Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Urban refugees in Delhi: self-reliance can’t be exclusively entrepreneurial

Jessica Field, Anubhav Dutt Tiwari, Yamini Mookherjee

International Institute for Environment and Development



Self-reliance is, by definition, about individualized responsibility for social wellbeing and economic security. This idea drives urban refugee livelihood programmes, in India and beyond, as aid organizations seek to ensure refugees do not depend on assistance long term. However, ideologically rooted self-enterprise approaches take little account of insecure labour markets, or refugees’ actual capabilities to transform humanitarian assistance and livelihood opportunities into something sustainable and meaningful for them. The way aid programmes frame “self-reliance” may overlook or even exacerbate challenges facing urban refugees, especially those with precarious legal status. This briefing explores the issues and shares ideas and recommendations arising from 55 “key informant” interviews with refugees, UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff and their NGO partners in Delhi.


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