Making Displacement Safer Cookbook

Displacement terminology

Terminology used in the Making Displacement Safer Cookbook


Displacement refers to the situation in which people “have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid, the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or disasters” [2]

Displaced persons 

Displaced persons refer to those who are forced to leave their home due to displacement. People who flee within their country are called internally displaced people. Cross-border displacement refers to forced movement between countries. People fleeing persecution across borders and fulfilling a legal definition [3] are often called refugees if their status has been legally recognised, and if it has not yet been recognised but they have requested the government of the country for this legal status, they can be referred to as asylum seekers.

Human mobility 

In this cookbook we use human mobility to refer to a whole spectrum of human choice about movement in the face of risk. This includes displacement as well as: 

  • Immobility: the inability to flee, which results in ‘trapped populations’
  • Migration: is predominantly a voluntary form of movement, insofar as people, while not necessarily having the ability to decide in complete freedom, still possess the ability to choose between different realistic options; people may migrate within the country or by crossing a border [4]
  • Planned relocation: forced or voluntary movement organised by the government

The distinction between forced and voluntary movement is often faint. Individuals may move for a range of reasons across the spectrum. For example, a drought may have reduced a family to poverty. Violent crime in the area makes individuals fear for their safety, so they feel they have no other choice but to leave. In this cookbook, they are considered displaced people. Most of the recipes shared in the cookbook refer to internally displaced people. 

Disaster displacement risk

“As with disaster risk, the risk of [disaster] displacement can be expressed in relation to hazards, exposure and vulnerability:

  • The likelihood, severity and nature of a hazard or combination of hazards occurring over time;according to the best scientific evidence, climate change is expected to alter normal variability in the weather and make some hazards more severe and frequent
  • The exposure of people and their homes, property and livelihoods to hazards before a disaster, and both during and after their displacement as they move from one location to another
  • People’s pre-existing and evolving vulnerability to the impact of hazards before, during and after their displacement” [5] 

Host community

A community that hosts displaced persons, typically in planned settlements or directly integrated into households [6]. In a refugee context, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a host community as “local, regional and national governmental, social and economic structures within which refugees live” [7]

Hosting arrangements refer to how displaced populations are sheltered within host communities [8]. Hosts may be the friends or family members of the displaced people, or people within the community willing to, often voluntarily, provide shelter. 

Displacement-affected community

Those living with the consequences of displacement, including displaced people, host communities, communities in return areas and those in which former displaced people integrate [9].

Stakeholders in forced displacement include displaced persons, host communities, civil society groups, local and national governments (in different departments/ministries), civil society organisations, UN, INGOs and private sector and other interested parties [10].


People and groups within society are often affected in different ways by the impacts of hazards and threats. Different levels and types of vulnerability are often a consequence of disparities and inequalities within countries. Inclusion recognises the intersectionality of discrimination that leads to vulnerability, including gender, ethnicity, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation, religious minorities, elderly, youth and children. In particular, displaced populations may have limited access to government planning and decision making processes [11]


In the context of displacement, resilience relates to how displaced people or communities are able to absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform and recover from their displacement. Such efforts aim to avoid displacement (including secondary) and to minimise related impacts [12].

Risk-informed development

Development that “prioritises the risks faced by communities living in the most vulnerable situations. It works through the perspective of people most at risk themselves. Communities come up with development solutions that mitigate their risks and build resilience.” (see What is Risk Informed Development?). In the context of displacement, risk-informed development requires the consideration of the living conditions of displaced communities, access to livelihoods and services, and participation in decisions that impact them. 


Addressing displacement risk requires understanding local needs and providing support to local governments and CSOs with their work. This requires the transfer and sharing of resources by not only directing international funding to local actors, but also gathering  community resources for collective action. Policies and practices must be risk-informed, prioritising the most vulnerable and reflecting the realities on the ground and requires upholding the human rights of people most at risk. It also recognises that communities most at risk, and frontline organisations, must have space to influence, access to resources and the power to make decisions [13].

Durable solutions

“A durable solution is achieved when internally displaced persons no longer have any specific assistance and protection needs that are linked to their displacement and can enjoy their human rights without discrimination on account of their displacement. It can be achieved through: sustainable reintegration at the place of origin (return); sustainable local integration in areas where internally displaced persons take refuge (local integration); sustainable integration in another part of the country (settlement elsewhere in the country)” [14]

Urban area

An urban area refers to the geographic/spatial region included within a city or town and its sub-urban/peri urban area. For the purpose of the MDS project, GNDR defined urban areas as those listed below. Characteristics such as population density, built environment, administration boundaries and economic function should also be considered: 

  • Town: a settlement which is bigger than a village but smaller than a city
  • City: a large settlement (larger than a village or town) with a relatively permanent and organised business centre where people with varied skills reside, a high population concentration and dependency on manufacturing and commerce for livelihoods
  • Conurbation: a large area of urban development that has resulted from the merging of formerly separate towns or cities
  • Million city: a city with a million or more inhabitants
  • Megalopolis or megacity: an extensive urban area that has resulted from the merging of two or more conurbations
  • Urban sprawl: the disproportionate and uncontrolled expansion of urban settlements into the surrounding countryside, forming relatively lower density, poorly planned extensions of the urban settlement
  • Peri-urban: the area between defined urban and rural administrative boundaries, with closer ties to the urban settlement than the rural


  1. For a more comprehensive terminology, see the UNDRR Words into Action guide Disaster Displacement: How to Reduce Risk, Address Impacts and Strengthen Resilience Annex III
  2. Adapted from the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement p 7
  3. The United Nations Refugee Agency defines a refugee as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” To learn more visit UNHCR website
  4. Adapted from Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda para 20
  5. For more information, see IDMC Global Estimates 2015, p 14
  6.  Adapted from the original: “A community that hosts large populations of refugees or internally displaced persons, typically in camps or directly integrated into households.” See UNHCR 2010 Global Protection Cluster, Handbook for the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons p 505
  7. See the UNHCR-NGO Toolkit for Practical Cooperation on Resettlement for more information
  8. See UNHCR Community based hosting arrangements
  9. Adapted from UNDRR 2019 Words into Action on Disaster Displacement, p 44
  10. See GNDR Forced Displacement Global Report 2022,  p 38
  11. For more information, see the GNDR Strategy
  12. Adapted from A/71/644 General Assembly (V) 22
  13. For more information, see the GNDR strategy
  14. See IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons p. A1

Project funded by

United States Agency for International Development

Our Making Displacement Safer project is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Content related to this project on our website was made possible by the support of the USAID. All content is the sole responsibility of GNDR and does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID.

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