Urban Displacement from Different Perspectives: An Overview of Approaches to Urban Displacement

Pamela Sitko and Antonio Massella

Global Alliance for Urban Crises, 2019



This paper examines the approaches of local authorities, international humanitarian organizations (INGOs, UN, Red Cross Red Crescent), local civil society organizations, and built environment professionals (planners, engineers, architects and builders) in protracted urban displacement situations. The analysis covers five urban ‘systems’: (1) economy—livelihoods, jobs and support; (2) social protection and accountability—safety nets, gender-based violence (GBV); (3) access to essential services—health, education, food; (4) built environment—homes and infrastructure (water, electricity); and (5) ecology—environment, climate change, disaster risk reduction. The paper maps and discusses the main activities of each of the various stakeholders as they pertain to each of the five urban systems.  Based on their analysis, the authors conclude that:

All efforts need to be towards integrating IDPs and refugees into urban life as quickly as possible. To achieve this, the affected communities (host and displaced populations) need to be at the center of the consultation, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation stages of all programs, from short-term interventions to long-term development operations.

International organizations have a role to play in supporting local organizations. This includes aligning efforts to support local authorities. It also means focusing on local civil society organizations who are often overlooked, but who in reality provide on-the-ground, day-to-day support to IDPs and refugees.


Long-term development strategies and approaches should be introduced and mainstreamed into humanitarian and recovery interventions as early as possible in order to ensure the smoothest transition to sustainable, locally owned and managed programs. Humanitarian and development organizations, civil society organizations and others need to continue identifying areas of convergence with local authorities in order to complement their activities, support their mandate, and reinforce their responsibilities towards displaced populations within their jurisdiction.