Urban displacement

It is widely acknowledged that in the 21st century, urban centres are becoming the preferred destination for the majority of IDPs. Displacement is also becoming increasingly protracted in nature, and many people displaced into urban or peri-urban areas by conflict, violence or disaster choose to remain there even once it is safe to return home.

However, they face many challenges upon arrival. Many are unable, because of lack of money or civil documents, to find proper housing. They often have reduced access to work, education, health and sanitation services, and are more vulnerable to violence. They also tend to settle in low-income urban settlements among the urban poor, and are thus often remain ‘invisible’, making it harder to reach them to understand their needs, vulnerabilities and preferences for solutions.

Similarly, urban systems – including municipal authorities, networks of local basic service provision, markets for goods and services, social infrastructure – are often unprepared to respond to this influx. Large flows of displaced people into urban areas can have significant impacts on the local economy and society, often leading to increased pressure on housing and labour markets as well as basic services, such as health and education.

To effectively address internal displacement in urban areas, IDPs must first and foremost be viewed as city residents and citizens of their country, not just as a humanitarian caseload. This means identifying IDPs, through collaborative and inclusive data collection and analysis processes, and removing the barriers that prevent them from benefiting and contributing to the social, political, economic and cultural life of towns and cities. It also requires working with urban authorities and building their capacities to effectively respond to IDPs’ needs to ensure comprehensive and inclusive responses. This necessitates collective and complementary action by humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors, city authorities and services providers, aligning development agendas and associated resources in support of durable solutions.