There are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people in the world (UNHCR, 2017). This means that 1 in every 122 people on the planet is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum (UNHCR, 2014). Given the magnitude of displacement today, movement can no longer be considered an anomaly. It has become the "new normal" around the globe, whether people are "hosts" or "movers".
Low and middle income countries host 86% of the world's refugees. Lebanon hosts the most refugees in relation to its population, with 183 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants (UNHCR, 2016). This presents challenges to its economy, local infrastructure, and education system.
There is growing evidence that inequality is harmful to individuals and societies. Prosperity is negatively affected by poor educational opportunities, health, social cohesion, and employment prospects (OECD, 2015; Legatum Institute, 2015). Many countries do not have systems that can spread the benefits of prosperity more evenly across their societies, a problem that is only aggravated by mass displacement.
By contrast, social and economic inclusion are strongly associated with more sustainable, prosperous lives. Achieving inclusive growth involves looking beyond monetary indicators and GDP, to quality of life and well-being. Steps towards greater inclusiveness in sectors including education, innovation, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, public services, public policies and health and wellbeing can therefore address the detrimental impacts of inequality.
The scale, and sometimes protracted nature of displacement crises, requires new sustainable approaches that go beyond the once dominant model of humanitarian relief. These interventions are needed quickly, as competition over resources grows in some areas of the world. To be effective, they would need to create a 'level playing field' based on social and economic inclusiveness for "hosts" and "refugees". It follows that then interventions addressing challenges brought about by mass displacement include equipping populations with the skills and education needed to strengthen their economic, physical, governmental, social, political and environmental structures.
The RELIEF Centre brings together a group of world-leading senior academics from across UCL and Lebanese Higher Education institutions with expertise on sustainable prosperity, economics, engineering, internet technology, anthropology and sociology, urban design, education, and regional expertise on Lebanon and the Middle East. It addresses the themes of migration, mobility and development as well as innovation and inclusive economic growth. The Centre stems from UCL’s Institute of Global Prosperity’s (IGP) RELIEF network, with experts from across UCL as well as organisations and NGOs working in the MENA region and elsewhere. The RELIEF network grew out of UCL’s Refuge in a Moving World interdisciplinary research network, a joint IGP/UCL Institute of Advanced Studies initiative.