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The urbanization of humanitarian crises

Diane Archer, David Dodman

Briefing, 6 pages

Disasters and conflict mean that ever larger numbers of people around the world are being displaced from their homes. These displaced people increasingly live in established urban areas rather than more traditional camp settings.

Humanitarian actors have struggled to engage with the complexities of the urban context, and what these imply for effective crisis response. Knowledge gaps include the ways in which humanitarian crises affect different groups, institutions and systems within cities. At the same time, urban settings can offer opportunities for effective responses that draw on the strengths and capacities of affected populations (both displaced and hosting), local organizations, and city governments.

Approaches to urban humanitarian crises need to adopt a more developmental approach, particularly given the increasingly protracted nature of many crises. This in turn needs to be informed by how crisis responses can foster this, while recognizing pre-existing needs and deficiencies within cities, particularly those affecting low-income and other marginalized groups.

Humanitarian responses can be an opportunity to foster existing capacities and strengthen urban systems, meeting emergency needs while supporting a more sustainable urban future.

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