Forced displacement and development cooperation – Challenges and opportunities for German and European politics

Both cross-border and internal refugee movements are increasing, and developing countries are particularly affected in their double role as countries of origin and countries of destination. Refugee movements can bear considerable risks for countries of origin, transit, and destination in that they can harbor security risks and hamper economic and social development processes. At the same time, adequate support by the international community may open up opportunities for positive developmental impacts, e.g. when the reception and return of refugees is accompanied by thoroughly designed developmental policies.

There is currently a lack of convincing concepts and strategies regarding adequate circumstances, objectives and instruments for supporting developing countries in tackling the challenges that come with large refugee movements. German and European development cooperation urgently needs to address the question how coherent linkages between short-term emergency relief and longer-term transitional development assistance can be achieved. In addition to this there are inevitable overlaps between development assistance and German and European refugee policy.

The project focuses on five issue areas:

  1. Overarching trends

    What trends can be observed in the causes and types of internal and cross-border refugee movements? What categorization schemes are helpful, and how do these change over time? Which countries are particularly affected by what type of refugee movements, and where are we to expect further forced displacement that needs to be addressed through development cooperation?

  2. Challenges and opportunities for countries of origin

    What challenges do refugee movements pose for countries of origin? How does forced displacement affect the development of regions of origin, and what type of security risks may be linked to this, especially with regard to mass movements and protracted refugee crises? In what way can the toolbox of development cooperation be used to reduce these risks?

  3. Challenges and opportunities for countries of destination

    In what ways do refugee movements impede the national, regional or human security of host countries? Under what circumstances does forced migration fuel conflict, and to what extent may it threaten developmental objectives and programs? How do partner countries of German development cooperation deal with mixed migratory movements, and what does this mean for the protection and assistance of refugees? Under what conditions and through which policy tools can the reception or the return of refugees lead to positive developmental impacts?

  4. Political concepts and strategies

    What concepts and strategies do other industrialized states as well as international organizations responsible for refugee protection, humanitarian assistance and development use in order to support countries of destination? What types of cooperation are there? Which ones have proven successful, which ones have failed? Are there examples for political approaches that have not led to a reduction in refugee movements, and what can we learn from these? What programs and experiences exist with regard to the linkage between emergency relief and developmental tools and strategies?

  5. Developmental approaches

    How can German and European development cooperation contribute to reducing the causes of forced displacement, and how can partner countries be supported in coping with large refugee movements? What types of cooperation with other departments is needed, what type of cooperation with other EU and industrialized states, international organizations, and civil society actors are useful and necessary? What kind of overlaps, linkages and feedback effects exist between refugee-oriented development cooperation and German and European refugee policy? How can and should both areas be linked?

The project is situated in the SWP Research Division Global Issues. Apart from engaging with the questions raised above it also serves as a coordination body for a number of partners that have been commissioned by the BMZ to carry out research on the topic of forced displacement and development cooperation.

Project duration: July 2015 – December 2017

Project team:

Dr. Steffen Angenendt

Dr. Anne Koch

David Kipp

Amrei Meier

Project funding:

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Cooperation partners:

  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
  • Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC)
  • World Bank

SWP Comments

Christian Opitz, Tobias Etzold
Seeking Renewed Relevance

Institutions of Nordic Cooperation in the Reform Process


Amal Jamal
The Rise of “Bad Civil Society” in Israel

Nationalist Civil Society Organizations and the Politics of Delegitimization


SWP Research Papers

Marianne Beisheim, Anne Ellersiek
Partnerships for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Transformative, Inclusive and Accountable?


Kirsten Westphal, Aurélie Bros, Tatiana Mitrova
German-Russian Gas Relations

A Special Relationship in Troubled Waters