Traditional financing mechanisms for the global refugee system do not reflect the realities on the ground. The life-saving assistance prioritized by the humanitarian sector, while critical at the onset of emergencies, falls short as crises endure. Refugees, displaced for protracted periods, need access to quality education, jobs and other services that allow them to rebuild, become self-reliant and live in dignity and safety.

Today’s trends of displacement call for new responses, and compact agreements are a promising model for achieving reform. Under the compact framework, diverse actors make mutually reinforcing commitments to resources, policy changes and projects designed to achieve a shared vision.

The 2016 Jordan and Lebanon compacts serve as examples where development financing, “beyond-aid” commitments and progress in the policy dialogue, addressing both protection and opportunities for refugees, have converged in support of refugees and host communities. These compacts and the financing streams that enabled them are noteworthy because they offer multi-year financing that can facilitate longer-term planning and programs, in a process led by the host governments. This creates an opportunity to align with national development priorities and support national systems to meet the needs of refugees and hosts.

Drawing on lessons learned from experiences in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, the authors recommend several protocols to follow in developing compacts and propose two new global governance tools to aid in creating focused, informed, coordinated and transparent host country policy changes that can enable refugee self-reliance.

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Research papers are policy documents commissioned by the World Refugee Council from world-renowned experts to help inform the work of the Council and its final recommendations. The measures and concepts in these documents do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Refugee Council.
  • Nazanin Ash is the vice president of policy and advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, where she oversees the organization’s global policy and advocacy efforts.

  • Cindy Huang is co-director of migration, displacement and humanitarian policy and senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and works on issues related to refugees and displacement, fragile and conflict-affected states, gender equality and development effectiveness.