The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative (RSRI) is a global community of over 40 organisations, who work collaboratively to promote opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant, while supporting host communities to benefit from the social and economic inclusion of displaced persons.
Led by RefugePoint and the Women’s Refugee Commission, the community has agreed on a definition, principles, and measurement parameters, which have been used to create the Self-Reliance Index, the first global tool to measure the progress of refugee families on their journey to self-reliance. Above all, the tool considers the views of refugees and displaced persons, providing opportunities for greater self-determination.
At the Global Refugee Forum in 2019, the RSRI and 15 partners submitted a joint pledge to promote self-reliance, with an initial two-year commitment to:
- expand the use and support for the Self-Reliance Index;
- increase access to self-reliance programming; and
- advocate to ensure an enabling environment conducive to self-reliance.
The Self-Reliance Index was rolled out in 2020, and within the first year and a half, the tool was adopted by 26 agencies in 17 countries to assess the status of over 6,000 households. Training in the use of the Index was provided by the RSRI team to over 500 members of staff from international, national, and community-based NGOs, refugee-led organisations, and United Nations agencies.
Initial reports from the roll-out suggest that practitioners are gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the status of the refugees and displaced persons with whom they work, helping them to design and adapt programmes better to suit the diverse range of needs.
The RSRI team has been supporting partners to analyze and identify trends from data collected through use of the Self-Reliance Index to improve services and generate evidence on effective programmes.
Increased access to self-reliance programming
The RSRI set itself the ambitious goal of providing access to self-reliance programming to 250,000 refugees and host community members in at least five countries.
Between January 2020 and June 2021, six agencies reached over 140,000 displaced persons and host community members in 19 countries with self-reliance programming. The implementing partners are using a range of programmes, from educational support and asset transfers, such as business grants and shelter support, to holistic case-management – looking at the complete and specific needs of the individual – and the Graduation Approach, to best meet the diverse needs of participants.
In Aruba, Chad, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Kenya, Peru, and Panama, HIAS, an international humanitarian aid organisation, has so far reached approximately 80,000 individuals through use of the Graduation Approach, socio-economic support, and financial inclusion.
In Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, South Sudan, and Turkey, The Danish Refugee Council has provided self-reliance programming, including business grants, entrepreneurship training, job placements, and shelter support, and use of the Graduation Approach to reach around 45,000 people.
RefugePoint used its Self-Reliance Runway approach to provide holistic programming to 2,047 people in Nairobi, Kenya, while Mercy Corps, in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council and Jordan River Foundation, reached 345 individuals as part of the Resilient Youth Socially and Economically Empowered programme, which seeks to improve livelihood and economic opportunities for young Syrians and Jordanians using the Graduation Approach.
The Graduation Approach has further been utilised by Caritas Czech Republic in Zambia, reaching over 8,000 people, and by the Norwegian Refugee Council, who have supported 7,480 individuals in El Salvador, Honduras, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.
In addition to these programmes, Trickle Up have been supporting seven partners to adapt, design, and implement programmes in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Jordan, Mauritania, Mexico, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda, to ensure they are as effective as possible and enable a path to true self-reliance.
“Be self-sufficient. There’s nothing as sweet as spending your own money, knowing you worked hard for it. You feel great since you know you don’t owe anyone anything.”
– Esperence, CEO & founder of a maize flour company, Client of RefugePoint’s Urban Refugee Protection Program in Nairobi, Kenya
Advocating for self-reliance
The final part of the joint pledge relates to building a base of evidence on the efficacy of different pathways to refugee self-reliance.
Analysing the impacts projects have for people living in a variety of circumstances with differing needs and challenges will help to ensure that future planning and roll-out of programmes have the greatest impact, providing participants with the best chance of becoming – and remaining – self-reliant.
Highlights from this selection of research include:
- Displacement financing: The Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat conducted studies and research relating to displacement financing architecture, which includes practical lessons and recommendations to help start a debate on how to improve financing in the Horn of Africa.
- #LetThemWork: A partnership between the Center for Global Development and Refugees International, which combines research and advocacy to better understand the barriers to freely work, move and thrive.
- Protracted Displacement in an Urban World: A coalition of 11 organisations, the project compares experiences of protracted displacement in cities and camps, to better understand how displaced persons fare in terms of self-reliance, livelihoods, and well-being in different settings.
- Re:Build: Supported by the IKEA Foundation, the International Refugee Committee and the Center for Global Development launched this project to support livelihood development in East Africa, which includes research to demonstrate the effectiveness of services and influence policies and investments.
- Self-Reliance Evidence Review: RefugePoint and the Danish Refugee Council conducted an evidence review on refugee self-reliance. The review provides a consolidated mapping of existing knowledge and evidence around refugee self-reliance and identifies outstanding gaps in evidence, which will enable the broader community to define future research priorities.
Guiding future action
While so much has already been achieved in the first two years since the pledge was made, the RSRI and partners are continuing to work towards their commitments, and new partners are joining the effort.
Together with the Global Refugee Youth Network and the Refugee-Led Research Hub, the RSRI invited civil society actors to share input focused on the second objective of the Global Compact on Refugees – to enhance refugee self-reliance.
In the run-up to the High-Level Officials Meeting (HLOM) in December 2021, the RSRI launched their report Refugee Self-Reliance and the Global Compact on Refugees: Unpacking Barriers and Opportunities for Success which used the findings from the civil society study to provide recommendations and guide future discussions on self-reliance.
And at the HLOM, the United States announced that it is joining the RSRI Pledge to promote opportunities for refugees to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life.