Displaced but Not Disappeared

What do we know and don’t know about internally displaced people in Ukraine

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Since 2014 a large number of Ukrainians have been displaced. Ukraine tries to find sustainable solutions for them and help those citizens who found themselves in dire straits. However, in order to develop a sound policy for IDPs, one first needs to know how many of them are there, who they are, where they are, what they need and who has already been reintegrated. In this article we describe the problems with IDP statistics in Ukraine and propose policy solutions based on the recent UN statistical commission recommendations.

Olena Shevtsova works for the State Statistics Office of Ukraine, Tetyana Tyshchuk is the head of the Expert Council at the State Statistics Service of Ukraine (as a volunteer)

In 2016 the Ministry of Social Policy launched the register of Internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the register, almost 1.5 million people moved from occupied areas of Donbass and Crimea to the government-controlled territory of Ukraine (3.5% of the total population in the government-controlled areas as of October 2020). Although the register is the main data source on IDPs, the use of this information for evidence-based decision making is limited for two main reasons. Firstly, the register is incomplete. Secondly, analysts and policy makers have access only to several aggregated numbers from the register.

IDPs are recorded in the register when they apply for a certificate that allows them to obtain government benefits and pensions. We don’t know how many IDPs decided not to apply for the benefits and consequently were not included into the register. Also, the certificates may be invalidated if IDPs were absent on the government controlled territories for 60 days, committed a crime, filed an application for refusal of the certificate etc. People with the cancelled certificates are not taken into account in the general statistics of the number of IDPs but their record remains in the register. All these cases does not imply that a person is not an IDP from the point of view of statistics. 

Ukrainian legislation states that the register should include detailed and diverse data on IDPs. Specifically, it should include information on the place of living, minors and underage children that live with an IDP, on housing, social, medical, educational and other needs of IDPs, as well as the state of their provision. However, publicly available data is very scarce: one can see the total number of people in the register on the web-page and get the distribution of IDPs by regions upon request. 

The launch of the register was a good start for obtaining some data on IDPs used for calculation and verifications of social benefits. But to build a solid background for development of government policies on the central and local level, we should have a statistical system which covers all categories of IDPs and provides the appropriate data compilation and dissemination tools.  

How should the information on IDPs be collected?

Over 60 members of the Expert Group on IDP Statistics (EGRIS)  developed recommendations on IDP statistics (IRIS). The recommendations outline who should enter the IDP data, what characteristics of these people we should have in the dataset and how one should collect this data (information sources and collection procedures).

Statistical accounting of IDPs should encompass the following categories of people: 

  1. Internally displaced persons or persons who have displacement-related protection needs and vulnerabilities. This category is defined by Ukrainian legislation and substantially covered by the register.   
  2. IDP-related populations and other non-displaced family members of IDPs. This category may include children of at least one internally displaced parent who were born after the displacement or other dependent family members or relatives who still live in occupied territories.
  3. Those IDPs and related persons who have overcome key displacement-related vulnerabilities.

IRIS framework includes recommendations for statistics of IDPs and IDP-related populations. Recommendations state that evidence-based IDP policy development requires information about IDPs number and share of total population in each settlement, shares of women and children among them, reintegrated IDPs and those who still have displacement vulnerabilities, IDPs who settled in another country. 

The sources of this data can be census, national household survey, IDP surveys, population register, IDP register, population movement tracking system. All these procedures of data collection should comprise IDP or IDP-related person features. 

Since IRIS recommendations have been issued in early 2020, no country has yet implemented them. It is clear though that the responsibility lies with Statistical Agencies of the countries since they organize censuses and provide methodological recommendations for running registers. Ukrainian Statistical Agency should develop the methodology for IDP accounting based on IRIS since it is responsible for development and implementation of policies related to statistics.

As a big first step, Ukrainian Statistics Agency has been included into the EGRIS Steering Committee. Thus it will participate in development of the roadmap for implementation of IRIS recommendations.

Implementation of IRIS recommendations will help Ukraine adhere to the “leaving no one behind” principle and support the realization of Sustainable Development Agenda-2030 in our country.

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The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations