Latest news and publications from IIED's Human Settlements Group.
IIED urban newsletter
Welcome to our latest urban newsletter.

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, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee, has worked to build the knowledge and capacity of humanitarian actors working to respond in urban areas, and of urban actors facing humanitarian crises. We’re now excited to announce that we are hosting a major international conference which will report on the findings of this work on the 15-16 November in London. Find out more below.

As always, we also share our recent news, blogs and work from the last two months. All the publications listed and many more are available to download free of charge. Print copies of publications will continue to be sent where requested. Please do feel free to get in touch with any feedback.

Kate Lewis - Human Settlements Group

Register your interest to attend major urban crises conference

Urban Crises
IIED and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are organising a major international conference on how best to respond to crises in urban areas. The 'From cities in crisis to crises in cities: towards a collaborative urban humanitarian 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 are accepting submissions for presentations from researchers and practitioners until 22 September. The conference is free to attend but space is limited. More information and details on how to register interest in attending.

Latest urban crises publications

Rethinking post-disaster relocation in urban India
This briefing discusses the resettlement situation in Chennai, where state and local authorities have been building resettlement tenements on inland marsh areas using centrally sponsored schemes for affordable housing. These have been used as a ‘quick fix’ after disasters, but without addressing communities’ underlying needs and inequalities. Instead, India should develop participatory and risk-reducing plans and policies for relocation, and also help vulnerable communities address the risks where they currently live. 
Surviving in Cairo as a closed-file refugee: socio-economic and protection challenges
Surviving in Cairo as a closed-file refugee: socio-economic and protection challenges

This report explores refugee livelihood experiences by focusing on their socio-economic conditions and protection challenges. In spite of the barriers that many of them routinely face, the target groups communicated their coping strategies that help them survive in Egypt and overcome the structural barriers they face as a consequence of their legal status.
Tackling violence against women and girls in Gaza
This working paper presents the findings of a research project on the protection of women against violence in the context of urban humanitarian crises. Gaza, a highly urban and densely populated area, is a site of ongoing complex emergency, with bouts of acute violence. As such, it is challenging for humanitarian work. Data analysis underscore that violence against women varies along their lifecycles, and is aggravated by humanitarian crises and exposure to political violence. 

Emergency cash transfers and women’s economic empowerment in post-earthquake Nepal
Emergency cash transfers and women’s economic empowerment in post-earthquake Nepal

As humanitarian cash-based programmes become an increasing focus in urban areas, this paper explores how they can influence gender equality and women’s economic empowerment by analysing the different experiences of the beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of emergency cash transfer programmes in Kathmandu Valley.
Find all our urban crises publications.
Community meeting in Omaruru, Namibia

Focus on.....Local funds for local development

Aid agencies and development banks do not actually implement projects. They fund them but their funding passes to intermediary institutions to implement on the ground – from national and local government institutions to international, national or local NGOs to private enterprises. This is often not very effective at reaching those most in need.

But what about when the urban poor living in informal settlements set up their own local institutions through which external funding can flow? That is accountable to them (as well as to funders); after all, they are the people whose unmet needs represent the justification for the funding in the first place. 

There are now 37 nations in which ‘shack’ dwellers that belong to a community savings group have formed city and national federations – and these are developing their capacities to support and manage many local development initiatives. Some federations have set up a formal financial institution to help manage their savings and act as a bridge through which external funding agencies can support their work. 

Four new working papers have been published on this, below, and read our latest blog by Diana Mitlin on local funds. The April 2018 issue of Environment and Urbanization will also be on the theme of Local Funds for Local Development.
Where will the money come from ? SDI and Local Level Finance
Through its savings-based city funds and global finance facility, SDI helps communities transform their slums into safe, secure, affordable neighbourhoods. SDI’s local funds defy conventional housing microfinance, which comprise three segments: organised end users; informal or semiformal financial intermediaries; and the stand-ins for the formal financial sector. This paper looks at how and why SDI has navigated these segments to transform urban areas by monetising social capital through local-level finance institutions.
Taking money to making money: SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan transform low-income shelter options in India
Taking money to making money: SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan transform low-income shelter options in India

In India, a new funding mechanism has brought transformation to shelter options for low-income households and supported community-led development. This paper looks at the financial design developed over 20 years to support hundreds of community-driven developments by the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan (a federation of women’s savings groups).


The Akiba Mashinani trust Kenya: role of a local fund in urban development
This paper looks at the funding and financial services provided by the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) to support the housing, livelihood and other initiatives undertaken by the Kenyan Homeless People’s Federation (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) in informal settlements. It also describes the measures taken to ensure greater equity, inclusion (especially for the lowest income groups), participation/community management, accountability and cost effectiveness.
Local-level finance: improving the accountability and effectiveness of urban development programmes
Local-level finance: improving the accountability and effectiveness of urban development programmes

This paper aims to inform future policy by providing a critical analysis of grassroots finance models. It argues for more locally centred and driven sustainable development but also considers the limitations: What are the critical challenges of participation, scale and the translation of savings into development resources? By concentrating on activities with a high degree of community leadership, this paper looks at the challenges of shaping localised arrangements to fit with structured development programming.


Environment and Urbanization

Read latest E&U papers for free

Did you know in every issue of Environment and Urbanization, select papers will be available to download free of charge, and are available before they are published in a print or online issue to deliver the latest research as quickly as possible. Our next issue on urban humanitarian crises will be launched in October, but the below journal articles are available free of charge now. 
The participation of urban displaced populations in (in)formal markets: contrasting experiences in Kampala, Uganda
This paper examines the participation of refugee and internally displaced populations in markets in Kampala – the capital of a country with one of the largest refugee populations in the world. It investigates the experiences of Acholi, Somali and Congolese populations in the paper bead, bitenge fabric and cosmetics markets, respectively. Considerable diversity is found in the experiences of these different populations, relating to their access to basic services, supply chains, and diasporic networks.
Emergent groups and spontaneous volunteers in urban disaster response

Spontaneous responses by self-organizing, “emergent” voluntary groups and individuals are a common feature of urban disasters. Their activities include search and rescue, transporting and distributing relief supplies, and providing food and drink to victims and emergency workers. However, informal actors are rarely incorporated into formal disaster and humanitarian planning. This paper reviews the current state of knowledge concerning the nature and scale of emergent activity around the world, its impact in the short and long terms, challenges associated with it in different contexts, and lessons for future urban humanitarian practice.

Implementing area-based approaches (ABAs) in urban post-disaster contexts
This paper examines area-based approaches (ABAs) in urban post-disaster contexts. After introducing the main features of ABAs, the paper discusses current practice in humanitarian response, and the need within urban areas to draw lessons from urban development approaches, from which ABAs have emerged. The paper then presents lessons from research concerning the application of ABAs in relation to phases of the project management cycle: assessment and design, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation and learning. The paper ends with a brief discussion. Overall, it argues that for ABAs to be effective, they need to draw on longstanding lessons from urban development, plan for a longer timeframe for their actions than is otherwise often the case in recovery operations, and consider the need to scale up actions for wider city application.
IIED's urban matters blog


IIED's Urban Matters blog focuses on urban poverty, reducing urban risk and rural-urban linkages. It is part of IIED’s hub for research and action to influence policy and practice.
Community leaders in the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia planning with staff from the Namibia Housing Action Group (Photo: Diana Mitlin/IIED)
Financial inequalities; defining our age

A decade on from the global financial crisis, can the world's banks and financial institutions learn about value and values from grassroots savings schemes that help the world's lowest-income people?

Further publications

Better urban growth in Tanzania: A preliminary exploration of the opportunities and challenges
Tanzania has the sixth highest rate of urban population growth in the world, but so far it has been largely informal and unmanaged. This paper offers recommendations for managing Tanzania’s urban growth at the country level.

This paper is a new paper from the Coalition for Urban Transitions. 
Enabling private investment in informal settlements: exploring the potential of community finance
Enabling private investment in informal settlements: exploring the potential of community finance

This paper brings together evidence of successful public-private-community collaborations to (i) extend formal financial services to support housing and livelihood initiatives in informal settlements; (ii) leverage investment in low-income housing by blending the land holdings of communities, private development capital and state subsidies; and (iii) facilitating infrastructure investment by bridging information gaps and coordinating meaningful engagement by affected communities. By facilitating local participation in planning and delivering urban development, community finance can help to balance social and private returns in cities across the global South.
Making the case for the nexus between resilience and resource efficiency at the city scale
Making the case for the nexus between resilience and resource efficiency at the city scale

This paper – which introduces a special issue on resilience and resource efficiency at the city scale – introduces these two concepts and explores the nexus between them. It uses several case studies from different contexts to illustrate the relationship between these ideas, and describes how the papers in the issue engage with them. 
Community finance in five Asian countries
Community finance in five Asian countries

This report from ACHR presents the findings of a two-year study of community finance systems that are operated by the urban poor in five Asian countries, Cambodia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The study explores and compares the different models of community finance these important groups have developed, drawing out key elements and lessons to see how these people-driven finance systems can be strengthened and brought into the formal finance and development structures in their countries.

Partner spotlight

IRC logo
Our partner in our urban crises work is the International Rescue Committee. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

The IRC delivers aid that saves lives while paving the way for long-term recovery. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programmes and those of its partner organisations. 
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The urban newsletter is produced every two months by IIED's human settlements group. Our work focuses upon urban poverty and environmental issues. 
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