IIED hosts international conference on humanitarian response in urban crises

News, 6 September 2017
A conference in November will examine how to improve humanitarian aid and collaboration when crises hit urban areas.

Rescuers looking for survivors after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The quake struck near Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu, and many thousands of residents were left homeless (Photo: anjetika, Creative Commons via Flickr)

IIED and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are organising a major international conference on how best to respond to crises in urban areas.

The 'Crises in cities and cities in crisis: towards a collaborative urban response' event will take place in London on 15-16 November 2017.

The conference will report on the findings of a three-year project designed to improve knowledge and practice in responding to crises in urban settings, funded by the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID). Conference organisers were accepting submissions for presentations from researchers and practitioners until 22 September.

The urban crises programme is led by IIED and the IRC. The two organisations have developed a range of advocacy messages, knowledge products and practitioner tools to improve humanitarian effectiveness during urban crises, covering topics ranging from disaster preparedness and response to forced displacement.

The two-day conference will bring together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from the humanitarian and development communities, urban specialists, including planners and senior officials, as well as representatives of donor organisations, to discuss humanitarian response and collaboration.

Organisers say that the conference will enable the evidence generated to foster changes in practice and policy within the international humanitarian community. The discussions will examine the implications of the research – including how current aid and humanitarian structures may need to change in order achieve a more effective and collaborative response. A key aspect will be consideration of the linkages between humanitarian and development objectives. 

The event will also generate clear policy messages to be taken forward under international frameworks, including the Grand Bargain agreed at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, and the UNHCR's Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.

Outline programme 

The conference will open with a plenary on global frameworks for urban crises response. Day one will include parallel sessions, a panel discussion on refugees and self-reliance, as well as the launch of a special issue of the international journal Environment & Urbanisation, titled 'Towards more effective humanitarian response to urban crises', and an evening reception. 

The second day will feature a plenary on the future of urban crisis response, as well as parallel sessions and the formal launch of publications and toolkits prepared as part of the urban crises initiative. Hard copies of the documents will be available for participants. Read the final agenda (PDF).


The conference sessions aim to generate clear urban policy messages to be applied by humanitarian actors operating in urban contexts and urban actors facing crisis situations.

Three key themes will underpin the discussions:

  • The need to foster collaborative approaches between humanitarian actors and non-traditional partners in urban contexts, including local governments, community-based organisations, academia and the private sector
  • Opportunities to build urban resilience using urban humanitarian response and recovery, and
  • The role of area-based approaches as a way to address some of the challenges currently faced by humanitarian actors operating in urban contexts. 

The research

The urban crises programme was established in response to a growing recognition by humanitarian and development actors of the need to improve knowledge and practice in responding to crises in urban settings. 

Managed by IIED, the Urban Crises Learning Fund has generated evidence and fostered new ways of working to increase the knowledge, technical capacity, and commitment to working in partnership of urban and humanitarian stakeholders. It has funded 32 discrete pieces of research and documentation, with a focus on urban crises in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Two consortiums of humanitarian and research organisations have also been established, to develop and test new tools and approaches, and to document past responses. 

The IRC has sought to improve the understanding of humanitarian and development stakeholders of urban crises in order to enhance policy and operational commitments for more appropriate responses. It has developed advocacy messages and practitioner recommendations through in-depth research and convening at both the global and local level. The IRC also played a key role in the establishment and launch of the Global Alliance for Urban Crises, a multi-disciplinary and collaborative community of practice working to prevent, prepare for and effectively respond to humanitarian crises in urban settings.

Register your interest

The conference is free to attend, but space is limited and we expect it to be over-subscribed. If you have previously completed the form to register your interest, we will get back to you to confirm whether space is available.

Presenting a paper

The deadline for submissions for presentations from researchers and practitioners was 22 September 2017.  

Event details

Title: From cities in crisis to crises in cities: towards a collaborative urban humanitarian response
Date: 15-16 November 2017
Designed for: researchers, practitioners and policymakers from the humanitarian and development communities, as well as urban representatives and donor organisations
Where: Central London
Agenda: Read the final agenda (PDF)


Diane Archer (diane.archer@iied.org), senior researcher, IIED's Human Settlements research group

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