and access to basic services. In Lebanon, a lack of security and justice services and human rights violations committed by law enforcement institutions aggravate tensions.

Working with the Ministry of Justice, UNDP has professionalized security forces and offering free state legal aid. There has been a ten percent increase in public satisfaction with the police.

In Pakistan, UNDP is building the capacity of justice sector professionals to better serve refugees, especially women. Photo: UNDP Pakistan

UNDP is a member of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, a regional support platform covering Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. UNDP works with UNHCR to ensure that national peace and development plans target high priority areas.

Following events in Afghanistan in August, an objective for the next 12 months in Pakistan is to revitalize local economies. Activities with the government, partners, refugee and host communities will include training, job placement and small businesses creation.

Digital tech helping integrate communities

For migrants and displaced people, digital technology offers unique benefits and opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Online, they can learn skills, access critical information and services and build networks. They can find better work, start businesses, or explore new marketplaces.

In Lima, Peru, UNDP is working with the municipality, UNHCR, ILO, private companies, universities, and social labs to provide online training, artificial intelligence for coaching on business models, and a collaborative digital platform to accelerate integration of refugees, migrant and host populations.

The project, Digital Futures, targets 5,000 refugees, migrants, and members of host communities in Lima. So far, 890 participants have completed the online entrepreneurial training, with close to a quarter of them engaging in artificial intelligence coaching and feedback.

The team is now engaging with local private sector companies to develop and provide tailored products and services to refugee and migrants that so far have accompanied over 1,500 entrepreneurs. The collaborative digital platform, Future Now, also incorporates the creativity, perspective and needs of the Venezuelan populations in Lima.

Building a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient world

A project to rehabilitate an historic seafront in El Mina, Lebanon, which hosts a large population of Syrian refugees, creates new job opportunities during and after the project, including providing livelihoods for the fishing community, and reviving tourism. Photo: UNDP Lebanon

When migrants, refugees and internally displaced people do not have freedom of movement or can’t find work, when they and their children lack adequate education and training opportunities, the cycle of poverty is bound to continue. When migrants are excluded and discriminated against, then the benefits of migration are lost.

Our ability to meet these international commitments requires urgent action to enhance human mobility’s contribution to sustainable development.

With the right support and policies, migrants, including forcibly displaced people, can improve their own well-being, make vital contributions to host communities’ development, and help build a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient world.