Policy Brief No. 2
Leveraging networks to overcome displacement
Urban internally displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In the quest for sustainable solutions to record global displacement, promoting displaced persons’ self-reliance and supporting them alongside host communities in regions of displacement have become buzzwords in global and European policy discussions. But despite such pledges, TRAFIG research in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) finds that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in urban settings are largely ignored and unassisted by the state and international humanitarian and development interventions—and are proactively seeking their own solutions. The lack of institutionalised assistance means that IDPs mostly depend on the solidarity of others to be or become self-reliant. In this context, networks are a particularly important source of support and include assistance with locating housing and finding a job in Bukavu and with maintaining and harvesting crops in communities of origin. However, even with the benefits that these connections can bring, IDPs face serious challenges related to their displacement and contend with multiple types of limbo, making it difficult for many to truly overcome situations of protracted displacement. Findings thus point to the need for policies and practices that support urban IDPs in the DRC by helping them nurture and leverage their networks to unlock opportunities.
The Policy Brief comes up with four central findings and recommendations:
While networks constitute a significant source of support, for too many IDPs, such assistance is only temporary or insufficient to really overcome displacement. Humanitarian and development initiatives should aim to bolster resilient connections, which include informal (e.g.host families) and formal (e.g. churches and labour associations) networks.
Many urban IDPs leverage resources in their home communities to make a living in the city. Development actors should support IDPs’ efforts to maintain ties with their communitiesof origin and safeguard mobility between Bukavu and the surrounding rural regions.
Not every IDP has a network—or, for fear of stigmatisation, wants to utilise their network. EU assistance should help urban IDPs strengthen and leverage their networks by reinforcing existing connections and building new ones. Current approaches to forced displacement and access to solutions need to be better equipped to support those strategies.
The complex and long-standing nature of displacement in eastern DRC calls for increased attention and assistance from policymakers in Europe and beyond to help IDPs move from temporary to more permanent solutions.
You can download the Policy Brief here.