Global Appeal 2024

Self-reliance, economic inclusion and livelihoods

Outcome Area 13

A woman in a farm
Alice Lemuyubenyo at the farm in Kang'ura in Kalobeyei, Kenya, where she and other farmers grow vegetables. The Kalobeyei Settlement, established in 2015 to accommodate the growing population of the Kakuma Refugee Camps, was set up based on principles of refugee self-reliance, integrated delivery of services to refugees and host community members, and greater support for livelihoods.
© UNHCR/Charity Nzomo
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Global needs in 2024

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth

Many developing countries are struggling with conflict, violence, economic shocks, climate change and food insecurity. This heightens the risks for forcibly displaced and stateless people, who are invariably among the most vulnerable. If they cannot participate in local economies, they must depend on humanitarian assistance, which is increasingly stretched. Economic exclusion can lead to poverty, a loss of professional skills and networks, or towards the informal economy, which brings a risk of exploitation, poor working conditions and other abuses.

Refugees also frequently encounter significant challenges in accessing financial services due to their uncertain legal status, limited employment opportunities and restricted freedom of movement. Even when refugees have a right to a financial account, local regulations or financial service providers may block them in practice. Also, refugees are often unaware of the options available to them.

UNHCR’s 2023 “Global survey on livelihoods and economic inclusion” shows that only 45% of refugees live in countries with unrestricted access in practice to formal employment, including wage earning jobs and self-employment. This figure remains low, but it has been on the rise, from 18% in 2019, 38% in 2021 and 45% in 2023, with progress in countries such as Brazil, Kenya, Mauritania and Nepal. In Mexico, more than 30,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from cities in the south, where opportunities for integration are scarce, have successfully been relocated to 11 municipalities with demand for workers. With formal jobs, they have contributed over $8.5 million in tax revenues.

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Global needs for Self-reliance, economic inclusion and livelihoods in 2024

$586 million

+7% vs 2023 current budget

Regional needs 

Global needs OA13

Top ten operational budgets for Self-reliance, economic inclusion and livelihoods (USD millions) 

Top ten OA13
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How UNHCR will make a difference

In 2024, UNHCR will invest in self-reliance, economic inclusion and livelihoods interventions in 121 countries.

UNHCR aims to convene stakeholders who can support displaced people’s access to rights, services, land, employment and self-employment opportunities. It is backing the Global Refugee Forum “mega-pledge” to reach 1 million people with economic inclusion and broader social protection programming within four years, and to support 15 States in strengthening or adopting laws and policies on economic inclusion and social protection. UNHCR also wants to see forcibly displaced and stateless people included in national services and programmes. It seeks partnerships to invest in the areas hosting them, facilitate their access to decent work, and support economic recovery in areas of voluntary returns. With the Joint Data Center and others, UNHCR will gather and analyse data on sustainable socioeconomic inclusion in national development plans and programmes, such as the Shirika Plan, where Kenya is shifting its approach to refugee management by transforming refugee camps into integrated settlements.

UNHCR will collaborate with governments, development actors, including the ILO and the World Bank Group, the private sector, researchers and academia to tackle issues related to the global underemployment of forcibly displaced and stateless populations and to advance a just transition. The Office will partner with development actors to support investment in climate-resilient, sustainable, circular and inclusive markets and agrifood systems in refugee-hosting areas. UNHCR and the World Bank will expand the insect farming initiative in Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Sudan to include Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Mexico. Insect farming for food, feed and fertilizer production can increase access to nutritious food and feed, create green jobs, improve the climate and the environment, and strengthen local economies.


Core indicators

Cash transfer

Proportion of people with an account at a bank or other financial institution or with a mobile-money service provider

Trade and market

Proportion of people who self-report positive changes in their income compared to previous year

People in need

Proportion of people (working age) who are unemployed

A sample of core outcome indicators

13.1 Proportion of people with an account at a bank or other financial institution or with a mobile-money-service provider

Country Population Type Baseline Target 2023 Target 2024
Ethiopia IDPs 33% 50% 60%
Ethiopia Refugees and Asylum-seekers 30% 40% 50%
Jordan Refugees and Asylum-seekers 9% 22% 23%
Peru Refugees and Asylum-seekers 48% 55% 60%
Uganda Refugees and Asylum-seekers 14% 20% 20%
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UNHCR is dedicated to promoting the financial inclusion of refugees and will invest in specific, market-oriented employment and self-employment initiatives. UNHCR brings development expertise and can test or scale up new approaches, or build evidence to attract the right partners. Its activities will be evidence-based and focus on inclusion in the digital and financial economy, small business development, employment facilitation and linkages with social protection. As humanitarian funding is scarce and development funding often focused on a few countries, it is essential for UNHCR to step in and support governments, local communities and the private sector in maximizing the potential of refugees to contribute to local economies and rebuild their lives.

Woman picking vegetables in a farm
Picking vegetables. © UNHCR/Fahima Tajrin
Parthership PNG 150ppi

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives partners with UNHCR to improve the self-reliance and livelihoods of refugees

Since 2021, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives has contributed over $26 million to support more than 600,000 refugees, IDPs, and host community members in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in the areas of food assistance, emergency response, and livelihoods. In Bangladesh, its sustainable livelihoods programme provides vulnerable refugee families with climate-smart agricultural skills and materials so that they can grow produce to consume and sell. The project has decreased dependence on food rations and empowered families to become self-sufficient.