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Principles & Standards for Settlement Planning

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Key points
  • UNHCR discourages the establishment of camps and formal settlements that may limit enjoyment of basic rights for forcibly displaced and stateless people
  • Alternatives to camps should be pursued, whenever possible, while ensuring that forcibly displaced people are protected and assisted effectively and are able to achieve solutions
  • Protection and assistance can be compromised when settlements are established in unsuitable geographical locations. Use the Multi-sectoral Site Assessment Form for the selection of settlements locations
  • Failing to develop settlements based on good standards can result in unnecessary further loss, distress and risks for forcibly displaced persons
  • Follow the principles of the Master Plan Approach to Settlement Planning
  • As forced displacement grows in time and scale, settlement planning shall remain dynamic, adaptable and capable of responding to changes during and after a crisis

Post emergency phase

Even if an emergency response can be considered over, important considerations should be made to project settlements on the long run:

  • Camps and settlements are rarely occupied for short-term. Once put in place, camps are likely to exist over a long period of time - in many cases years or even decades.
  • Where assistance and services provided to forcibly displaced may create disparities with the host community, consider implementing Community Support Projects (CSPs), sharing goods and services, or advocate for increased development and/or governmental support. Eventually, on the long run a balance will need to be agreed upon between national and international standards, also factoring SDGs.
  • Consider maintenance and upgrades for shelter, infrastructures and facilities, involving the residents through effective settlement governance and community participation / mobilization mechanisms.
  • Service provision over that period is likely to remain the responsibility of humanitarian actors, and integration with local existing services will be challenging.
  • Camps can also distort local economies and in the long run adversely affect development planning.

In the event of formal settlement decommissioning:

  • Ensure service contracts and agreements are modified or terminated appropriately (including lease agreements with respect to housing, land and property assets)
  • Develop a plan for fair and transparent disposal, distribution or handover of assets or infrastructure. Hand responsibility for care and maintenance of infrastructure to national authorities or others (as appropriate).
  • Ensure latrines, rubbish pits, and washing facilities are safely decommissioned.
  • Ensure the site is returned to its previous condition, unless alternatives plans have been developed and agreed by national authorities and surrounding communities
  • Prepare a list of environmental concerns and prepare plans to address them.

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