On 30 June 2017 UNHCR organized a side-event during the 69th meeting of the Standing Committee, discussing challenges and gaps related to displaced populations in the 2030 Agenda and how we can ensure refugees, stateless and IDPs are included in the work ahead. The discussion was chaired by Mr Ahmad Fawzi, Spokesperson at UNHCR and speakers included Ambassador Andrew Kihurani, Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya, Ms. Kjersti Sommerset, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway and Mr. Jos Verbeek, Manager and Special Representative of the World Bank to the UN.
Ms Sommerset shared an update on Norway’s experiences with international collaboration on improving statistics for displaced populations and emphasized the need for good data and a solid international framework for refugee statistics. Full statement below:
Statement by Chargée d’Affaires, Ms Kjersti Sommerset, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway, at Side-event of UNHCR’s 69th Meeting of the Standing Committee, titled “From Aspiration to Action – Including Displaced Populations in the 2030 Agenda”
The 2030 Agenda and the ambition of leaving no-one behind is high on the Norwegian Government’s agenda. In fact, our Prime Minister Erna Solberg is Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s group of SDG Advocates, and she reminds us to use every opportunity to raise awareness and attention to this global call to action.
I am therefore grateful to be invited to speak at this event. I must say though that when I saw the topic was “SDGs and refugees” - I was wondering whether it could turn out to be a rather short meeting today, given that refugees are in fact not featured in any of the 17 SDGs or the more than 200 SDG indicators!
Precisely because they are missing, I would like to thank UNHCR for organizing this event. It is also a good opportunity for me to give a little up-date on Norway’s work to improve the statistics relating to forcibly displaced persons.
It is clear that our ambition to leave no-one behind will require good policies, good programmes and good decisions. And all of these must be based on good data.
Earlier this month UNHCR reported a record number of more than 65 million displaced persons worldwide. While there has been some concern about the validity and reliability of these numbers, it is clear that governments and international organizations need good data to better assist refugees and to meet the many challenges of forced migration. This is exactly where better statistics can play an integral role.
Both the statistical and the humanitarian community have seen the need to improve statistics on forcibly displaced persons. And the need to build a bridge between the national statistical offices and the international organizations dealing with forced displacement has been clearly recognised.
Our own national statistical office, called Statistics Norway, together with UNHCR, has taken the lead in this work. I believe this cooperation represents an interesting example of how technical expertise from one country can support the global humanitarian community.
Ultimately, we hope of course that this collaboration will serve the broader goal of contributing to effective, evidence-based humanitarian and development assistance to populations affected by forced displacement.
At the UN Statistical Commission in 2015, UNHCR and Statistics Norway presented a number of challenges related to international statistics on refugees. The most important findings were the following:
- There is a lack of a consistent terminology on displaced groups
- In far too many countries, there is a lack of good data sources, and as a consequence…
- There is a disparity between national and international refugee numbers and the figures are difficult to compare.
It became clear that further work on statistics on forcibly displaced populations was required. A key recommendation was to bring together international organizations and experts from national statistical offices and establish an Expert Group on refugee statistics.
It was also made clear that a set of definitions, classifications and recommendations with best practices, can help countries to produce better statistics. The UN Statistical Commission also requested that the Expert Group include statistics on IDPs in its scope of work. The Expert Group should be ready to submit its recommendations to the UN Commission by March next year.
The work with the recommendations and a better international framework for refugee statistics has been one track that Norway has pursued.
Another track has been to second technical experts from Statistics Norway to UNHCR and the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) through NRC/Norcap. This collaboration started in 2013 and has ranged from assistance to population surveys, improvement of data collection tools, field support and data analysis.
One example of collaboration relates to what Ambassador Kihurani has just shared with us on the experience from the statelessness study in his country. Two experts from Statistics Norway had the chance to participate in this exercise in Kenya, to try to contribute to obtaining statistics that have not been available before. We appreciate having had the opportunity to take part in this.
As I mentioned at the start, refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons are not singled out as a specific group under any of the SDGs, which begs the question:
- How can we ensure that refugees/IDPs are included in the different indicators that describe demography and living conditions?
In the current set up, refugees and IDPs fall under ‘migratory status’ as one of many variables that the SDGs will be disaggregated by. With the current limited availability of data, only a few countries will be in a position to consistently report on how refugees fare (through the national indicators). A few questions – on country of birth/reason for migration added to a household survey or a census could produce a wealth of data. However if this is not done, refugees will go undetected in the SDGs.
The proposal to have a specific indicator on refugees would be valuable to discuss in relation to the revision of indicators.
If we are serious about leaving no-one behind in our common efforts to achieve the SDGs, we must find ways of including forcibly displaced persons. This will require good data that again can inform good decisions and appropriate responses.
Norway places great importance on this, and we are glad to support where our experience and expertise is needed and useful.