Self-Reliance Initiative

The Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative promotes opportunities for refugees around the world to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life.

Most refugees tell us that they want to “stand on their own feet” — to take care of their own needs and those of their family. This is key to regaining stability and a sense of agency in their lives, despite the fact that they might be in impermanent situations in host countries.

In 2016, RefugePoint and the Women’s Refugee Commission first convened the Refugee Self-Reliance Community of Practice (CoP) — a global working group dedicated to sharing knowledge and exploring promising practices around self-reliance programming and measurement. The CoP is made up of a diverse set of leading stakeholders from the practitioner, governmental, UN, philanthropic, academic and private sectors. Prior to the launch of the CoP, there was no global coordinating forum for sharing learning related to refugee self-reliance.

In 2018, RefugePoint, the Women’s Refugee Commission and members of the CoP launched the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative with the goal of expanding opportunities for refugees worldwide to become self-reliant and achieve a better quality of life. The Initiative aims to collectively reach five million refugees with self-reliance programming in five years (2019-2023) and, in the process, to identify the most effective models and measurements to aid global expansion of self-reliance opportunities.

For more information about the history, partners, goals, achievements, and future direction of the Self-Reliance Initiative, click to download the full PDF overview.

self-reliance initiative overview

Launching the Self-Reliance Initiative

On September, 20, 2018, RefugePoint and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), in cooperation with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, organized Better Lives Now: Leveraging Refugees’ Talents, a side event to the UN General Assembly, to launch the Refugee Self-Reliance Initiative. The event was also produced in partnership with Club de Madrid, Mercy Corps, The B Team, Refugees Deeply and The Government of Canada.

Watch highlights from Better Lives Now

Why is Self-Reliance Important?

We are witnessing the highest levels of human displacement ever recorded. Most refugees remain in indefinite limbo with scarce opportunities to repatriate, resettle to a new country, or legally integrate into their current host countries. Typically, refugees must wait years or decades before they have opportunities to regain agency over their finances and futures.

While most refugees require humanitarian aid for some period of time (and some might require it indefinitely), many are ready to transition off of aid much sooner than current opportunities allow.

What We Believe

We believe that refugees should not have to wait to lead lives with dignity, which for many means supporting themselves and their families.

We believe that refugees deserve the opportunity to contribute to the social and economic fabric of their host countries while awaiting permanent solutions to their plight.

We believe that host countries and communities should be supported in order to benefit from the social and economic engagement of refugees, enhancing overall peace, security and prosperity.

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Self-reliance is the social and economic ability of an individual, a household or a community to meet its essential needs in a sustainable manner.

Definition agreed upon by the Self-Reliance Community of Practice

Self-Reliance Initiative Leadership


The following agencies have participated in the Refugee Self-Reliance Community of Practice

For further information, please email: betterlivesnow AT refugepoint DOT org