Is it possible to predict future forced displacement? | Fixing Aid
In this episode of Fixing Aid, host Alae Ismail explores if aid responses could be improved if the forced displacements of the future were more accurately predicted.
In partnership with tech company IBM, the Danish Refugee Council has developed an online modelling tool that predicts how many people will be displaced – and in which countries – in the next one to three years. The model relies on open-source data, and on algorithms that identify patterns and relationships by sifting through 25 years of historical information.
If humanitarians received more precise predictions on who will be displaced, in what area, and in what year, how might that change the assistance they provide, and could pre-emptive action be taken to reduce displacement?
Jade Kahhaleh, coordinator of the Syrian advocacy network WeExist, conducted research in 2021 based on the DRC/IBM foresight tool, as she explored how forced displacements impact civil society in Syria. “If we have some numbers that can actually push and show that we expect more women to be displaced, then I think this can only give more weight to the need and the legitimacy of the demands that we have,” she tells the Fixing Aid podcast.
For Leila Adamou Arouna, representing a network of herder and pastoralist organisations in the Sahel, the tool provides hope for livestock-raising communities gripped by extreme droughts worsened by the climate crisis. “If the model is accurate enough in its predictions, it could help guide actions in anticipated emergency situations,” she tells Ismail.
The tool was developed after migration numbers increased in Europe in 2015/2016. But while it can provide some advantages for humanitarian responders, it also has its limitations.
“We were working with an ethos of being transparent and open about it, so if this information would end up in the wrong hands, could we risk fuelling an anti-migration narrative and policies? Would these forecasts be used to, for example, close borders and so on?” the DRC’s Alexander Kjærum tells Ismail.
“We took the decision to then say, ‘we'll move away from that, and instead focus our efforts on predicting forced displacement’, which is closer to our mandate as an organisation. But we also decided then to move away from predicting where people are going, and just predicting how many will be displaced.”
Guests: Alexander Kjærum, global adviser and senior analyst at the Danish Refugee Council; Jade Kahhaleh, coordinator at WeExist; Leila Adamou Arouna of Réseau Billital Maroobè.