Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Humanitarian response to urban crises: a review of area-based approaches

Elizabeth Parker, Victoria Maynard

International Institute for Environment and Development



In recent years there has been increasing interest in area-based approaches among humanitarian actors responding to urban crises. Through analysis of case studies, as well as available policy literature, this paper proposes that, in an urban context, area-based approaches have certain defining characteristics: they are geographically targeted, and adopt a multi-sectoral, participatory approach.

Area-based approaches are neither “good” nor “bad”; their positive and negative effects depend entirely on the context in which they are conceived, their programme design, the manner of their delivery and the appropriateness of adopting such a strategy. Further research is required to better understand the implications of wide-scale adoption of area-based approaches by the humanitarian community.


Available at http://pubs.iied.org/10742IIED.html


Further reading:

Brown, Donald and Cassidy Johnson (2015), “Setting a new research agenda for urban crisis and humanitarian response”, IIED briefing, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, 4 pages,  http://pubs.iied.org/17301IIED.html.

Pavanello, Sara (2012), “Rethinking the humanitarian response: Emerging approaches to engagement in urban crises”, Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action brief, available at http://www.atha.se/content/rethinking-humanitarian-response-emerging-approaches-engagement-urban-crises.

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