Lessons from the coordination of refugee responses

Question

What lessons are there on what has made mixed humanitarian coordination models (with two or multiple coexisting lead agencies) most successful?

What lessons have we learnt about supporting the capacity of host governments and local authorities to lead on and coordinate a response to large-scale and/or protracted refugee or displacement response?

Summary

The literature review found little evidence of successes in coordination of refugee responses involving multiple lead agencies. Rather, it identified some clear lessons to emerge from recent experience of refugee response coordination, in particular from the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon. While host governments are assigned primary responsibility for refugee responses in international law, they face many challenges and, in practice, it is aid agencies who lead these – often bypassing host state actors. The literature highlights the need to involve host states and stresses the importance of capacity building to support this.  Concerns over lack of capacity and/or misuse of aid by affected host states mean that the ‘norm’ in international humanitarian assistance models has been ‘state avoidance’, with aid agencies taking the lead in refugee responses. Some wealthier developing countries are now asserting their lead role in responding to disasters, but capacity can still be a constraint.

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Suggested citation

Idris, I. (2017). Lessons from the coordination of refugee responses. K4D Helpdesk Report 225. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.