Chioma is a resident of Gombe in northeast Nigeria which has witnessed a large influx of IDPs from neighboring states due to insurgency.
Who Are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)?
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are not the same as refugees. The United Nations Guiding Principles defines IDPs as "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence in particular, as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border."
The internal displacement of persons, especially women and children, is a growing concern in many parts of the world. For this reason, governments, alongside stakeholders, must commit themselves to mitigating the unprecedented wave of insecurity, displacement and human suffering occurring within their boundaries.
"Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence in particular, as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border."
Who Are Stakeholders?
These are interest groups with power and/or influence who can directly or indirectly affect the integration of IDPs within host communities based on their resources (tangible or intangible) and position in relation to their social, political or religious status.
Stakeholders also operate at various levels. For example, at the global level, we have international agencies, organizations and non-profits (just to mention a few); while at the grassroots level (the most basic level of society), stakeholders include members of the community and key influencers within those communities in various sectors such as politics, business, religion, entertainment and tradition (especially in traditional settings all over the world).
How Much Influence Do Stakeholders Have?
Stakeholders play a vital role in providing humanitarian assistance for IDPs. Their interest, power and influence vary depending on the amount of resources they possess and the environment in which they operate. Those that operate at the global level generally have high interest and power which is borne out of the mandate they have to provide assistance to regions ravaged by famine, disaster, war or insurgency. They implement and fund programs, and they are a part of the coalition formed in response to crisis. They have three (3) strategic objectives which are to:
- Deliver coordinated and integrated life-saving assistance to people affected by emergencies;
- Track and analyze risk and vulnerability; and
- Support vulnerable populations to better cope with shocks by responding earlier to warning signals.
In many developing nations, non-profits at the national and grassroots level work closely with them as co-implementers of interventions for IDPs.
Why is Stakeholder Engagement at the Grassroots Level so Critical?
Despite the array of stakeholders at international and national levels, stakeholder engagement at the grassroots level is an absolute necessity and cannot be overemphasized. This is because in implementing interventions for IDPs, the cooperation and absolute commitment of stakeholders within communities in supporting international and national efforts is imperative for the successful implementation of interventions.
In engaging stakeholders with high interest and power at the grassroots level, it is very important to form partnerships with them. Forming partnerships will ensure greater working relations and better coordination of programs for IDPs within communities.
There’s also the issue of sustainability which is critical when considering stakeholder engagement at this level. Sustainability requires close synergy and collaboration, hence forming partnerships with high interest high power actors at this level is essential and should form the basis for continuous discussions on long term sustainability and planning processes.
How do We Engage Stakeholders at the Grassroots Level (Especially If They Seem Uninterested in the Plight of IDPs)?
There are stakeholders at the grassroots level who have high power but are seemingly uninterested in providing assistance for IDPs. When dealing with such stakeholders, it is important to continually engage them by means of advocacy, and agree on what working relations should be forged with them.
Also belonging to this category are opinion leaders who play a key role in raising awareness on the plight of IDPs and encouraging host communities to accommodate them. They can advocate for members of host communities to take ownership of interventions for IDPs. Through a combination of mobilization, sensitization and empowerment, host communities can move from being mere “bystanders” to “supporters” of humanitarian efforts for IDPs.
What Can Be Done to Ensure that IDPs Successfully Integrate in Host Communities?
The provision of integration services such as employment, housing, vocational training and educational support for IDPs is not enough; dealing with mental and physical health issues are critical to integrating successfully.
On the other hand, It is also crucial for the vulnerable and least economically empowered members of host communities to be integrated into existing interventions that cater to the needs of IDPs as reports show that their needs are somewhat similar to those of IDPs (referring to food, shelter and clothing), and as such meeting their needs generally makes host communities more receptive to IDPs.
In addition, harmonious living can further be strengthened through the activities and interventions of social and advocacy groups (groups with high interest and moderate to high power) which can influence decision and policy making at all levels.
What Should Be the Way Forward?
As development partners and stakeholders consider providing humanitarian assistance for IDPs, informative knowledge through research on the nature of stakeholders involved in integrating IDPs within host communities is critical.
If an organization is to provide innovative programs and interventions for IDPs, it is imperative that the organization prioritize and carefully plan its program in the most functional and cost-effective way. The proposed intervention should ensure active involvement of all key stakeholders in the implementation of the project so that actors with low interests can be actively engaged very early.
Furthermore, because perceptions and/or circumstances of stakeholders might change, it is recommended that stakeholders and their level of engagement be periodically reviewed and subjected to continuous monitoring and adaptation throughout the lifespan of any intervention for IDPs.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Ejeagba Chinonso Chioma