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Humanitarian interventions in situations of urban violence

Working papers

​This paper identifies lessons emerging from humanitarian interventions in violent urban settings. It is operationally oriented and intended primarily for field staff involved in programme design and evaluation. Lessons are drawn from case studies and evaluations of humanitarian organisations and agencies operating in such settings. 

The range of violence in urban settings is broad, from high levels of interpersonal and criminal violence to gang violence to urban warfare conducted by recognised armed actors. Each situation is different. This paper focuses on key lessons that are broad enough to apply to most of these contexts. 

Practices referred to here mainly pertain to adapting humanitarian responses so that they can be more successful when undertaken against a context of urban violence (for example, conducting water and sanitation or shelter interventions in cities with high levels of violence) or to conducting humanitarian responses which specifically address the effects of violence (such as health interventions in cities at war). 

The paper does not consider ‘peace building’ activities, or activities aimed at addressing the root causes of violence. While these are extremely important, they generally fall beyond the remit of the humanitarian organisations that form the ALNAP Membership. Because of its focus on urban violence in the city, this paper does not cover interventions related to internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees displaced to urban settings, where such reception settings are not necessarily violent.

Elena Lucchi