Development environment

Urban internal displacement

Many internally displaced people flee to, within and between cities. The full scale and scope of this displacement, however, is unknown.

Although images of camps with row upon row of tents on open land form many people's idea of life for the displaced, this is not fully representative of reality as many internally displaced people (IDPs) live in urban areas.

Despite claims that from half to the majority of IDPs live in cities, the scale of global urban internal displacement caused by violence, conflict, disasters or development has not yet been fully quantified or understood.

Displacement to, within and between cities is accelerating urbanisation. Many cities have only been able to absorb the rapid influx and movement of IDPs through the expansion of informal settlements. Their substandard conditions and insecure tenure exacerbate the vulnerability of IDPs.

Given that the world’s urban population is set to double by 2050, displacement will continue to have an urban dimension and contribute to urbanisation as one of the 21st century’s most transformative global trends.

Our work

In 2017-2020, we will seek to uncover how internal displacement reshapes cities, including:

  • how many IDPs find refuge in urban areas and what their displacement-specific needs are
  • how rapid and poorly regulated urban growth generates displacement and how, in turn, internal displacement changes the urban landscape.

Multi-disciplinary collaboration through the Global Alliance on Urban Crises and partners in the global South will be central to this work. Core objectives are to use the evidence generated to inform the implementation of the UN’s New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, ensuring that IDPs are not left behind and that future urbanization minimizes new displacement risk.