E.g., 09/29/2023
E.g., 09/29/2023
Protection in Crisis: Forced Migration and Protection in a Global Era

More than 51 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced today as refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced persons. According to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to be recognized legally as a refugee, an individual must be fleeing persecution on the basis of religion, race, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, and must be outside the country of nationality. However, the contemporary drivers of displacement are complex and multilayered, making protection based on a strict definition of persecution increasingly problematic and challenging to implement.

Many forced migrants now fall outside the recognized refugee and asylum apparatus. Much displacement today is driven by a combination of intrastate conflict, poor governance and political instability, environmental change, and resource scarcity. These conditions, while falling outside traditionally defined persecution, leave individuals highly vulnerable to danger and uncertain of the future, compelling them to leave their homes in search of greater security. In addition, the blurring of lines between voluntary and forced migration, as seen in mixed migration flows, together with the expansion of irregular migration, further complicates today's global displacement picture.

This report details the increasing mismatch between the legal and normative frameworks that define the existing protection regime and the contemporary patterns of forced displacement. It analyzes contemporary drivers and emerging trends of population displacement, noting that the majority of forcibly displaced people—some 33.3 million—remain within their own countries, and that more than 50 percent of the displaced live in urban areas. The author then outlines and assesses key areas where the international protection system is under the most pressure, and finally examines the key implications of these trends for policymakers and the international community, outlining some possible policy directions for reform.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Displacement and Protection: Drivers and Impacts

III. Geographies of Displacement and Paths to Protection

A. Internal Displacement and Protection in Conflict-Affected Countries

B. Displacement and Circular Mobility

C. From Camps to Cities

D. Migrants Stranded in Crises

E. The "Displacement Continuum:" Restricted Protection Space in Transit and at Destination

F. Slow-Onset Displacement

IV. Humanitarian Crises as Development Opportunities, and the Protection Dividend

V. Closing Normative, Policy, and Operational Gaps

A. Normative Responses and Developments in International Law and Practice

B. Policy and Operational Developments

VI. The Challenge of Protection: An Agenda for Change

A. Displacement, Protection, and Policy Coherence

B. Conceptual Challenges: Protection Status, Rights, and Needs

C. Displacement and Protection—The Need for Policy Consistency

D. From Protection Norms to Protection Management—A Shift in Priority

E. The Politicization of Protection

VII. Conclusion