Cities as Partners: The Case of Kampala

Samer Saliba and Innocent Silver

Forced Migration Review, Issue 63, February 2020


The authors (from the IRC and Kampala Capital City Authority) argue that more needs to be done to support city governments to address displacement. This means going beyond offering cities a seat at the table in policy discussions to investing in cities as equal partners in responses to displacement and empowering them to plan for future displacement and growth. While Kampala (which hosts an estimated 100,000 refugees) is a member of international initiatives such as the Mayors Migration Council and the Global Alliance, humanitarian actors have only just begun to view its city authority as a viable partner. Since beginning to engage with the IRC in 2017, the city authority has significantly increased its coordination with humanitarian, development and private sector partners to support the city’s marginalized and displaced residents. The urban response calls for a longer, developmental approach, particularly in increasing access to housing, health care, education and livelihood opportunities for refugees and the urban poor living in informal settlements.

The authors recommend that the international humanitarian community:

  • Partner with city governments in policy and in practice: engage in dialogue with local municipal authorities; earmark 25 percent of grant funding related to urban displacement for city government collaboration and/or local capacity strengthening, in compliance with the commitments of the Grand Bargain; and include city governments as core constituents in the implementation of the global compacts and SDGs.
  • Use humanitarian interventions to support urban development outcomes. This means taking a community- or area-based and multi-sectoral approach to programming, while also engaging in meaningful partnerships with other organizations.