A New Approach to MENA’s Refugee Crisis

There are now more people displaced by conflict than at any time since World War II, and violent conflict in the Middle East and North Africa accounts for the majority of today's refugees. With no evidence that the fighting will end anytime soon, host countries and major donors must adjust their aid accordingly.

BEIRUT – The human toll from violence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has reached historic proportions. Since 2000, an estimated 60% of the world’s conflict-related deaths have been in the MENA region, while violence in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen continues to displace millions of people annually.

For countries hosting refugees from these conflicts, the challenges have been acute. According to a 2016 report by the International Monetary Fund, MENA states bordering high-intensity conflict zones have suffered an average annual GDP decline of 1.9 percentage points in recent years, while inflation has increased by an average of 2.8 percentage points.

Large influxes of refugees put downward pressure on a host country’s wages, exacerbating poverty and increasing social, economic, and political tensions. And yet most current aid strategies focus on short-term assistance rather than long-term integration. Given the scale and duration of MENA’s refugee crisis, it is clear that a new approach is needed, one that shifts the focus from temporary to semi-permanent solutions.