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Refugee economies: lessons from Addis Ababa

With most refugees now living in urban areas, governments, nongovernmental organisations and relief agencies must find new ways to help this vulnerable population secure stable livelihoods. ‘Refugee economies’ — the economy created by urban refugees through their work, entrepreneurship, consumption and support networks — can make significant contributions to host city economies. Drawing on our case study of Addis Ababa, where refugee-run businesses are tightly integrated into the city’s wider economy, we explore the obstacles that can limit refugees’ economic contribution and recommend policies to overcome them. As a first step, humanitarian agencies should encourage host governments to grant urban refugees the right to work so host cities can share the benefits of their innovation, creativity and international links.

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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