Municipalities as actors in the context of international aid for displaced populations

The research questions of the project will be addressed with using the example of Ethiopia and a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methods. In addition to the analysis of state actors and structures, the perspective of the affected population groups will also play a decisive role.

Project Lead:
Jana Kuhnt
Jörn Grävingholt

Project Team:

Eva Binkert (Political Science)

Merlin Flaig (Global Studies)

Lukas Frucht  (Geography/Agricultural Science)

Jannis König (International Economics)

Phlipp Lendle (Political Science/Management)

Katharina Potinius (Political Science)

Time frame:
2019 - 2020 / completed

Project description

The majority of the world's estimated nearly 70 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in low or middle-income countries. State structures are often fragile, and the additional burden of displaced populations can cause social, political and economic instability. International support aims at improving the living conditions of the displaced population, increasingly by integrating this with supporting public services for the host society. This includes efforts to strengthen the capacity of host communities, e.g. through the development of public health care or the creation of new jobs.

But how does this aid affect the capacity of the local state structures? Does it strengthen their ability to meet the needs of the population, to be recognised as a legitimate player and to contribute to social peace? Or does it cause the emergence of parallel implementation structures that contribute to marginalizing existing state structures? What are the consequences for the population's confidence in the state as a whole? And how can international support be provided to reach the desired effects?

In the past, Ethiopia has accommodated almost one million displaced persons and refugess from crisis-affected countries like South-Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. This makes it the second-largest receiving country in Africa. Ethiopia is also one of the pilot countries for the implementation of the ‘Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework‘ (CRRF), which aims at the sustainable integration of displaced populations into the host societies. Foreign and international organisations, above all the UNHCR, aim at supporting the country in coping with this task. At the same time, Ethiopia is attempting to become a shaping actor in refugee policy through appropriate national legislation. Challenges and coping strategies differ considerably throughout the large country, which makes informative comparisons possible.

The project sheds light on a central question of the so-called "humanitarian-development nexus", the increased consideration of which is a demand of the World Humanitarian Summit of 2016. The aim is that direct humanitarian aid, particularly in the context of flight and displacement, should be examined more closely with a view to its longer-term structural effects and be adapted accordingly.

The work of the research team is related to the research of the DIE project on flight and migration. At the same time, it contributes to an understanding of the role of state institutions in fragile contexts, a central theme of the research programme "Transformation of political (un )order: institutions, values and peace", as well as to the cross-programme question of how social cohesion can be strengthened.

Project Coordination

Bettina Beer


IPSS Virtual Policy Dialogues
Local Governments and the Sustainable Integration of Refugees in Ethiopia
Online, 9 June 2020, 10:00-12:00 (EAT)