Blog post by Dr James C. Simeon, Associate Professor at York University, Canada
With a record breaking more than 100 million forcibly displaced persons in the world today, and with their numbers seemingly ever escalating at a rapid rate — as evident by the number of those who are forcibly displaced having doubled over the last decade – has led to the situation where the number of persons who are in real humanitarian need has well surpassed the international community’s capacity to provide the assistance required. Given this unprecedented global situation of seemingly ever growing numbers of forcibly displaced persons, can the United Nations’ efforts at peacebuilding through the “Triple Nexus” be able to achieve the universal goal of “sustainable peace”?
The UNHCR’s latest Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2021 points out that more than two-thirds of all refugees come from only five countries: Syrian Arab Republic, 6.8 million; Venezuela, 4.6 million; Afghanistan, 2.7 million; South Sudan, 2.4 million; Myanmar, 1.2 million. However, this does not include the 14 million plus Ukrainians who have been forcibly displaced, internally and externally, since the start of this phase of the Russian-Ukraine War on February 24, 2022. This is the fastest-growing and largest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. By some accounts it has surpassed the forced displacement crisis in Syria, that has been at civil war for the last eleven years.
It is also important and relevant to note that 41 percent of the world’s forcibly displaced are children, while only 30 percent of the world’s population are children. At the end of 2021 there were 89.3 million people who were forcibly displaced due to “persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or events seriously disturbing the public order.” The two largest categories of those who were forcibly displaced in 2021 were internally displaced persons (IDPs) (53.2 million) and refugees under UNHCR’s mandate (21.3 million). It is obvious that the number of IDPs easily more than doubles the number of refugees. The only difference, substantively, between IDPs and refugees is that the refugees have crossed an international border. Otherwise, the circumstances and situation between the two, IDPs and refugees, is the same.
UNHCR’s Global Trends in Forced Displacement 2021 states that, “The number of conflict-affected countries has doubled over the last decade, with women and children disproportionately exposed to deep rooted discrimination and extreme vulnerability.” A map of the world’s new forced displacements for 2021 clearly indicates that the majority are concentrated in the African continent and specifically the Sahel Region and across the equator. Among the top ten source refugee producing countries nearly all of them have been embroiled in protracted armed conflict. As most evident and underscored by the current situation with the war in the Ukraine, now in its sixth month, most of the world’s forcibly displaced are the consequence of protracted armed conflict. Addressing this principal “root cause” of forced displacement is undoubtedly one of the keys to resolving the world’s ever escalating forced migration “crises.” One of the efforts of the United Nations to do so is its policy of the Triple Nexus, Humanitarian, Development and Peace.
The Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) Nexus emerged out of the UN World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) that was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016. The WHS was intended to garner support for the new “Agenda for Humanity” and bring meaningful change to the world’s most vulnerable people. The Agenda for Humanity has five core responsibilities: (1) prevent and end conflict; (2) respect the rules of war; (3) leave no one behind; (4) working differently to end need; (5) invest in humanity. It is important to note that under core responsibility three it states, “reduce and address displacement” and “address the vulnerabilities of migrants and provide more regular and lawful opportunities for migration” and it sets the goal of “ending statelessness in the next decade.”
In 2019, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) made an explicit recommendation for the formal adoption of the HDP Nexus. Moreover, it makes a specific reference to not only the Agenda for Humanity but the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. It is also relevant and important to point out that the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, in fact, incorporates the HDP Nexus at paragraph 37 and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in its Annex I, that embodies the philosophy and approach of the HDP Nexus and, in addition, it calls for a Global Compact for Refugees. And Annex II of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants calls for negotiating the establishment of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Both of these intergovernmental agreements were adopted in 2018.
The 2018 Global Compact on Refugees at “D. Preventing and Addressing Root Causes,” paragraphs 8 and 9, make specific references to the HDP Nexus. At paragraph 8, it states, “… improving cooperation among political, humanitarian, development, and peace actors.“ And paragraph 9 states, “… All States and relevant stakeholders are called upon to tackle the root causes of large refugee situations, including through heightened international efforts to prevent and resolve conflict….” Thus, the HDP Nexus has been incorporated, whether explicitly or implicitly, within the latest international refugee protection policies and instruments.
The HDP Nexus, fundamentally, attempts to do three things at once. Hugo Slim has argued that “Nexus theorists advocate a triple win of humanitarian aid that is developmentally applied in order to build up peace.” But as Slim points out that this is often easier said than done, given the operational challenges involved among the three communities of international experts: humanitarians, developmentalists and peacebuilders. While it may not always be possible to do “three good things at once” one should try when the circumstances and situation allows.
The challenge of the application of the HDP Nexus with respect to situations of forced displacement is particularly acute for those who are forced to flee a “war zone” or an “area of armed conflict,” where there is constant shelling, aerial bombardment, or fire fights between and among the belligerents. Clearly, there will be limited, if any space, for humanitarian, development or peace making and building efforts in these situations. Rather, humanitarian aid will likely be critical and predominant in situations of protracted armed conflict until there is a peace settlement. The HDP Nexus appears to have limited applicability in situations of ongoing protracted armed conflict and seems more suitable to situations of post-armed conflict.
From the perspective of international refugee law, there is the further complicating factor that the so-called “war refugee” may not be subject to protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention within some circumstances and jurisdictions but, rather, international humanitarian law must be applied to protect civilian non-combatants in situations of armed conflict. Consequently, even though the HDP Nexus is found in the latest international refugee rights policies and instruments, it appears to have limited applicability or relevance given the nature of the protracted armed conflict.
Nevertheless, one might hope that given the significance of achieving “sustainable peace” in the world today, it is reassuring to know that the HDP Nexus is available, despite its limitations, to advance the cause of ending armed conflict and its generation of mass forced displacement. Its applicability would appear to be better suited to situations of post-armed conflict and transitional justice, peacekeeping and building, and reconstruction.
 UNHCR, “UNHCR: UNHCR, Ukraine, other conflicts push forcibly displaced total over 100 million for first time,” 23 May 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/5/628a389e4/unhcr-ukraine-other-conflicts-push-forcibly-displaced-total-100-million.html. (accessed August 17, 2022); “Forced displacement hit record high in 2021 with too few able to go home: The number of persons forced to flee violence, war and persecution, is outpacing available solutions,” 16 June 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2022/6/62a9ccb54/forced-displacement-hit-record-high-2021-few-able-home.html. (accessed August 17, 2022); UNHCR, “Global Trends,” https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends.html. (accessed August 19, 2022), See specifically the graph that is titled, “Forced displacement outpaces the available solutions during the last decade.”
 BBC News, “How many Ukrainian refugees are there, and where have they gone?” July 4, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-60555472. (accessed August 19, 2022); UNHCR, Operational Data Portal, Ukrainian Refugee Situation, https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine. (accessed August 19, 2022); USA for UNHCR, “Ukraine Emergency,” https://www.unrefugees.org/emergencies/ukraine/. (accessed August 19, 2022). Lists the following statistics: 6.3 million crossing international boundaries; 6.6 internally displaced; 13 million are stranded in affected areas and are unable to leave.
 Ibid., p. 17, Figure 5, People displaced across borders by country of origin, end of 2021. Venezuela is the sole exception. But Venezuela has been suffering from its own political, social and economic disruptions, principally government oppression and corruption, that have led to mass migration throughout the Americas. See the International Crisis Group, “Venezuela,” https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/venezuela. (accessed August 21, 2022)
 OCHA Services, reliefweb, “The Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus: What does it mean for multi-mandated organizations?” 26 June 2019, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/humanitarian-development-peace-nexus-what-does-it-mean-multi-mandated-organizations. (accessed August 21, 2022); “Visualizing the P in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus,” 1 December 2020, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU45k07s70I. (accessed August 21, 2022); IOM, UN Migration, “IOM and the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus,” 1 October 2020, https://www.iom.int/video/iom-and-humanitarian-development-peace-nexus. (accessed August 21, 2022); CooperaSalud, “The triple nexus: Humanitarian, Development and Peace actions. An opportunity for challenges to face,” 2020, https://www.cooperasalud.org/monographs/the-triple-nexus-humanitarian-development-and-peace-actions. (accessed August 22, 2022)
 United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/71/1, 3 October 2016, New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_71_1.pdf. (accessed August 21, 2022). Paragraph 37 states in part, “… ensure a strengthened humanitarian-development nexus, and improved coordination with peacebuilding efforts.” And Annex I, at paragraph 11, states, in part, “… tackle the root causes of violence and armed conflict and to achieve necessary political solutions and the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as to assist in reconstruction efforts.” At paragraph 19, “The way forward,” it states, “We will work towards the adoption in 2018 of a global compact on refugees, based on the comprehensive refugee response framework and on the outcomes of the process described above.”
 Hugo Slim, “Nexus thinking in humanitarian policy: How does everything fit together on the ground?” International Committee of the Red Cross, 25 October 2017, https://www.icrc.org/en/document/nexus-thinking-humanitarian-policy-how-does-everything-fit-together-ground. (accessed August 22, 2022); Gloria Nguya and Nadia Siddiqui, “The Triple Nexus (H-D-P) and Implications for Durable Solutions to Internal Displacement,” August 2020, GCRF, IDRP, Refugee Law Initiative, School of Advanced Study, University of London, https://www.un.org/internal-displacement-panel/sites/www.un.org.internal-displacement-panel/files/idrp_hlp_submission_ws3_triple_nexus.pdf. (accessed August 23, 2022)
 Hugo Slim, “Joining What Belongs Together? The Triple Nexus and the Struggle for Policy Synthesis,” Rural 21: The International Journal of Rural Development, Vol. 53, No. 1, 2019, pp. 6-10, https://www.rural21.com/fileadmin/downloads/2019/en-01/Rural21_1_2019.pdf. (accessed August 22, 2022) However, with broader definitions for who is a refugee under the 1969 Organization for African Unity (OAU) Convention, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, and the 2011 European Union Qualifications Directive, under Qualification for Subsidiary Protection, Chapter V, Article 15(c), this can clearly vary on a regional basis.
 UNHCR, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status and Guidelines on International Protection, Under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Reissued Geneva, February 2019. https://www.unhcr.org/publications/legal/5ddfcdc47/handbook-procedures-criteria-determining-refugee-status-under-1951-convention.html. (accessed August 22, 2022), See Chapter V – Special Cases, A. War Refugees, paragraphs 164-166.
 For a more positive view, see Marc DuBois, “The Triple Nexus – Threat or Opportunity for Humanitarian Principles?” Centre for Humanitarian Action, An Institution of the Maecenata Foundation, May 2020, https://www.chaberlin.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020-05-triple-nexus-threat-or-opportunity-dubois-en.pdf. (accessed August 22, 2022)
 United Nations, Peacebuilding, Sustaining Peace, https://www.un.org/peacebuilding/tags/sustaining-peace. (accessed August 23, 2022); “On 27 April 2016, the General Assembly and the Security Council adopted “twin” resolutions on peacebuilding (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/2282), concluding the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture, which outlined a new approach for peacebuilding and introduced the term ‘sustaining peace’.“ UN Women, Building and sustaining peace, https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/building-and-sustaining-peace#:~:text=On%2027%20April%202016%2C%20the,the%20term%20%E2%80%9Csustaining%20peace%E2%80%9D. (accessed August 23, 2022)
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