You are on page 1of 3


Profiling urban IDPs

Anne Davies and Karen Jacobsen
New methodology used for profiling urban IDPs is enabling and joblessness provide a magnet
researchers to assess and contextualise the particular needs of this for urban crime.5 Determining who,
how many and where these urban
group and to address the implications for humanitarian action. IDPs are can translate into helping
Attempts to estimate the numbers of IDPs, and this differentiates them country authorities manage each
people who are internally displaced from other surveys that explicitly caseload through context-sensitive,
within their own countries invariably seek to identify a targeted population targeted protection and assistance
come up against the challenge group. Instead, researchers focused programmes. By association, such
of estimating those who have on areas where IDPs were likely to programmes could alleviate the
been forcibly displaced to urban be living (as well as control areas plight of host families who are often
centres. Calculating the numbers where displacement was considered reported to be as destitute as the
and characteristics of IDPs in a to be insignificant) and profiled all IDPs they support6 as well as the
country IDP profiling is all the the residents in a given area; they millions of urban poor who share
more complex in urban settings then used secondary analysis to the scarce resources of the IDPs and
because the IDPs are not readily determine who among the residents suffer similar poor living conditions.
identifiable. Urban IDPs comprise a were displaced, according to
hidden population, and aid agencies criteria in the Guiding Principles Key findings
and governments have difficulty on Internal Displacement.1 The three studies confirmed many
identifying them and understanding assumptions about the characteristics
their experiences relative to the The studies showed that urban IDPs of urban IDPs. Using the most recent
host population amongst whom can be profiled, that the methodology population census data in each
they live. Little is known about their tested is feasible for doing so and city, and based on the percentage
demographics, basic needs and that estimates of urban IDPs can be of IDPs identified in the surveys
protection problems, yet they are made.2 But why is all this information proportionate to non-IDPs, the
believed to be among the poorest needed and who does it benefit? studies were able to extrapolate
and most vulnerable groups in the likely number of IDPs in each
many conflict-affected countries. Why profile urban IDPs? city. The findings showed that IDPs
Firstly, the phenomenon of urban comprise a significant percentage
Recognising the need to include IDPs is too big to ignore: over four of the urban population: 21% in
estimates of urban IDPs, the Feinstein million globally, out of a total of Khartoum, 9% in Abidjan and
International Centre (FIC) of Tufts some 26 million people displaced by 15% in Santa Marta. In Abidjan, in
University in conjunction with the conflict and over 36 million displaced some areas of the city almost 8% of
Internal Displacement Monitoring by natural disasters.3 Other estimates non-IDP households were hosting
Centre (IDMC) conducted three suggest that perhaps as many as IDPs, and in Santa Marta 2-3% of
urban profiling studies between half of all IDPs migrate to urban non-IDP households were in host
2006 and 2008 in Khartoum areas, particularly to capital cities, families. Hosting of IDPs is an
(Sudan), Abidjan (Ivory Coast) where they blend into the population important aspect of urban profiling
and Santa Marta (Colombia). of urban poor and migrants.4 to include in future studies.

Urban profiling is significantly Secondly, without a clear definition Using uniform indicators such as
more complex than identifying of urban IDPs and clarification of the housing conditions, access to potable
and counting IDPs living in camps, actual target for any new policy, it is water, access to social services
usually in rural areas. Urban IDPs impossible to design and implement (schools, health, transportation,
are not formally separated from effective durable solutions. Although police stations, etc), levels of
the local community or housed in it is often difficult to distinguish rural education and employment, the
easily recognisable regions. They areas from peri-urban areas, and the surveys revealed that IDPs and non-
are found scattered across urban forced IDPs from regular rural-to- IDPs share similar demographic
areas, making them difficult to urban migrants, these distinctions characteristics and experience
distinguish from economic migrants are crucial for national and the same stresses related to urban
and the urban poor. In addition, they international authorities to be able poverty and lack of adequate
are unlikely to reveal themselves to provide measured and effective infrastructure. However, urban
when their security is threatened. assistance to millions of urban IDPs. IDPs were found to be poorer,
at a greater disadvantage and
Recognising this, the Tufts-IDMC Thirdly, in the context of growing experiencing more insecurity
researchers took into account the urbanisation, IDPs may be perceived than their non-IDP neighbours.
need to avoid drawing too much as a brake on development of urban IDPs arrived impoverished their
attention to urban IDPs alone. The areas where their fear of identification land, harvests and other assets
surveys therefore did not seek out leads them to avoid civil registration (including documents) having been
IDPs, nor did they ask respondents and where overcrowding, lost, stolen or destroyed, and they
if they considered themselves to be competition for scarce resources were often traumatised from these
FMR 34

experiences. In terms of accessing of security forces and/or the civilian with a great deal of care, so that they
urban livelihoods opportunities, IDPs population, and are more likely to be help IDPs but do not antagonize
are at a disadvantage because they the victims of looting, intimidation the host community, which
tend to lack support networks, urban and extortion by militia and ultimately provides their most
livelihood skills and knowledge criminal groups in the urban area. direct assistance and support. On
of the urban setting, and they the other hand, specially targeted
may not speak the language. Programme and policy implications initiatives can be designed to address
What policy conclusions can be their unique protection issues.
IDPs key protection concerns drawn from urban profiling and
included feelings of insecurity, what kind of programmes can be Specific programmes can therefore
being obliged to move several times devised to address them? In other be divided into a) activities that
within the city due to eviction or to words, how can urban profiling address the urban poor in general,
escape detection, liability to forced findings be converted into conceptual of whom IDPs constitute a major but
relocation (Khartoum), inability and operational frameworks to diffused group, and b) those that
or unwillingness to return to their assist urban IDPs without causing target the particular concerns of IDPs.
former areas of origin (due mostly them further danger or distress?
to continuing insecurity or having a) Urban revitalisation
lost all their land and assets7) The Tufts-IDMC studies suggest that, programmes targeting pro-poor
and not being in possession of given the subtle differences between urban planning and municipal
identity documents (marriage, birth IDPs and the urban poor amongst reforms include improving urban
certificates, school records). The whom they live, programmes infrastructure such as building
latter implies difficulties of access should not only target IDPs but also safer housing; providing safer and
more accessible water
and sanitation, schools

Eric Levron, June 2007

and health services; and
creating child-friendly
spaces, sports areas and
community centres.
Livelihoods programmes
could help IDPs as well
as the host population to
build up their livelihood
capacities, providing them
with greater resilience
to cope with future
shocks and promoting
their physical security.
Such programmes might
include micro-finance
schemes to boost income
generation and vocational
adjustment programmes
as a strategy for learning
and applying new ways
to build household
income. In two of the
cases examined, Sudan
and Colombia,8 the
former vocations of IDPs
either made them targets
of violence or failed to
provide them with the
means to save enough to
IDP compound in the Abobo neighbourhood of Abidjan. give them more options in
their families strategies.
Vocational adjustment
to civil rights and social benefits encompass poverty alleviation of the initiatives can help them learn new
such as education and formal work, poorest and most vulnerable societies skills and capabilities relevant to
making it harder for the displaced to in which they live. IDPs physical and their urban settings, improving
lay claim to their rights as citizens. social proximity to their neighbours their chances of employment or
Findings for the most part confirmed means that their wellbeing and creating new businesses.
other studies that have reported how security are closely tied to their
IDPs have been deliberately targeted relations with their host community. b) Protection measures: The greatest
by authorities and subjected to Under these circumstances it is possible service to IDPs would be
harassment and violence at the hands important to design IDP programmes to help them obtain identification

documents. This would reduce their

IDMC, November 2006

vulnerability to a range of threats
and provide them with greater
equality of opportunity with respect
to their economic development.
Assisting with legal problems or
helping them fight discrimination
by landlords or employers are other
potential programming areas.
Targeting resources should be done
in a strategic way to ensure that
they address those vulnerabilities
specific to IDPs only, while avoiding
IDPs being seen as receiving special
treatment. IDP vulnerabilities
vary in each city, depending on
the political and displacement
context. While many urban IDPs
are unwilling or unable to return
home, those who wish to do so
should be assisted by all means
possible. Registering for organised
return or providing individual
families with the financial means
to return would be small but Informal dwelling in Khartoum.
significant factors in promoting
durable solutions. Finally, where
possible, it is important to reinforce design and implement the longer- develop better-informed strategies
the response of the state, not term municipal planning, urban to assist and protect IDPs. They
replace it, in identifying durable revival and livelihoods programmes provide a wealth of information for
solutions whether this is return, through participatory approaches designing appropriate programmes
integration or resettlement to involving local authorities, civil adapted to each specific context,
different parts of the country. In the society and the targeted population in support of government efforts
case of Colombia, the international groups. Humanitarian agencies may to implement whatever durable
community has supported the intervene in areas where IDPs are solutions may be required.
government with constitutional clustered to provide or enhance basic
reform that aims to protect the amenities such as water, sanitation, Anne Davies (annedavies99@
rights of IDPs. In Ivory Coast, health and shelter programmes but is an independent
government initiatives are starting these should be durable interventions consultant focusing on forced
to help IDPs retrieve or replace lost that assist development, not just migration and early recovery. Karen
documentation that will allow them stop-gap measures. International Jacobsen (karen.jacobsen@tufts.
access to their full civil rights. NGOs also have a role to play, for edu) is Associate Professor at the
example in implementing legal aid Feinstein International Center, Tufts
Involved actors programmes specifically targeting University (
IDPs are the responsibility of the the protection concerns of IDPs, while 1.
state and most initiatives should training and building the capacity Article 2

emanate from national authorities, of local authorities and civil society. 2. Reports of all three studies (which include details
of methodology) are online at:
who may nevertheless need to call TuftsIDMCprofiling
upon the international community The three urban profiling studies 3. Estimated by IDMC, cited in Ignored Displaced
Persons: the plight of IDPs in urban areas, (p.1) UNHCR
to assist with financial and technical demonstrate that it is feasible, at 2008.
resources. The states fundamental reasonable cost, not only to obtain 4. Karen Jacobsen, Profiling Urban IDPs: How IDPs differ
role is to ensure effective application better estimates and characteristics from their non-IDP neighbors in three cities, Feinstein
International Center, Tufts University, 2008 (prepared
of the rule of law and, specifically, of urban IDPs but also to gain a for book chapter in The Migration-Displacement Nexus:
to develop national legislation that greater understanding of a whole Concepts, Cases and Responses, edited by Khalid Koser and
Susan Martin, forthcoming 2010).
protects the rights of all its citizens range of contextual issues that 5. See Richard Black and Jon Sward Migration, Poverty
including the internally displaced. concern them: the host communities Reduction Strategies and Human Development, UNDP
Human Development Research Paper, 2009/38, p12:
with whom they share living
Emergency action through conditions and resources, the HDRP_2009_38.pdf
humanitarian agencies may be similarities and differences of their 6. This finding was particularly noted in the Santa Marta
necessary in cases of crisis, for vulnerabilities and capacities, and
7. Except in the case of many IDPs interviewed in Abidjan
example in rapid onset emergencies future aspirations and intentions. who wanted to return home but were unable to, mostly
that cause large numbers of people Such information, taken alone or due to lack of resources.

to flee to urban centres for temporary located within the broader context 8. Richard Hill, Kari Jorgensen Diener, Sue Miller, and
Thomas White IDP Livelihoods: IDP Livelihoods and
protection. By and large, however, it of urban migration and poverty, can Personal Security: Case Studies from Colombia and
Sudan, 2006. Refugee Survey Quarterly 25: 40-59. http://rsq.
is the role of development actors to help governments and aid agencies