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About the Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative

In response to the growing number of forcibly displaced people around the world and the need for facts that are accurate and objective, the Wilson Center’s Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative (RAFDI) was established in 2022 to provide evidence-based analyses that translate research findings into practice and policy impact. RAFDI aims to expand the space for new perspectives, constructive dialogue and sustainable solutions to inform policies that will improve the future for the displaced people.


As conflict-induced forced displacement continues to increase in scope, scale, and complexity, the need for sustainable solutions and innovative ways to support both the displaced people and their hosts has never been greater and urgent. More than 103 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons are forcibly on the move because of persecution, war, and other related factors. Failure to address the global forced displacement crisis will not only pose serious risks to the millions of lives at stake, but will inevitably have implications for global stability, economic growth, US foreign policy objectives, and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in origin and host countries.


Tackling the complex challenges of forced displacement requires a holistic approach involving the government, development, humanitarian and private sectors. RAFDI will tackle the unexamined assumptions of forced displacement from the human development perspective, putting the displaced people and their agency at the center of our analysis. We will bring narratives informed by the lived experiences of those affected the most.


Through public and private convenings, published reports, policy briefs, independent analysis, and engagement with expert working group, we will focus on the following:

Forced Displacement Trends Analysis: As the situation in Ukraine shows, forced displacement is a growing global problem not confined to a particular region. Despite huge investments in humanitarian aids, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction. What are we missing? Is the current multinational response sustainable? What can nations do to address the root causes of forced displacement?

Protracted Situations and Solutions: More than half of the 32.5 million global refugees are living in protracted refugee situations, having lived in exile for five years or more in host countries that also need resources. Are the three traditional durable solutions (return, integration, resettlement) failing to free people from displacement? Does the lack of integration in host countries rob refugees of their agency and potential? How do we address the long-term needs of children and women trapped in limbo in host states?

Response Gaps and Policy Recommendations: Given the multi-generational reality of forced displacement, the current approach of holding refugees in isolated temporary camps is no longer viable. Where are the policy gaps? How do we reimagine a global architecture where the displaced people are actively part of the policies that shape their lives? What more can the private sector and development actors do to ensure self-reliance for both the refugees and their host communities?

Refugee Resilience Narrative: RAFDI will serve as an incubator for policies and strategies that reinforce refugee resilience and create pathways to a brighter future. How do displaced people make sense of their lives? To what extent can positive stories of resilience shape policies and attitudes of the natives?