Mini-feature - Towards understanding and addressing root causes of displacement

Due out October 2019

Deadline for submission of articles: Tuesday 28th May

An increasing number of displacement situations around the world are protracted, in part due to the absence of the political will to address root causes. The Global Compact on Refugees notes that “averting and resolving large refugee situations are […] matters of serious concern to the international community […] requiring early efforts to address their drivers and triggers, as well as improved cooperation among political, humanitarian, development and peace actors.” While efforts to understand and address the root causes of displacement are by no means new, the Compact, with its emphasis on global partnerships and solidarity, provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the debate and engage a broad range of different actors working across diverse sectors and mandates.

However, for this to happen, actors need to have a better and more aligned understanding of how we conceptualise ‘root causes’. While analysis has tended to focus on the immediate triggers of displacement (frequently labelled under broad categories such as human rights abuses, conflict, natural hazards or development projects), displacement more commonly results from a combination of multiple underlying factors, which often interact over decades.

An approach that addresses the contextual factors that precipitate displacement should also consider how to respond to the individual needs and motivations of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and could include an analysis of attitudes and responses to risk, vulnerability, resilience, and social cohesion, among others.

Finally, some consideration should be given to how development aid is used as a means of tackling the root causes of displacement. In the absence of elements such as good governance and rule of law, for example, development aid interventions may not prevent displacement or onward movement; the assumption that development interventions alone can achieve these outcomes should therefore be examined.

This special mini-feature will seek to enhance our collective understanding of the root causes of displacement and to inform discussions on protection and solutions at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019. The FMR Editors are looking for practice-oriented submissions, reflecting a diverse range of experience and opinions, which address questions such as the following:

  • How can we forge the political will and follow-through needed to address root causes, recognise barriers, and develop solutions to protracted displacement situations?
  • How can States and other stakeholders make more effective use of existing knowledge, protection frameworks and practical tools to support the resolution of conflict, and what further data and evidence are required to inform useful, comprehensive and contextualised analysis of the root causes of displacement?
  • While prevention and response should be recognised primarily as a state responsibility, what roles can non-state armed groups, civil society organisations, the private sector and intergovernmental and international organisations (development and humanitarian) play in understanding and addressing root causes, including by contributing to the international norms and standards accepted by States?
  • How does development aid impact on root causes? And how can aid flows, projects and priorities more effectively address root causes?
  • What can be learned from locally led programming and community-level conflict prevention and peacebuilding in addressing root causes and finding sustainable solutions to displacement?
  • How can policies designed to assist refugees and IDPs to build their resilience contribute to efforts to address the underlying causes of forced displacement?


Deadline for submission of articles: Tuesday 28th May (please note that this deadline is sooner than the deadline for the feature theme article submissions for this issue)

Maximum length of article: 2,500 words.

If you are interesting in contributing an article, please contact the Editors at IN ADVANCE OF WRITING, with an outline of what you plan to write on; we will let you know if we are interested in receiving your proposed submission and will provide feedback and guidance. We will only be able to publish a small number of articles and do not wish to receive submissions which have not been discussed in advance.

Please note that we have prepared a ‘thematic listing’ of most of the articles published to date in FMR focusing on the root causes of displacement. Online at You may wish to consult this to avoid duplication. (Please do also feel free to share it with others.)

More guidance for authors is available at

We ask authors to give appropriate consideration to the particular relevance of their responses to persons with disabilities, to LGBTIQ+ persons, to older persons, and to other groups with specific vulnerabilities, and to seek to include a gendered approach as part of their articles. And we are particularly keen to reflect the experiences and knowledge of communities and individuals directly affected by these questions.

While we are looking for examples of good, replicable practice and experience as well as sound analysis of the issues at stake, we also urge writers to discuss failures and difficulties: what does/did not work so well, and why?