It takes more – think long term!

The Danish government will soon adopt a new development strategy. As Denmark's largest humanitarian organization, the Danish Refugee Council believes it is crucial to maintain focus on those displacement problems with which the world is faced. It is important that a strong link between humanitarian and developmental work be cultivated and expanded. Such a link is vital for building capacities for self-reliance among conflict-affected populations and among states. It is also key to ensuring the conditions for sustainable development, protection and people’s rights. The Danish Refugee Council is the convinced of this for the following reasons:
  1. Paradigms are shifting.
    There are a record high number of refugees and displaced persons worldwide. Meanwhile, the average time a displaced person remains displaced exceeds 17 years. We therefore need to think long-term from the onset of a crisis in order to better provide durable solutions to people and states affected by displacement. Action should moreover be taken to address the root causes of conflict and displacement. The regions of origin should be supported more, but emergency assistance is not enough. People’s assistance needs not only relate to survival, but also the need to live their lives in a dignified manner. It is important to investment in host countries' long-term development, job creation, infrastructure and durable solutions for those people who are forced to flee.
  2. There should be a focus on the rights of vulnerable groups.
    A rights-based approach is essential in ensuring that core humanitarian principles and people’s rights are not forgotten. Development and humanitarian assistance should target the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized and not narrowly reflect donor countries’ own interests. It is essential that we have a balanced and realistic approach to migration and social mobility rather than merely perceiving them as threats. People have needs and are entitled to protection no matter which status they have. This demands a focus on people’s rights.
  3. The world needs more, not less assistance.
    Denmark should strengthen the overall framework for development assistance. Humanitarian funds are under pressure and there is an unprecedented imbalance between the needs and the resources available. DRC urges that Denmark's overall global development and humanitarian engagement is strengthened rather than weakened. Danish development assistance can be seen as having sunk in 2015 to a historic low 0.5% of GNI after the costs of refugee reception are taken into consideration. It is furthermore a significant paradox that the largest recipient of Danish aid is Denmark itself.
  4. Denmark relies on international law and order.
    Denmark has been a pioneer in a number of international conventions on which humanitarian work is based. Denmark should therefore take the lead in advocating for international humanitarian law and binding conventions aimed at protecting the rights of civilians and people on the run. Denmark cannot expect that other countries will respect refugees and migrants' rights if we do not do it ourselves. Moreover, if countries in the regions of origin push the challenges sideways instead of taking a responsibility, this may result in even greater refugee flows towards Europe.
  5. No marginalized and vulnerable should be left behind.
    We should have a presence in the countries and regions from which people are fleeing - but not only those places from which people are fleeing to Denmark and Europe. Our focus must be on the most marginalized in the world. There should be a Danish and global focus on 'forgotten crises', even if they do not make headlines in Europe, such as in relation to crises in countries including Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen. Crises breed crises with human suffering, global instability and displacement as a result. Denmark, and the international community, should through timely and efficient political leadership and cooperation do everything possible to both avert conflicts and find political solutions to end them.
  6. Poverty should be tackled to reduce displacement.
    It is crucial to combat poverty in the world. However, the overall poverty level in a country is not necessarily the most important determinant of whether Denmark should direct its assistance to a given country. Denmark should intensify its important work in middle-income countries, which are increasingly included in the category of fragile states. A poverty-oriented focus on the marginalized in these countries, who are often also displaced, may improve their living conditions and thereby reduce the likelihood that they will be forced into secondary movements. Such a focus can simultaneously provide them with the opportunity to return home when a durable solution is possible and to do so with the resources and capacities they need to do so successfully.
  7. Denmark should focus on fragile states.
    Fragile states are producers - and hosts - of the vast majority of the 60 million displaced people we are witnessing in the world today. At the same time, the number of fragile states is on the rise. The Danish strategy should holistically address fragile states through conjoining various humanitarian and development efforts. This includes humanitarian and development assistance as well as coordination of international and local partners. In a fragile context, access to vulnerable persons and communities is often the biggest challenge for both the government and NGOs. The most vulnerable, who have the greatest need for basic services and protection, are often those who are the most difficult to reach, and should thus be a focus for Denmark.
  8. Business cooperation can contribute.
    Denmark should support business based cooperation between NGOs and private companies through which they should jointly focus on the needs of users. Local sales should address users in the fragile states and should be sustainable relative to the existing local market. However, it is essential that development policy is driven by the interests and rights of vulnerable groups. Commercial interests can never stand alone. Rather, they must be used to support and respect the interest and rights of the vulnerable.
  9. The only real solutions to displacement are durable solutions.
    It is refugees and not borders that need protection. It is not possible to stem or stop the number and flow of refugee with short-term measures aimed primarily at keeping refugees out of Denmark and Europe. Denmark should take the lead to push for political solutions globally. This applies in the first instance to ending world's conflicts. At the same time, however, there should be a focus on durable solutions with full access to protection for the world's refugees and displaced persons. It is essential - also for a small country like Denmark - to seek global solutions to displacement.

This leads to the following recommendations from the Danish Refugee Council:

  • Create a better coherence and balance between humanitarian and development aid
  • Maintain a focus on international conventions and rights
  • Keep focusing on a rights-based approach to the benefit for the world’s most vulnerable
  • Efforts in regions of origin should be strengthened massively
  • Denmark’s overall global engagement should be strengthened rather than reduced

Click here to download the recommendations