Settlement profiling tool: A spatial analysis framework for settlements accommodating displaced populations

Manual and Guideline
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Typically, shelter and settlement responses in camps evolve gradually over the course of a crisis. Responses begin by meeting the immediate needs of displaced persons, then go on to address a wide range of medium-term requirements, before ultimately focussing on supporting durable solutions. During a phased response, shelter or settlement interventions should support the well-being of displaced persons and broader community development by:

• Supporting populations of concern to obtain the best possible living conditions in a safe location, while taking into consideration the specific needs of certain groups or individuals;

• Linking humanitarian responses to long term recovery by implementing ‘forward-looking’ and ‘solutions-focused’ design and development for humanitarian settlements;

• Identifying risks to the sustainable development of settlements and taking proactive steps to strengthen local resilience capacities.

When establishing a new settlement, or considering a significant extension, the Master Plan Approach (MPA) provides a framework for design and development, which facilitates the evolution of camps into sustainable communities, and ultimately promotes their integration into the wider hosting environment. The MPA allows technical teams to plan and design a settlement that aligns with wider contextual considerations. This approach enables more resilient outcomes that can be integrated with a wide range of actors from various sectors (e.g. Humanitarian partners, development actors, relevant national, sub-national and local authorities). The approach aligns with the provisions of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

Settlement profiling is based on the guiding principles of the MPA. It focuses on developing a more comprehensive understanding of a settlement and provides an analytical framework for assessing the settlement conditions in their wider context. Its findings ultimately point the way to longer term planning considerations. The settlement profiling tool is also designed to guide data collection and analysis in a flexible manner, linking key areas of inquiry to the MPA guiding principles as well as aligning with sustainable development principles such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA). This also allows the tool to be used as a regular reference guide for field staff, thereby enabling an incremental approach to analysis where field conditions do not permit a single clear profiling process. Furthermore, as the tool directly addresses the questions set out in the MPA, it can also be useful for initiating more comprehensive implementation of the MPA and simultaneously incorporating local and international sustainable development priorities.


Formulating a settlement profile with sufficient content to inform technical and policy planning is likely to take 3-5 months of solid work from 2-3 professional staff. Before embarking on this process, it is important to understand if there is a suitable enabling environment for a settlement profile to be carried out effectively. Consider the following key when deciding whether it is feasible to carry out a profiling process:

• Do you have the appropriate human resources with time availability and technical capacity to carry out a profile?

• What are the viable next steps that could be undertaken after the profile has been completed?

• Is the political environment conducive to discussing medium-term perspectives?

• Is the security environment safe enough to allow for field surveys, site visits and community consultations?