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Refugee Law Initiative’s key role in building research capacity on ‘internal displacement’ in affected countries

Monday 9 September 2019


The work of the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI) at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, has been boosted by two new grants (a total of £210,000) from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to help build research capacity into the growing problem of internal displacement – people made homeless in their own countries.

The awards are to set up ‘engagement networks’ in which researchers in countries affected by conflict and displacement lead the development of collective research agendas. The aim is to avoid the problem of northern hemisphere researchers just being ‘parachuted in’ to address local problems, usually in the southern hemisphere. These are thought to be the first such networks to link groundbreaking research on this development challenge with innovative responses and practices, and with policymakers.

RLI director, and leader of its newly-launched research programme on internally displaced persons (IDPs), Professor David Cantor, a key figure in both projects, said: ‘We are delighted to be involved in creating networks that can use local understanding and expertise to build capacity to tackle the pernicious problem of internal displacement. This is an understudied area of humanitarian concern and one which exacerbates long-term development challenges in affected countries.’

In 2017, more than 5 million people were displaced by conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, and 2.5 million by ‘natural’ disasters. Led by Dr Romola Adeola from Pretoria University in South Africa, with Professor Cantor as co-investigator, the £150,000 project to create a Global Engagement Network on Internal Displacement in sub-Saharan Africa (GENIDA), involves academic researchers and policymakers from a range of African countries with large IDP populations. They will spend two years working together to find innovative solutions to the region’s issues around development and internal displacement.

At the same time, the one-year £60,000 INDCaP Development Award project led by Professor Cantor will begin developing a small interdisciplinary network on displacement, conflict and protection with regional hubs in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

The team of international academics are Dr Beatriz Sánchez (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia), Dr Romola Adeola (Pretoria University), Dr Hana Asfour (Q Perspective), a Jordan-based specialist on refugees and displacement, and Dr Agnes Woolley (Birkbeck). They will work with in-country researchers and other key stakeholders in countries across the three regions to design solutions to protection in contexts of conflict and displacement that are sensitive to local context.

‘The prospects are really exciting,’ adds Professor Cantor, whose research in this area has helped to shape United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection policy for refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs. ‘If we can create vital, sustainable networks, then that would be a wonderful bridgehead for facilitating overdue social policy changes to transform the lives of internally displaced persons.’


Notes to editors

  1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 /
  2. The Refugee Law Initiative, based at the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study, is the only academic centre in the UK to concentrate specifically on international refugee law. As a national focal point for leading and promoting research in this field, it works to integrate the shared interests of refugee law scholars and practitioners, stimulate collaboration between academics and non-academics, and achieve policy impact at the national and international level. Find out more at
  3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’snational centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 892 research fellows and associates, held 1,903 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 25.9 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 173,493 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.
  4. The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in higher education. Its members are 18 self-governing member institutions and nine research institutes of outstanding reputation. Learn more about the University of London at