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Expert Opinion

Making Data Count for Internally Displaced People: 5 Questions with the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

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This post originally appeared on the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data's website. Reposted with permission.
 

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is the authoritative source of data and analysis on internal displacement worldwide. Since being established in 1998, as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, IDMC has offered a rigorous, independent, and trusted service to the international community. IDMC uses multiple sources of evidence, validate their data, and are transparent about its limitations. Along with its data innovations, IDMC research aims to build a stronger evidence base on internal displacement, shining a light on under-explored issues, and shaping new thinking. Critical to all of this are partnerships with leading experts and institutions to expand their research agenda, improve data analysis, and strengthen advocacy. 

The IDMC became a champion of the Global Partnership's Inclusive Data Charter (IDC) in October 2018, so we sat down with Avigail Shai, political adviser in IDMC’s Policy and Research team, to learn more about their motivation for signing up and their disaggregated data work. 
 

1. Why did you decide to sign up to the Inclusive Data Charter?

The internal displacement of millions of people every year is a human tragedy. Despite some progress in policy development, the numbers of people displaced by conflict, violence, sudden and slow-onset disasters, and other drivers, are not decreasing. Failing to resolve protracted displacement crises, and to reduce the risk of future displacement, undermines the well-being of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other affected communities, and will affect the development and stability of the countries in which they live.

It’s our belief that without accurate and interoperable data and strong evidence on the scale and nature of internal displacement, States, UN agencies, civil society, and of course IDPs themselves cannot develop or implement the policies and programs required to prevent and reduce displacement, protect rights fully, or target assistance where it is needed most.

However, getting this kind of data can be challenging. To us, the Inclusive Data Charter represents an important opportunity to build the case for stronger, more inclusive, and disaggregated data at the global level, underpinned by meaningful commitments from the IDC Champions. Being part of the network of champions is also a great way to exchange information with, and learn from, the other partners.
 

2. In which areas is the IDMC making data more inclusive, disaggregated, and accessible?

One of our most important objectives at IDMC is to improve the evidence base on internal displacement, through data analysis and research. We are always striving to ensure our data is disaggregated in useful ways, and is open and accessible to those who would benefit from using it.

One example is our work to disaggregate our data by location, to get a better picture of urban/rural displacement. This is a really important form of disaggregation that can help inform policy and operational responses to the evolving needs of displaced peopleThis work aligns with our IDC commitment to analysing and disaggregating data in ways that support more effective policymaking and programming for vulnerable groups.

Another example is our work to develop a methodology for assessing the severity of different displacement situations, to give more depth and granularity to the estimates we publish.

Our website is the most comprehensive source of information on the work we do and there are all sorts of useful publications and tools available there, including our Internal Displacement Update, which provides timely reports through visualisations of displacement events around the world. 

We also work closely with partners and through multilateral and inter-agency processes to support better data on displacement, including, for example, as a member of the Steering Committee of the GP20 Plan of Action, and of the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics, which is working to improve the quality of national statistics on refugees and IDPs.

Another example is our partnership with UNICEF (a fellow IDC Champion), where we are working together to identify the key data gaps and challenges that need to be addressed in order to better understand the needs and vulnerabilities of displaced children. We also recently published a paper, based on an extensive literature review of the different ways in which internal displacement impacts men, boys, women, girls and LGBTIQ people, particularly in relation to livelihood, health, access to housing, infrastructure and education, security, and social life. The paper also identifies the need for better data disaggregation, in order to tailor solutions for different groups.
 

3. What will this mean for internally displaced people? How will your IDC Action Plan impact their daily lives and their futures?

In the long term, our aim is to inform the policy and operational decisions that improve the lives of the millions of people living in internal displacement, or at risk of becoming displaced in the future. By building a strong evidence base, we can more clearly make the case for actions that address displacement risk and help resolve protracted crises, while ensuring the rights of IDPs remain at the heart of responses.

As an example of how this plays out in practice, we are currently working to produce the first estimates of primary and secondary school age children whose education is affected or interrupted by internal displacement for a project with UNESCO. This information is not currently available. Being able to provide even rough estimates would help governments and providers of humanitarian and development assistance plan for, and allocate adequate funding to respond to, their specific needs.
 

4. What are the challenges with implementing your action plan? 

A major challenge we face is that the primary data sources we rely on to produce our global estimates and our broader research often do not disaggregate data by age, gender, and other criteria. This can lead to over- or under-estimations that affect the accuracy of research conclusions and policy recommendations.

In addition, to better understand the differentiated impact that displacement has on different groups of people we need data on where and for how long people live in displacement. Such data is often only collected in and immediately after emergencies, particularly for disaster displacement, which makes it difficult to link the needs of those displaced to operational and policy recommendations for development actors.

And of course, as in any organisation, finding the time and resources required for in-depth research to identify broader trends in the data is an ongoing challenge. But through partnerships with different agencies and organisations, we can address these challenges and find new insights into the needs and vulnerabilities of internally displaced people.
 

5. Why should more organisations and governments join the Inclusive Data Charter?

Organisations working to generate strong evidence and data that is inclusive, accessible, disaggregated, and drawn from diverse sources, face many similar challenges – including in many cases the actual absence of data on a specific topic.

By bringing together different organisations working on this issue, the IDC has enabled us to identify specific areas where we might work together – such as the collaboration I mentioned above with UNICEF. It also promotes information-sharing, consistent with data protection principles, which is particularly useful since many organisations collect data disaggregated according to their specific objectives, but which can also be used by others working on different priorities.

Ultimately, if the IDC can build a stronger understanding among a diverse range of governments, UN agencies, and other humanitarian and development actors around the absolutely critical need for more disaggregated, more inclusive, and more accessible data, it will have made an important contribution to achieving the sustainable development agenda. As new organisations and countries sign up, more diverse perspectives will be heard, more momentum will be generated, and more useful partnerships can form.

I hope that along with building understanding and political will, the IDC can help generate the linkages and resources needed to make good data collection and analysis a reality. It’s one important way to ensure that the experiences and needs of vulnerable groups are properly understood, and fully reflected in government policies, developmental and humanitarian programming, and the high-level international processes which affect them – including, of course the Sustainable Development Goals.