MENA research consultancy delivers report on Syrian internal displacement crisis

10 August 2018

The humanitarian and development research agency Middle East Consulting Solutions has tabled a report on the internal displacement crisis in Syria, forwarding a suite of recommendations to aid future resolutions. 

Middle East Consulting Solutions (MECS) is an on-the-ground research consultancy operating across the MENA region for clients in the humanitarian and development sectors, such as UN agencies, local and international NGO’s, research institutions and the public and private sector. Following a six-month research operation conducted within Syria until April this year, MECS has now released its report on the increasingly protracted situation of internally displaced Syrians.

With some five million refugees having fled the ongoing violence in Syria across international borders, those who have been forced from their homes but remain in the country can often be overlooked by the wider media – yet their numbers are as high as six and half million people and growing, placing considerable strain on their host communities in addition to the trauma suffered by the internal refugees.

Further complexities arise as to future resolutions when it comes to the question of return or resettlement post-conflict or of local integration, which may grow as a preference for displaced peoples the longer their state of limbo remains unresolved – and may also be a more viable longer-term option with respect to humanitarian aid. However, host communities are also party to any programme toward integration, and their stability and support capacities must also be considered.Percentage of internal displacement per year for selected Syrian host communitiesWith these complications in mind, the MECS research study sought to first understand the complex process of local integration within the context of protracted internal displacement, while also providing an in-depth analysis of the profiles, needs, intentions and push-and-pull factors for both the internally displaced refugees and the members of their respective hosting communities. To do so, MECS collected primary data from over 900 households with a mix of internally displaced and host populations – chiefly in the governorates of Idleb, Lattakia and Al Hasakeh.

The study, as outlined in the resulting report, ‘Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons in Syria’, found that the internally displaced generally had a strong desire to return to their own communities, despite the limited prospects of doing so in the short-term, with a corresponding low level interest in integrating into their current communities in the longer run – unless, according to the report, they can see immediate, tangible, and realistic opportunities for doing so, including having basic conditions such as safety and access to economic opportunities assured.

The report states; “For the majority of the assessed internally displaced Syrians, voluntary return or local integration in safety and dignity is currently not possible. Most IDPs have no other plan but to stay in their current location even though living conditions are increasingly dire, both for them, and for the host populations. Additionally, with different levels of access across population groups, there is a potential of increased tensions between the displaced and their host communities.”Potential of a return to home for internally displaced SyriansAlthough the comprehensive survey report outlines certain current variables between the assessed communities, the MECS study found no discernable patterns as to groups or categories based on household profile, intentions, plans, or the conditions for displaced persons to consider integration and the higher potential for integration, and neither as to differences between rural and urban populations or male or female-headed households.

The one crucial difference the study did reveal, however, was the impact of the duration of displacement on views to integration. “While IDPs seemed to be experiencing a growing availability of livelihoods and integration opportunities over time, their willingness to integrate would reach its apex after 3-4 years of displacement and start to drop after that,” the report said of its findings, derived through interviews with households and key informants.

In its concluding review of the obstacles to local integration, the MECS report recommends, broadly, that ‘following safety, security, and economic opportunities, the data indicates that ‘availability of shelter’ is an important consideration that affects the willingness of IDPs to integrate locally… Any efforts oriented to facilitate the local integration of displaced communities in Syria should focus on living standard and economic dynamics affecting livelihood and employment opportunities.”

Still, while a voluntary return to origin remains unlikely for the majority of internally displaced persons in Syria, the MECS report states; “External support with a sole purpose of promoting local integration should be approached with caution, if not avoided. The data has shown that most IDPs anticipate to have to stay in the current location of displacement – which is not the same as choosing to locally integrate.”

Local consultancy Impact Research helps to assess relief efforts in Yemen

18 April 2019

Newly incorporated Yemeni consultancy Impact Research has been working with UN agencies and international NGOs to evaluate local crisis and recovery efforts.

Now into its fifth year, the worsening civil conflict in Yemen has taken the lives of over 60,000 citizens and brought wide-spread devastation to what was already the poorest county in the region, with millions suffering from its effects. According to UN reports, four fifths of the Yemeni population – some 24 million people – are in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, with more than half of those in acute need and threatened by famine.

A number of UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) including the UNDP, World Food Programme, Oxfam, and World Bank among others have been acting to bring relief through a variety of local humanitarian projects, such as the three-year joint UNDP-World Bank Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) which through a grant of $300 million seeks to assist recovery from the bottom up by restoring livelihood opportunities.

The reasoning behind the approach is that by increasing income-generation opportunities for the some 80 percent of the Yemeni population currently unemployed, individual households will be strengthened and then more capable of assisting and contributing to their communities – ultimately bringing the country closer to peace. To date, over half a million people have directly benefited from the YECRP project, through both short-term job creation and training initiatives.Impact Research helping to assess humanitarian relief efforts in YemenUnprecedented as a humanitarian disaster, the urgency and scale of the project (over 3 million people have also gained access to basic services such as water and health through YECRP) and other relief efforts by their nature requires somewhat of an as-you-go approach, with the need for constant assessment to measure the impact and effectiveness of the implementations and identify areas for potential improvements. One firm helping with such analyses is Impact Research.

Incorporated this year, the Sanaʽa-based firm is staffed by a team of professional consultants and researchers who aim to become the leading consultancy in Yemen – serving both the private and public sector with a comprehensive range of provisions in advisory, research and analysis, monitoring and evaluation, project management design, planning, and implementation, and capacity-building and training, blending global best practice with deep local insight.

So far the firm’s clients include among others Oxfam, the International Labor Organization, German development agency GIZ and the UNDP, with Impact Research providing in-the-field research, assessments, reporting, monitoring and evaluations to gauge the performance and effectiveness of various relief projects, aiming to gain greater knowledge along the way to help improve future practices and interventions while disseminating that knowledge in turn.

“We have learned that impact in Yemen is not as intuitive as one thinks,” the firm states. “The complexity of the situation makes small efforts full of impact, while much money can create very negative and unintended consequences.” It adds, spiritedly; “The Yemen crisis has opened new opportunities for the Yemeni people as much as it has closed many. The catastrophe has pushed all of us to see the light in the dark, and to identify the opportunities between the ashes.”

Related: BCG partners with the WFP on refugee food security innovations in Jordan.