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Cambridge Global Challenges


The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends survey found 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017, more people than the population of Thailand.

Refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution accounted for 25.4 million. This is 2.9 million more than in 2016, also the biggest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.

New displacement is also growing, with 16.2 million people displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly. That is an average of one person displaced every two seconds. And overwhelmingly, it is developing countries that are most affected.

The findings in the Global Trends report challenge some of the perceptions about forced displacement.

Among these is the notion that the world’s displaced are mainly in countries of the global north. The data shows the opposite to be true – with fully 85 per cent of refugees in developing countries, many of which are desperately poor and receive little support to care for these populations.

Four out of five refugees remain in countries next door to their own.

Large-scale displacement across borders is also less common than the 68 million global displacement figure suggests. Almost two-thirds of those forced to flee are internally displaced people who have not left their own countries.

UNHCR’s Global Trends report is published worldwide each year ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, and tracks forced displacement based on data gathered by UNHCR, governments, and other partners.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi found hope in a new blueprint for responding to refugee situations, pioneered by 14 countries. A new Global Compact on Refugees, seeking closer international cooperation in response to refugee crises, will be ready for adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in a matter of months.


For more details please see the full 2018 UNHCR report

Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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