Learning from the city - British Red Cross Urban Learning Project Scoping Study

from British Red Cross
Published on 31 Dec 2012

Executive summary

Every day, more than 100,000 people move to slums in the developing world – that’s one person every second. Nearly 1.5 billion people currently live in informal settlements and slums without adequate access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation. Many are at risk of hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, earthquakes and epidemics, as well as crime, fires and industrial accidents. Some cities have a growing potential for violence, relating to criminality, elections or political conflict. However, many increasingly offer sanctuary to those fleeing conflict, persecution and insecurity in rural areas.

It is, therefore, clear that urban areas should be a significant and growing centre of humanitarian concern. Humanitarian action, however, has traditionally had a rural focus, helping people in the countryside displaced by conflict or disasters. With over 50 per cent of the world’s seven billion people living in urban areas, the face of human vulnerability is changing globally. While much work has been done on urban risk and vulnerability, the humanitarian sector has been slower to understand what this means operationally for agencies.

This scoping study is the first step for the British Red Cross and its partners in better understanding the challenges posed by humanitarian action in urban areas, and how it might approach them more strategically. It is primarily intended for the British Red Cross’ international division and its partners, although some of the general findings are also of relevance to other parts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement), as well as to other humanitarian agencies, from those of the United Nations (UN) to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The study sets out what works in urban areas, what is relevant to British Red Cross ways of working and, importantly, what is practical for staff. While drawing lessons from humanitarian programmes across the globe, the study focuses principally on evidence from five British Red Cross operational contexts: Haiti (Port- au-Prince), Uganda (Kampala and other cities), Djibouti ( Djibouti-ville), Mongolia (Ulaanbataar) and Nepal (Kathmandu).

The study looks at the evolving nature of risk and vulnerability in urban areas relating to natural hazards, urban violence and conflict, markets and livelihoods, health and water, sanitation and hygiene, and shelter, land and the built environment.