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Twelve research chairs to generate locally led knowledge on forced displacement


In mid-2022, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported that 103 million people around the world had been forced to flee from their homes. The UN Refugee Agency also revealed that low- and middle-income countries were hosting 74% of these populations.  

Global South countries have always played a central role in receiving displaced populations, especially from neighbouring nations. While their policies and practices govern the lives of displaced people, countries of the Global South are limited in the knowledge they can draw on to improve their responses, as most of the research on forced displacement comes from institutions in the Global North.  

Since 2021, IDRC has invested CAD7.5 million to support the institution of 12 new research chairs across three continents, who will lead in the localization of knowledge on forced displacement. Using a competitive process, IDRC chose 12 universities to create and fill the research chairs. The individuals selected as chairs are meeting for the first time in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from May 30 to June 1, 2023 to share their work and planned activities, as well as provide updates on displacement in the context of their respective regions. They have also established a network for ongoing collaboration facilitated by the Local Engagement Refugee Research Network (LERRN), based at Carleton University, Canada. 

IDRC Research Chairs Network on Forced Displacement

Mission statement

The IDRC Research Chairs Network on Forced Displacement is a community of twelve scholars based at universities in countries experiencing mass displacement. Together, they are reframing the narrative of forced displacement and transforming the field of forced migration studies to mainstream Global South perspectives, using evidence-based research and analysis. By centering the needs, demands, voices and values of displaced persons and their communities in a climate of mutual cooperation and understanding between all stakeholders, they seek a paradigmatic shift in global policy discourse and practice.

Working closely with refugee-led initiatives and impacted communities, each research chair will lead interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches to develop the field of study on forced displacement from a Global South perspective. They will seek innovations that transform unequal gender relations and tailor research to inform policy and practice. The chairs will also mentor and supervise early career scholars, amplify refugee voices and advocate with policy stakeholders, to strengthen the connection between research and policy. Overall, the research chairs initiative aims to feed local priorities into global agendas and strengthen the participation and voice of forcibly displaced populations in policy decision-making.  

Introducing the IDRC Research Chairs on Forced Displacement  

The following research chairs will produce innovative research on pressing forced displacement issues.  

Hiram Ángel is a professor at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico. As IDRC Research Chair, he will examine forced displacement from other countries to Mexico. He will also coordinate and disseminate findings to Mexican civil society, consolidate collective agendas, create spaces for dialogues and provide economic support to young researchers and postgraduate students. Ángel has been a coordinator of the Inter-institutional Master’s Degree in Public Policy and consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank as well as different organizations and private companies evaluating subnational governments in Mexico.  

Fouad M. Fouad is an associate professor of Public Health Practice at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. He left Syria in 2012 due to conflict and has since worked on global health and forced displacement issues. As IDRC Research Chair, he will lead a research agenda focusing on exploring the legal-political-health nexus for vulnerable migrants in the Middle East, understanding subjectivities of care for forcibly displaced persons across migration routes and challenging injustice and inequality faced by women on the move. Fouad will also develop a Graduate Diploma in Forced Displacement and Migration Studies in Lebanon. 

Abebaw Minaye is an associate professor of Social Psychology at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, with 20 years of teaching experience and 24 published articles on topics such as trafficking returnees, mental health of migrants and predictors of cross-border migration. He has conducted over 20 consultancy studies for various organizations and developed training manuals and curriculum materials on migration and displacement. As IDRC Research Chair, Minaye aims to lead AAU to become a center of excellence for forced displacement and migration studies, producing cutting-edge knowledge, impacting practice, influencing policy and engaging with communities in the Horn and East Africa. 

Luisa Feline Freier de Ferrari is a professor at Universidad del Pacifico in Peru, and, as IDRC Research Chair, aims to build a sustainable migration research agenda on forced displacement in South America by connecting key actors in the field, such as scholars, policymakers, cooperation agencies, civil society and migrants. The program aims to contribute to global migration policy debates by focusing on the protection and respect of migrants’ and refugees’ human rights, especially in South America, which has experienced several mass forced displacement crises in recent years and increasingly restrictive migration policies. 

Nyi Nyi Kyaw, at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, will focus on two projects as IDRC Research Chair. The first investigates the position of researchers from and in the Global South regarding forced displacement, while the second examines conflict and displacement case by case with a focus on Myanmar’s crisis and displacement patterns in Southeast Asia. The goal is to contribute to South-South Forced Displacement and Neighbourhood Studies and inform policy debates. 

Houwayda Matta Bou Ramia is a professor at Saint-Joseph University of Beirut, Lebanon. The research at the Lebanese School of Social Formation will focus on intercultural dynamics, well-being and social rights of refugees. This includes peaceful coexistence, well-being and social rights of refugee children and youth, LGBTQIA+ community members and preparation for the return movement. Two empirical foci of the research include an action research project on clandestine migration by sea and an exploratory study on social workers’ interventions with Syrian refugees using a multicultural analysis. 

Desiree Del Rosario Sosa is based at the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC) in the Dominican Republic. Desiree Del Rosario Sosa, current coordinator of the center assigned to the Area of Social Sciences and Humanities, has been a full professor at the university for more than 15 years. As IDRC Research Chair, Del Rosario Sosa will focus on training university community members on topics and issues of forced migration in the Dominican Republic and will establish a university support network for refugees and asylum seekers.  

Opportuna Kweka, senior lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, will lead the project “Strengthening knowledge, evidence use, and leadership in the global south on forced displacement: focus on East Africa.” As IDRC Research Chair, her research will focus on displaced persons’ adaptive capacities and resilient economic and social systems, studying how networks of displaced persons assist them in adaptation and urging policymakers to support these efforts. The project involves 32 members from different disciplines working on issues of refugees and internally displaced persons, resulting from climate, disaster and development-induced circumstances in East Africa. 

Paula Banerjee is appointed as the IDRC Research Chair and Director of the Centre on Gender and Forced Displacement at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. With extensive research and publications on gender and forced displacement, she aims to collaborate with universities, research centers and civil society organizations to inform policies and global discourse. Additionally, Monira Ahsan, an IDRC-supported postdoctoral candidate, will focus on an intersectional gender analysis of health policies for displaced populations in South and Southeast Asia. 

Amal El Ouassif is the Interim Chair at the University Mohammed VI Polytechnic in Morocco, focusing on issues of forced displacement in North Africa and Morocco, with an emphasis on tackling gender discrimination and exclusion. The program will build a community of researchers, policymakers and beneficiaries and will develop research capacity in the region. El Ouassif is an international relations specialist at the Policy Center for the New South and a PhD student at the Faculty of Governance and Social Sciences in UM6P-Rabat and Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris. 

Mary Boatemaa Setrana is the director of the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana. Her focus has been on how gender intersects with the drivers of displacement, livelihood opportunities and how these can be supported, displaced populations’ level of access to existing services and how existing governance systems, legal frameworks and mechanisms can be strengthened to promote services to displaced populations in West Africa. As IDRC Research Chair, Setrana will establish a localized body of knowledge to bring gender-transformative solutions to influence policymaking processes in diverse communities in West Africa. 

Alain Tiga Ouedraogo is a lecturer at Joseph Ki-Zerbo University in Burkina Faso, focusing on contributing to improved solutions and practices for the recovery and socio-economic reintegration of forcibly displaced persons and members of host communities on a gender-specific basis in Burkina Faso and the Sahel. As IDRC Research Chair, Ouedraogo will link research with host communities and forcibly displaced persons and involve policy practitioners as well as internally displaced persons and their hosts at local, national and sub-regional levels in the work of the Chair.