Urban Crises Learning Partnerships

Two learning partnerships have helped IIED to address gaps in knowledge, skills and understanding among national and international humanitarian actors and local and national governments, in order to provide a better basis on which to prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises in urban areas.

November 2015 - November 2017
Urban crises and forced displacement
A programme of work bringing together diverse perspectives on humanitarian emergencies and forced displacement, to inform new directions in urban crisis response
The April 2105 Nepal earthquake destroyed more than 500,000 buildings in Kathmandu. There was a huge international aid effort, but reconstruction has been slow (Photo: SIM Central and South East Asia, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The April 2105 Nepal earthquake destroyed more than 500,000 buildings in Kathmandu. There was a huge international aid effort, but reconstruction has been slow (Photo: SIM Central and South East Asia, Creative Commons via Flickr)

The two partnerships, the Stronger Cities Initiative and the Urban Crises Learning Partnership (UCLP), ran in parallel from November 2015 to November 2017, and were initiated as part of the broader Urban Crises Learning Fund initiative. This initiative sought to build knowledge and capacity of local and international humanitarian actors to implement more effective urban humanitarian response.

The Stronger Cities Initiative

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and World Vision worked together to develop practical guidance notes and tools to be able to put urban response principles into practice, from understanding urban contexts and the diversity of needs of displaced people to the application of area-based and integrated approaches for programming. The full set of Stronger Cities Initiative outputs is available to read and download.

1. Context analysis and stakeholder coordination tools 

The project conducted a review of existing context analysis tools and their applicability to urban areas; developed and tested an urban-adapted context analysis toolkit in a number of country contexts; and developed guidance on how to undertake the context analysis. The project also developed guidance on how to put the context analysis findings into practice through stakeholder engagement and coordination. 

2. Multi-sectoral needs assessments, response analysis, and targeting guidance tools

The project conducted a review of existing practices and their applicability to urban areas and developed and tested guidance for an urban-adapted multi-sectoral vulnerability assessments. The tool profiled the needs of the displaced, host and resident population and included key elements such as social capital and protection that are often overlooked to generate a response analysis. The project also produced and tested guidance on urban targeting and response analysis.

3. Integrated programme models

To improve the adoption of holistic responses, the project conducted a review of area-based and integrated programming and produced programmatic guidance notes on the following topics: 

  • Urban area-based approaches in post-disaster contexts 
  • Tenure security for urban areas in humanitarian programmes  
  • Integrated livelihoods and protection programs in urban areas, and
  • Cash transfer programming in Lebanon: good practice in urban cash for work programmes (rapid employment initiatives) 

The Urban Crises Learning Partnership

Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, University College London (UCL) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) worked together to improve the way stakeholders in urban crises engage with each other to form new partnerships and make better decisions. The partnership also worked to improve disaster preparedness and response in urban areas by developing, testing, and disseminating new approaches to the formation of these relationships and systems.

The themes that the project examined are: urban systems, accountability to affected populations, formality and informality (examining the relationships and potential relationships between those who are part of the formal response system and those who may respond but are not part of that system), and disaster preparedness planning (with a particular emphasis on stakeholder engagement). 

Country-based activities

The UCLP carried out primary research in Haiti and Bangladesh. Habitat for Humanity Haiti spoke to humanitarian organisations, public officials, and affected communities in order to understand existing mechanisms for ensuring that vulnerable people are involved in decision making processes in urban areas, and how these would function in the event of another major urban crisis. 

In Bangladesh, Habitat for Humanity and Oxfam carried out a review of the existing disaster preparedness architecture and policy environment, attempting to assess gaps related to the specific challenges of urban disasters.

The two organisations also carried out detailed stakeholder analyses in two locations in Dhaka, and conducted a simulation exercise to learn about the potential for better stakeholder involvement and coordination in the event of a major urban disaster, such as a powerful earthquake. 

In both countries, the UCLP worked to better understand the organisational cultures and incentives that either facilitate or obstruct the delivery of proper accountability mechanisms. 


Planned outputs included reports on each of the thematic areas; synthesis reviews of disaster preparedness plans; an audio-visual record of the simulation exercise in Bangladesh; a special issue of Humanitarian Exchange Magazine with good practice guidelines for practitioners; reports on learning events in Haiti, Bangladesh, and the UK; and a series of blogs and webinars on the consortium website www.urbancrisis.org.