Forced Migration

Forced migration was ICVA’s first focus area in 1962, and remains just as critical today.

Our objective by 2021 is to improve protection, assistance and durable solutions for refugees, IDPs, stateless persons   and migrants in vulnerable situations.

ICVA will achieve this by supporting NGO understanding of, engagement with, and influence related to  UNHCR,  IOM and other key stakeholders (including states and regional actors).

There are many opportunities for NGOs to engage in ICVA’s portfolio on Forced Migration. These include:


1. ICVA's Forced Migration Working Group

ICVA supports collective NGO advocacy by facilitating statements, position and action on critical issues pertaining to forced displacement.

ICVA has a Forced Migration Working Group (previously UNHCR Working Group) for its members to advise the ICVA Secretariat on its work related to the forced migration  focus areas as laid out in the 2019-2021 Strategy. Members who would like to join this group can contact for further information. This group meets on a monthly basis.


2. Global Compact on Refugees

The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) was overwhelmingly endorsed by Member States in December 2018, at the UN General Assembly. The GCR primarily aims to establish a framework for responsibility-sharing on refugee issues, as a means to strengthen protection and expand durable solutions for refugees worldwide. It also provides a basis to catalyse multi-stakeholder partnerships and leverage humanitarian and development actions to promote refugee self-reliance. Through periodic reviews and stocktaking of progress against set objectives, the Global Compact on Refugees also lays the groundwork for an accountability framework.

As efforts to develop the GCR set in motion, ICVA’s briefing paper, the Global Compact on Refugees Explained, published in June 2017, explained the process leading to the adoption of the Compact. The overarching objective was to equip NGOs to engage in the Compact’s development. Along with the briefing paper, ICVA also strove to carve space for NGOs and connect different actors in the spirit of the whole-of-society approach. Over the course of the GCR’s development, ICVA brought together NGOs, UNHCR, Member States and other actors such as the World Bank to stimulate exchange and cross-pollination of ideas in order to feed the crafting of the Compact.

Over the course of the formal consultations, which took place in Geneva, Member States and other stakeholders including NGOs engaged in an iterative process to shape the Compact.  NGO’s were able to make collective statements under each agenda item. ICVA facilitated the coordination and delivery of 20 NGO statements (all NGO statements delivered at the formal consultations are available here).

In the lead up to the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019, ICVA will continue to support NGO engagement in the GCR. It will do so by coordinating NGO statements at preparatory meetings for the Global Refugee Forum; convening regular interactions between NGOs, UNHCR and other key; and organizing webinars and side events along the year geared to increase NGOs knowledge and understanding of the GCR Members interested in engaging can contact:


3. The World Bank Group-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement

Over the past few years, the World Bank Group and UNHCR have been expanding collaboration, including through joint analytical work and in operations in several regions. As a result, in April 2018 both organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to establish a new Joint Data Center (JDC) on forced displacement.

Officially launched on 30 September 2019 and inaugurated by the UN Secretary General on 10 October in Copenhagen, the stated aim of this new Center is to enhance the ability of stakeholders to make timely and evidence-informed decisions that can improve the lives of affected people. 

More precisely, the objectives of the Center are to 1) Ensure population and socioeconomic data are systematically collected and analyzed, 2) Facilitate open access to forced displacement data, 3) Promote innovation to enhance forced displacement data and, 4) Strengthen the sustainability of a global data collection system. The JDC will focus its work on the following categories of affected populations: refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless people, returnees, asylum-seekers, and host populations. 

Particularly through its Strategic Advisory Council, the JDC gathers inputs from a range of interested stakeholders, including NGOs. As such, ICVA is following the work of the JDC and aims to support ICVA members in their engagement with the Joint Data Center. 


4. NGOs and UNHCR

UNHCR’s Governing Board

UNHCR's Executive Committee (ExCom) comprised of 107 UN Member States, meets in Geneva annually to review and approve the agency's programme and budget, and discuss protection and operational issues.  ExCom's Standing Committee meets several times a year to carry on the body's work between plenary sessions. ICVA coordinates the development of the joint NGO statements delivered at UNHCR's Executive Committee and Standing Commitee  meetings. ICVA also works with interested NGOs to follow the  negotiation of Conclusions and organises NGO side events at these meetings (further information available on demand).

UNHCR-NGO Annual Consulations

ICVA cooperates with UNHCR in the organization of the UNHCR-NGO Annual Consultations. It ensures NGOs are consulted and included in the process, from selecting the theme of the consultations, to shaping and convening a session. If you wish to get involved or ask for further details, please contact at

UNHCR-NGO 2021 Monthly Consultations

In lieu of the usual UNHCR-NGO Global Consultations, in 2021 ICVA co-organizes with UNHCR a series of Monthly Consultations with NGOs, modeled on regular online Consultations on COVID-19 preparedness and response held in 2020.

The overall objective of those monthly Consultations is to support an enabling environment for NGOs and UNHCR to exchange on operational, policy and advocacy priorities in a safe space.

The High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges

This event, launched in 2007 by the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, is a unique forum for free and open exchange of views between states, NGOs and other stakeholders. Over the years participants in the Dialogues have addressed a range of protection issues from protracted refugee situations; durable solutions and international migration; protection at sea; understanding and addressing root causes of displacement.

Prior to each Protection Dialogue ICVA formed a “Friends of the Dialogue” group of NGOs who brainstorm ideas of participation and key advocacy messages until 2018.

NGO Partnership with UNHCR

Using an adapted methodology from the High Commissioner’s Structured Dialogue, ICVA has been working to support partnership efforts around the implementation of the CRRF as well as in contexts beyond the CRRF roll-out countries through ‘whole-of-society’ workshops. Thanks to funding received by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, workshops have been organized in Costa Rica, Thailand and Kenya. In the first quarter of 2019, ICVA organized two workshops in Chad. Results from those workshops have also fed into discussions at global-level fora such as the UNHCR-NGO Annual Consultations. Each workshop/mission identifies recommendations on the CRRF application in a report.

Structured Dialogue

At the end of 2011 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called for a review of the quality of partnership between UNHCR, IFRC and NGOs and launched a process known as the “High Commissioner’s Structured Dialogue.” The goal of the Dialogue is to achieve mutual respect and trust demonstrated by open communication, transparency in decision making, and clear accountabilities between UNHCR and respective partners. 

The link below provides information on the Dialogue's background, guidance, reports and ongoing initiatives.

Implementing Framework

UNHCR's Implementing Framework provides governing instruments, policies and procedures for establishing and managing partnerships. UNHCR is currently working with NGOs to update the Framework's policies and procedures as they relate to:

  1. Partner selection and retention
  2. Project agreement, design and termination
  3. Project monitoring

The Nansen Refugee Awards

ICVA received the Nansen Award in 1962.  ICVA's Executive Director serves on the Nansen Refugee Award Committee.  Civil society organisations are encouraged to nominate individuals or organisations who spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort to help the forcibly displaced.  Their work goes beyond the call of duty and outside of normal activities; demonstrates courage; and has a direct positive impact on the lives of forcibly displaced or stateless people. 


5. Internally displaced persons

ICVA supports its members engagement on issues related to Internal Displacement, in recent years, particularly building on its efforts to ensure NGO inputs informed the updating of the UNHCR Policy on Internal Displacement. Since 2018, ICVA has also been engaged in the GP20 Plan of Action for Advancing the Prevention, Protection and Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons. We also informally support the work of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, particularly through facilitating exchanges and consultations between the Special Rapporteur and the NGO community.

Finally, ICVA has worked to keep its members closely informed of the developments leading to the launching of a High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement and stepped in to ensure the Panel, its Secretariat and the Expert Advisory Group benefit from inputs from NGOs and civil society at large.


6. Migrants in vulnerable situations

Although the ultimate responsibility for the protection of the rights of migrants as per international law lies with States, NGOs are often in the frontline supporting directly migrants in vulnerable situation, as well as advocating towards and working with government agencies to improve policies and services available. Through partnership with Governments, UN Agencies and other civil society actors, NGOs contribute substantially to upholding migrants’ rights. They have been driving forces in recent policy processes, impacting global migration governance, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

To assist NGOs to deliver on this important mandate, ICVA is engaged in various coordination platforms, initiatives and learning programmes. In these initiatives, ICVA works jointly with members and other NGOs, UN agencies and other key stakeholders. Often, they focus more broadly on migration and ICVA’s contribution seeks to zoom in on migrants in vulnerable situation. The main platforms and initiatives ICVA contributes to are:

If you wish to get further information on the topic, please contact Mirela Shuteriqi at