Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

The case for treating long-term urban IDPs as city residents

Lucy Earle, Christopher Ward




A significant percentage of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who seek safety in towns and cities will not return home. Yet this is a reality that international actors consistently fail to adapt to and as a result, the complex needs of urban IDPs and their host communities remain unmet. Solving these issues requires a fundamental rethinking of humanitarian and development programming. Agencies and donors must view long-term IDPs as city residents, not just a humanitarian caseload. By engaging with municipal authorities, they could find “win-win” solutions that both align with local government priorities and address the needs of IDPs. Donors must also consider providing direct financing to municipalities, while creating the flexible programming demanded in complex urban protracted crises. The UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement concludes in 2021 and should result in increased attention to IDP policies. It remains vital to re-evaluate responses to protracted urban internal displacement, discarding outdated practices and scaling up promising new approaches.


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