Urban Crises

  • Refugees fleeing conflict or natural disaster are now more likely to head towards urban areas than refugee camps.

    Refugees fleeing conflict or natural disaster are now more likely to head towards urban areas than refugee camps.
  • More than half of the world’s refugees live in the slums of some of the world's biggest cities.

    More than half of the world’s refugees live in the slums of some of the world's biggest cities.
  • The IRC is leading the way in finding innovative ways to support urban refugees to rebuild their lives.

    The IRC is leading the way in finding innovative ways to support urban refugees to rebuild their lives.
  • The IRC is providing legal assistance to refugees, helping them to understand their rights and to gain access to justice.

    The IRC is providing legal assistance to refugees, helping them to understand their rights and to gain access to justice.
  • The IRC monitors refugee numbers and conditions in some of the world’s biggest cities and slums.

    The IRC monitors refugee numbers and conditions in some of the world’s biggest cities and slums.
  • The IRC is helping to increase the involvement of refugees in civil society.

    The IRC is helping to increase the involvement of refugees in civil society.

The humanitarian landscape is changing. The world is urbanising rapidly and natural disasters and displacement crises will increasingly occur in urban settings – in towns and cities across the globe. For most people, the word ‘refugee’ conjures images of endless rows of white tents spread out over a dusty plain. But this does not give an accurate picture of what life is like for millions of refugees in the 21st century. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, today more than sixty per cent of world’s refugees are displaced in cities and towns across the globe.          

The IRC is leading the way in finding innovative ways to support the displaced and impacted communities in urban areas rebuild their lives. We are dedicated to responding to not only meet the immediate needs of affected populations, but also to foster recovery and sustainable development in the aftermath of a crisis so that both people and their cities are safe, healthy, educated, economically empowered and able to cope with future shocks and stresses

How We Help

The IRC has been working in cities and towns impacted by humanitarian crises for decades. Our experience shows that urban settings require different approaches to delivering assistance and supporting populations compared to approaches we use in remote, rural areas or in refugee camps.  For organisations like the IRC, this means we must adapt to this new reality in order to meet the needs of impacted populations and to support the city and its systems. We are invested in improving our own responses to urban crises and to taking this experience and evidence to the wider humanitarian community.

The IRC is increasingly recognised as a global thought leader on the issue urban displacement and the impact of humanitarian crises in urban settings – we advocate and generate policy advice; generate learning and evidence about what works on the ground; and we are developing new programming models and tools to meet the specific challenges and opportunities of working in cities.  In particular, we are working in partnership and with generous support from the Department for International Development (DfID) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) on three main streams of work.

Advocacy and Policy Change: The IRC works to ensure policy makers at national and global levels understand the dynamics of working in cities and towns and have the right policy and operational commitments in place to do this effectively.

Learning and Tools Development: The IRC is generating evidence around best practice in responding to urban crises. This will inform IRC’s own programming and that of the wider community. The IRC is also developing urban specific tools to improve the way all stakeholders work in cities.

Strategy and Urban Programming Models: The IRC is developing appropriate programming models for urban settings and its own internal strategy and principles of urban programming to ensure we maximize urban opportunities across all sectors of work.

City Haven: People on the Move Harboring the Displaced

Convened by IRC and the Global Alliance for Urban Crises, on February 18, 2016, Emergency Humanitarian Relief Coordinator and UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, welcomed guests to the United Nations in New York City for a special event entitled City Haven: People on the Move • Harboring the Displaced. The event highlighted the challenges and opportunities of responding to urban emergencies, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Syrian refugee crisis. It sought to change our perceptions of displaced people and propose new ways to ensure towns and cities are safe and inclusive places for all – including refugees and migrants. Referencing the urban context as it relates to both Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Secretary-General’s five core responsibilities for the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit, O’Brien started the discussion by stating that, “we will commit to a concrete set of actions and commitments that will enable all – including member states, affected populations, civil society, and the private sector – to better prepare for and respond to crises, and to become more resilient to shocks.” In order to put these commitments in to practice, O’Brien announced that a new form of collaboration, the Global Alliance for Urban Crises, will be launched during a special session at the World Humanitarian Summit. The Alliance joins a diverse group of actors, who do not currently work together (including municipal authorities, urban professionals and humanitarian and development agencies) to deliver humanitarian responses in urban areas.

The short-film entitled “For My Son” was screened at the event tells the story of a Syrian father who fled his war-torn country and sought refuge in Amman, Jordan. 

Desperate for a place where his young son, Muhammad, could be safe from harm and yet still have the opportunities and freedoms that refugees are so rarely afforded, the father – like hundreds of thousands of other Syrian refugee families – chose Amman over a camp. The creators, RYOT, developed a virtual reality accompaniment, giving attendees a chance to view Amman through the eyes of a refugee.

 

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