More than 19.5 million refugees are dispersed across the globe, many living in camps averaging a stay of seventeen years. We partnered with Stanford University and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help UNHCR meet its commitment to enable refugees to access and live in dignity in secure settlements that improve their social, economic and environmental quality of life as a community. Due to daunting political conditions and the shortage of available land, not all refugee settlements meet established guidelines. This project responds to UNHCR's need to change its process of planning and operating refugee settlements; the goal is to nurture mutually beneficial relationships among refugees and host communities alike, while fostering a sense of place and ownership for displaced refugees.
The Toolkit we developed is a systematic framework for integrating information, design, technical tools and expertise of multiple disciplines and stakeholders to better plan settlements. This framework operates at three physical scales: macro, meso and micro, and five stages of camp evolution: contingency, emergency, transition, durable and exit phases. The Toolkit will enable UNHCR to plan and design refugee settlements in a more holistic manner by improving the selection process for potential camp sites and by defining the means to link refugee and host communities for their mutual benefit. Information gathered will be fed back into the process so that future efforts draw upon past experience.
The Toolkit will benefit refugees by improving their health, safety, nutrition and access to education and economic opportunity. It will benefit host communities by leveraging the economy and aid that camps can offer. Underlying the Toolkit's methodology is the belief that regardless of their labels - camp, settlement, etc. - refugee communities should offer their citizens and neighbors the quality of life possible in more normative urban and semi-urban society.