On studying the timing of displacement

Justin Schon over at the Monkey Cage writes about drives behind population displacement, studying Somalia using UNHCR’s Population Movement Tracking system data —

What factors influence the timing of displacement? Why do certain crises prompt displacement floods while others only elicit a trickle? Unique daily internal displacement data from Somalia in the mid-2000s, which I published in a recent article, can offer insights into these critical policy questions. Since Ethiopia’s 2006 invasion, Somalia has produced some of the world’s largest displacement flows. As Anna Lindley observes, two-thirds of Mogadishu’s population fled between the end of 2006 and the end of 2008. Somali displacement flows furthermore exhibit substantial variation over time. Its lessons may be more broadly applicable, since Somalia contains characteristics that exist in many cases of civil conflict: a weak state, proliferation of armed groups and militias, protracted conflict, poverty, and environmental challenges.

The data derives from an UNHCR project called the Population Movement Tracking system. Begun in mid-2006, the project works with 48 local partners inside Somalia to track displacement on a daily basis. Analyzing this daily displacement data reveals that there were actually 15 distinct cycles of displacement in Somalia from 2008 to 2013. The structural conflict characteristics of geographic scope and balance of power are the most important drivers of displacement timing – and not individual events, as is commonly believed.

[Links in original; emphasis added.]