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Making cash work for cities and towns affected by humanitarian crises

Cash transfers can offer value-for-money in humanitarian responses, and cash transfer programming (CTP) has the potential to transform humanitarian architecture. While this type of assistance is established — in 2015 the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department issued ‘10 common principles’ for use of cash — to date it has mostly been used in rural areas. As humanitarian agencies increasingly face emergencies in urban settings, what can CTP contribute and what challenges arise? An IIED literature review indicates that cash transfers have a role in the first phase of urban humanitarian response and could contribute to longer-term development objectives. If humanitarian CTP in urban contexts is to be effective and sustainable it requires cooperation, coordination, capacity and commitment. It needs funding that is distributed across key humanitarian, development and private-sector stakeholders, under the leadership of a strategic and accountable body.

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Urban areas are increasingly the sites of humanitarian crises, from natural disasters to conflict and displacement. Through a programme of research, documenting and learning from experience and development of tools and approaches, IIED is working to build the knowledge and capacity to respond of humanitarian actors working in urban areas, and of urban actors facing humanitarian crises.

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Urban Crises Learning Fund