Urban Crises Learning Fund

From November 2014

Urban areas are increasingly the sites of humanitarian crises, from natural disasters to conflict and displacement. Through a programme of research, documenting and learning from experience and development of tools and approaches, IIED is working to build the knowledge and capacity to respond of humanitarian actors working in urban areas, and of urban actors facing humanitarian crises.

Makeshift camps for internally displaced people sprang up in Kathmandu after the severe earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. Relief workers are struggling to help displaced people find durable shelter as the country braces for the monsoon season (Photo: SIM Central and South East Asia, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Makeshift camps for internally displaced people sprang up in Kathmandu after the severe earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. Relief workers are struggling to help displaced people find durable shelter as the country braces for the monsoon season (Photo: SIM Central and South East Asia via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

How do cities cope with influxes of displaced persons fleeing a conflict or disaster, particularly if these cities are already struggling to provide services and infrastructure to residents? How can humanitarian agencies better collaborate with urban managers and work with existing structures in responding to crises in urban contexts? 

The three-year Urban Crises Learning Fund project seeks to address these, and other questions, by reflecting on past humanitarian responses, filling evidence gaps through primary research, and learning from experiences in other fields.

By engaging humanitarian agencies in the process of research and learning, alongside urban stakeholders from municipal officials to civil society, the learning fund seeks to contribute to a more in-depth understanding of how the humanitarian sector can most effectively operate in urban contexts and work with urban actors.

This is imperative in an increasingly urban world facing both slow- and fast-onset crises, from food shortages to conflict and natural disasters.

What IIED is doing

IIED is leading a three-year programme of research, documentation of past experiences, development of tools and guidelines, and shared learning across humanitarian actors and other urban stakeholders. There will be three main strands of work:

  • Two learning partnerships, running for two years, will learn from and document the effective principles and practices that are already being used by international humanitarian actors, local government, civil society, donors and other stakeholders. One learning partnership is led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and is generating toolkits and guidance notes to do this more effectively. The other is led by Habitat for Humanity and is generating knowledge from past approaches to urban responses.
  • Research grants will be used to support innovative thematic and regional research on key issues shaping humanitarian responses in urban areas, and
  • Events and workshops will disseminate best practices and advocacy messages, discuss policy changes, disseminate and analyse learning from urban programming in humanitarian contexts, and build the capacity of key actors. 


The Urban Crises Learning Fund evaluation final report, Alix Wadeson, Nicola Giordano (2022), Project evaluation

Humanitarian response for development: lessons from Tropical Cyclone Winston, Keren Winterford, Anna Gero (2018) IIED Briefing

Humanitarian response for development in Fiji: lessons from Tropical Cyclone Winston, Keren Winterford, Anna Gero (2018) Working paper

Refugees, healthcare and crises: informal Syrian health workers in Lebanon, Sharif A Ismail, Adam P Coutts, Diana Rayes, Sophie Roborgh, Aula Abbara, Miriam Orcutt, Fouad M Fouad, Gladys Honein, Nour El Arnaout, Aya Noubani, Hana Nimer, Spencer Rutherford (2018) Working paper

Empowering local actors in an urban crisis, Diane Archer (2018) Reflect & Act

Urban Refugee Economies: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Alison Brown, Peter Mackie, Kate Dickenson, Tegegne Gebre-​Egziabher (2018) Working paper

Syrian health workers in Lebanon: supporting an informal workforce in crisis, Sharif A Ismail, Adam P Coutts (2018) IIED Briefing

Accountability to Affected Populations in Urban Crises: Who Cares? Alan Brouder (2017) Working paper

Dhaka City Earthquake Simulation, C. Kelly (2017) Working paper

Making Community Engagement a Priority: A Case-Study on Earthquake Response in Simon Pelé, Haiti, Rachel Senat, Renee Barron, Camillo Boano, Estella Carpi, Louis Mary Leon, Mike Meaney (2017) Working paper

Participatory Approach to Urban Planning in Slum Neighbourhoods of the Metropolitan Area of Port-au-Prince, Anna Calogero, Benjamin Biscan, Silvere Jarrot (2017) Working paper

Partnership, Coordination, and Accountability in Urban Disaster Management: A Review of Policies in Bangladesh, Afroza Haque, Dr. A S M Maksud Kamal, S. M. Kamrul Hassan (2017) Working paper

Think Urban and Learn from the City: Exploring Urban Dimensions of Humanitarianism, Camillo Boano, Ricardo Martén (2017) Working paper

Water Market Actors in Dhaka: Strengthening Earthquake Resilience and Preparedness, Graeme English, Luiza Cintra Campos, Jonathan Parkinson (2017) Working paper

When Academics Become Humanitarians: A Post-Disaster Programme by the State University of Haiti, Rachel Sénat (2017) Working paper

The ‘Learning from Crisis’ Humanitarian Formula: Bridging Disaster and Normality, Estella Carpi (2017) Working paper

Urban refugees in Delhi: refugee networks, faith and well-being, Anubhav Dutt Tiwari, Jessica Field, Yamini Mookherjee (2017) Working paper

Strengthening local councils to bridge the aid gap in Aleppo, Saagarika Dadu-​Brown, Abhimanyu Dadu (2017) IIED Briefing

Endogenous protection practices for children on the move during emergencies in Gao, Herman Pingwendé Zoungrana (2017) Working paper

Exploring the role of empowerment in urban humanitarian responses in Freetown, Joseph Mustapha Macarthy, Alexandre Apsan Frediani, Sulaiman Foday Kamara, Milimer Morgado (2017) Working paper

Refugee economies: lessons from Addis Ababa, Alison Brown, Peter Mackie, Kate Dickenson, Tegegne Gebre-​Egziabher (2017) IIED Briefing

Protecting children on the move: using endogenous practices in urban Mali, Herman Pingwendé Zoungrana, Baye Diakite, Atta Harber Mahamane (2017) IIED Briefing

Thinking bigger: area-based and urban planning approaches to humanitarian crises, Victoria Maynard, Elizabeth Parker, Rahayu Yoseph-​Paulus, David Garcia (2017) IIED Briefing

Long-term implications of humanitarian responses: the case of Chennai, Garima Jain, Chandni Singh, Karen Coelho, Teja Malladi (2017) Working paper

Making Lebanon’s water flow: delivering better basic urban services, Anna Walnycki (2017) IIED Briefing

Urban planning in Banda Aceh: supporting local actors after the tsunami, Rahayu Yoseph-​Paulus, Victoria Maynard, Elizabeth Parker, David Garcia (2017) Working paper

Urban refugees in Delhi: identity, entitlements and well-being, Jessica Field, Yamini Mookherjee, Anubhav Dutt Tiwari (2017) Working paper

Civilian Protection in Urban Sieges: Capacities and practices of first responders in Syria, Chas Morrison (2017) Working paper

Upholding the rights of urban refugees in Uganda, William Monteith, Shuaib Lwasa, Gloria Nsangi, Hakimu Sseviiri, Disan Byarugaba (2017) IIED Briefing

Migrant and refugee transit: the role of local authorities in humanitarian response, Maren Larsen, Elma Demir, Maja Horvat (2017) IIED Briefing

Emergency cash transfers and women’s economic empowerment in post-earthquake Nepal, Zahrah Nesbitt-​Ahmed (2017) Working paper

Surviving in Cairo as a closed-file refugee: socio-economic and protection challenges, Nourhan Abdel Aziz (2017) Working paper

Rethinking post-disaster relocation in urban India, Garima Jain, Chandni Singh, Teja Malladi (2017) IIED Briefing

Women and children fleeing Boko Haram: their experiences in Nigerian cities, Aliyu Barau (2017) IIED Briefing

Fitting aid to context: community experiences of aid delivery in northern Syria, Deborah Cummins, Sarah Moharram (2017) Working paper

Urban refugees in Delhi: self-reliance can’t be exclusively entrepreneurial, Jessica Field, Anubhav Dutt Tiwari, Yamini Mookherjee (2017) IIED Briefing

Cash transfers during urban crises: lessons for women’s economic empowerment, Zahrah Nesbitt-​Ahmed (2017) IIED Briefing

Integrating livelihoods and protection for displaced persons in urban humanitarian response, Laura Gauer Bermudez (2017) Toolkit

Enacting urban cash for work programmes in Lebanon in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, Pamela Sitko (2017) Toolkit

Security of tenure in urban areas, Norwegian Refugee Council (2017) Toolkit

Targeting in Urban Displacement context, Gabrielle Smith, Lili Mohiddin, Laura Phelps (2017) Toolkit

Urban area-based approaches (ABAs) in post-disaster contexts, David Sanderson, Pamela Sitko (2017) Toolkit

Urban Response Analysis Framework, Lili Mohiddin, Gabrielle Smith, Laura Phelps (2017) Toolkit

Urban Multi-sector Vulnerability Assessment Tool for displacement contexts (UMVAT), Lili Mohiddin, Gabrielle Smith, Laura Phelps (2017) Toolkit

Urban Stakeholder Engagement and Coordination, Jarrett Basedow, Clay Westrope, Andrew Meaux  (2017) Toolkit

Urban Context Analysis Toolkit, Brian Sage, Andrew Meaux, Wale Osofisan, Mary Traynor, Tatiana Reye Jove (2017) Toolkit

Supporting water service providers during conflicts, Loan Diep (2017), IIED Briefing

Urban planning following humanitarian crises: Supporting local government to take the lead in the Philippines following super typhoon Haiyan, Elizabeth Parker, Victoria Maynard, David Garcia, Rahayu Yoseph-​Paulus (2017), Working paper

Aid in context: the importance of market-based approaches to aid delivery in northern Syria, Deborah Cummins, Sarah Moharram (2017), IIED briefing

Tackling violence against women and girls in urban humanitarian crises: the case of Gaza, Catherine Müller, Jean-​Pierre Tranchant (2017), IIED briefing

Refugees in urban Egypt: it's time to reassess UNHCR’s 2009 Policy on refugee protection and solutions in urban areas, Lina Lotayef, Nourhan Abdel Aziz (2017), IIED briefing

Protecting civilians in urban sieges: how to best support 'first responders', Chas Morrison (2017) IIED briefing

A review of context analysis tools for urban humanitarian response, Andrew Meaux, Wale Osofisan (2016), IIED Working Paper

A review of needs assessment tools, response analysis frameworks, and targeting guidance for urban humanitarian response, Lili Mohiddin, Gabrielle Smith (2016), IIED Working Paper

Humanitarian responses by local actors: Lessons learned from managing the transit of migrants and refugees through Croatia, Maren Larsen, Elma Demir, Maja Horvat (2016), IIED Report

Responding to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon: collaboration between aid agencies and local governance structures
by Marwa Boustani, Estella Carpi, Hayat Gebara, and Yara Mourad (2016), IIED Human Settlements Group Working paper

Making cash work for cities and towns affected by humanitarian crises, Gabrielle Smith, Lili Mohiddin, Diane Archer (2016), IIED Briefing paper

A review of evidence of humanitarian cash transfer programming in urban areas, Gabrielle Smith, Lili Mohiddin (2015), IIED Report

Humanitarian response to urban crises: a review of area-based approaches, Elizabeth Parker and Victoria Maynard (2015), IIED Human Settlements Group Working paper

Setting a new research agenda for urban crisis and humanitarian response, Donald Brown and Cassidy Johnson (2015), IIED Briefing paper

Understanding the nature and scale of urban risk in low- and middle-income countries and its implications for humanitarian preparedness, planning and response, David Dodman, Donald Brown, Katie Francis, Jorgelina Hardoy, Cassidy Johnson and David Satterthwaite (2013), IIED Human Settlements Group Working paper