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Urban refugees in Delhi: self-reliance can’t be exclusively entrepreneurial

Self-reliance is, by definition, about individualised responsibility for social wellbeing and economic security. This idea drives urban refugee livelihood programmes, in India and beyond, as aid organisations seek to ensure refugees do not depend on assistance long term. However, ideologicallyrooted self-enterprise approaches take little account of insecure labour markets, nor refugees’ actual capabilities to transform humanitarian assistance and livelihood opportunities into something sustainable and meaningful for them. The way aid programmes frame ‘self-reliance’ may overlook or even exacerbate challenges facing urban refugees, especially those with precarious legal status. This briefing explores the issues and shares ideas and recommendations arising from 55 ‘key informant’ interviews with refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff and their NGO partners in Delhi.

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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