Reimagining refugee futures: cities, not camps? Make Change Happen podcast episode 6

Of the approximately 71 million people displaced by conflict and violence worldwide, nearly 26 million are considered refugees. But are more secure futures hindered by a collective failure to see refugees as diverse people, with skills to offer, and preferences about where they call home? For World Refugee Day, we discuss new IIED research comparing refugees’ experiences of life in urban areas to that in camps, and hear about an energy access project that captures some of the complexity of working with displaced people.

Article, 19 June 2020

IIED’s ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides an opportunity to hear our researchers discuss key global development challenges and explain how they are working to support positive change.

The sixth episode explores our research on protracted displacement in an urban world: a three-year study comparing the experiences of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in cities and camps in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Jordan and Kenya. In addition, we discuss a recent energy access project that explored how cooking arrangements in three Tanzanian refugee camps had serious ramifications for the lives of women and girls.  

Hosted by Liz Carlile, IIED’s director of communications, the discussion features Lucy Earle, principal researcher, and Deena Dajani, researcher, both working in IIED’s Human Settlements research group; they are joined by Kevin Johnstone, researcher in our Shaping Sustainable Markets research group

The episode also features contributions from two experts working in Kenya: Dr Michael Owiso, dean of the School of Development & Strategic Studies at Maseno University, and Dyfed Aubrey, inter-regional advisor at UN-Habitat.

Seeing clearly for collaboration and change

The global population of forcibly displaced people increased by 2.3 million people in 2018. By the end of the year, almost 70.8 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. UNHCR classifies 25.9 million as refugees (PDF).

Assumptions about the men, women and children we call refugees are rife, both well-meaning and otherwise. This episode is about looking beyond them.

With around 60% of refugees living in towns and cities, our guests discuss issues including: the impact of camps and the shift away from them; the need for urban planning to hear refugee voices, and how that might happen; and the necessity of finding a way for humanitarians, the development sector and city-level authorities to work together with refugee groups to meet their needs and enable their potential.


Head and shoulders photo of Deena Dajani

Deena Dajani is a researcher in IIED’s Human Settlements research group. Deena has conducted ethnographic and participatory research with refugee and migrant populations across Europe and the Middle East, and worked on interdisciplinary projects building partnerships with civil society to work towards more inclusive urban spaces.

Head and shoulders photo of Lucy Earle

Lucy Earle is a principal researcher in IIED’s Human Settlements research group. Her work focuses on the intersections of urbanisation, urban poverty and humanitarian crises, in particular forced displacement into and within urban areas.

Head and shoulders photo of Kevin Johnstone

Kevin Johnstone is a researcher in IIED's Shaping Sustainable Markets research group. He brings extensive experience of working in-country, and is particularly focused on market-based approaches to delivering off-grid energy.

Head and shoulders photo of Liz Carlile

Liz Carlile (host) is director of the Communications Group at IIED. She is an expert in strategic marketing and communications, with a particular focus on research communications and policy influence, and has published on social learning and climate change communications.

How to listen and subscribe

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast will provide informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

You can subscribe to the podcast on your favourite podcast app as follows:

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

You can follow the panellists on Twitter: @lucyurbanearle and @lizcarlile. Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.