Key Issues

Displacement Trends

Displacement is increasing and caused by a combination of circumstances. There are more frequent and complex natural disasters, political crises are increasingly intense, and for populations displaced by disaster and conflict, a growing number is seeking refuge in urban environments. Although exact numbers are unknown, as observed in the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) 2014 Urban Displacement and Out of Camp Desk Review, recent research indicates that numbers of urban displaced populations, especially refugees and asylum seekers, are increasing. Out of fear of harassment, detention and possible refoulement (the forcible return of a refugee to place of origin) many urban refugees and IDPs are unregistered and undocumented. Despite lacking effective protection and potentially becoming more vulnerable, displaced populations are attracted to urban areas due to economic opportunities and access to social facilities, especially in conditions of protracted displacement. In addition to those displaced to urban collective centres, limited numbers of displaced people in urban locations will have recourse to camp based protection and service provision.


Data on Global Displacement Trends

The sources of information mentioned below are from websites providing a global picture of displacement worldwide.

The UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database and the UNHCR Statistical Yearbooks provide statistical reports on refugees, asylum-seekers, returned refugees, IDPs and stateless persons. Detailed information on country of asylum, place of origin, gender, age, location and legal status of refugees as well as global trends reports are also available (

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is the IASC’s mandated source of information and analysis on internal displacement. IDMC’s flagship annual report, The Global Overview: People Internally Displaced by Conflict and Violence, covers displacement occurring in conflict-affected countries during the previous years. It is produced with data provided by governments, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies. IDMC also publishes quarterly updates and reports related to specific displacement contexts and dynamics ( World Migration Report, issued by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), provides an overview of key facts and figures of migration trends (

Other Sources on Displacement Issues

Forced Migration Review (FMR), one of the most widely read publications on forced migration, is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. It is published by the Refugee Studies Centre in the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. Authors analyse the causes and impacts of displacement, debate policies and programmes, share research findings, reflect on displacement realities and introduce examples of good practice and recommendations for policy and action (

Humanitarian Response is a platform provided to the humanitarian community to support coordination of operational information and related activities. The technical aspects are managed by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in accordance with responsibilities outlined in the IASC's Operational Guidance on Responsibilities Of Cluster/Sector Leads & OCHA In Information Management (



Refugees are recognised under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. They are defined as persons who: “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it” (UNHCR, 1951).


Legal Instruments in Refugee Contexts

Camp management is informed by key instruments of international law –international humanitarian law, and human rights law– which comprehensively codify the rights of refugees at the international level. These conventions and protocols together with its statute provide the basis for UNHCR’s mandate to protect and assist refugees worldwide. For information on rights and duties in relation to refugees, see:

  • 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
  • 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
  • 1949 Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two protocols of 1977.

Regional instruments relevant to refugees include:

  • 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
  • 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.


Each sovereign state has an option to accept refugees, and is obliged to provide refuge depending on the circumstances of the refugee’s displacement. States will have varying duties in accordance with which laws have been ratified and are recognised in their national constitutions. In refugee camps, and in keeping with their international mandate, UNHCR is the Sector Lead Agency with whom the Camp Management Agency coordinates. It is the role of UNHCR to liaise with the host government on issues of responsibility, liability and duty.


Internally Displaced Persons

IDPs are those who: “have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border” (OCHA, 2004). Since, unlike a refugee, an IDP has not crossed an international border s/he is not subject to or protected by special international legislation. Instead, IDPs rely on their own national legal framework and the state for protection.

IDPs are protected by human rights law and associated instruments, as they maintain their full legal status as civilians in their own country, with all the standard entitlements. Human rights are freedoms and entitlements that every human should enjoy. IDPs are afforded the same human rights and freedoms under international law (human rights law, international humanitarian law) and national law (customary law and constitutions) as every other citizen in their country. International law guarantees these rights and obliges sovereign states to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all persons without discrimination of any kind, including discrimination on the grounds of being, or having been, internally displaced.

Principles set out by the IASC clearly state that: "Persons affected by natural disasters should enjoy the same rights and freedoms under human rights law as others in their country and not be discriminated against. Targeted measures to address assistance and protection needs of specific categories of the affected populations do not constitute discrimination if, and to the extent that, they are based on differing needs" (IASC, Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters, Protecting Persons Affected by Natural Disasters, 2006).

When the state is party to the displacement, IDPs must seek protection through the framework of international humanitarian law.


Rights of IDPs

There are no specific international conventions related to IDPs and IDPs do not benefit from the support of an internationally mandated agency. However, the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were developed to guide stakeholders, including national authorities, on IDP protection and assistance. They provide an authoritative framework for the identification of the rights, guarantees and standards relevant to the protection of IDPs. They reflect and are consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law and refugee law by analogy.

There are two regional initiatives that bind government to provide legal protection to IDPs:

  • The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention, that came into force in 2012
  • The Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to IDPs included in the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region that entered into force in 2008.


Types of Temporary Settlements

The types of settlements where IDPs and refugees can temporarily seek assistance and protection take a variety of forms. They can be planned or spontaneous and grouped or dispersed depending on the type of emergency, the setting and the external factors involved.

In some displacement situations, there may be need for a Camp Management Agency to operate through mobile team visits. However, the use of camp management is primarily applicable in communal displacement settings which includes camps, collective centres, reception- and transit centres, and evacuation centres.

Temporary Settlement Types Characteristics
Planned camps can be located in either urban or rural locations. They are places where displaced populations find accommodation on purpose-built sites, and are provided with full services including water supply, food distribution, non-food item distribution, education, and health care. The use of these sites is typically exclusively for the population of the site.
Displaced groups, often smaller family groups, may self-settle in urban or rural sites on their own. These types of camps are typically independent of assistance and exist without receiving any humanitarian interventions. Self-settled camps are often situated on state-owned, private or communal land, usually after limited or no negotiations with the local population or private owners over use and access. In some cases, a Camp Management Agency may operate in the vicinity and learn about the displaced persons' needs and attempt to bring them into the management structure in order for them to receive assistance. In these settings a Camp Management Agency would most likely work with leadership structures already put in place by the displaced community.
A place where displaced persons find accommodation in pre-existing public buildings (which were likely not constructed as accommodation) and community facilities, for example, in schools, factories, barracks, community centres, town halls, gymnasiums, hotels, warehouses, disused factories and unfinished buildings. These are often used when displacement occurs in an urban setting or when there are significant flows of displaced people into a city or town. Similar to a camp, a collective centre is intended only as a temporary or transit accommodation. Levels of assistance may vary from full assistance to varying levels of self-reliance, and collective centre management can have a strong role to play here in terms of coordinating services.
Reception and
Transit Centres
Reception and transit centres might be necessary at the beginning of an emergency as temporary accommodation pending transfer to a suitable, safe, longer term camp, or at the end of an operation as a staging point of return. Reception and transit camps are, therefore, usually either intermediate or short-term installations and they may also host returnees.
Emergency evacuation centres may be established to provide appropriate temporary shelter for persons fleeing a specific and immediate threat, such as fighting, or a natural hazard, such as a cyclone or an earthquake. Schools, sport arenas and religious or civic buildings are often used for this purpose. Emergency evacuation centres should be prepared and planned for in advance of disaster events where and when possible.


Although planned camps can create a pull factor for the services, assistance and safety they provide, a camp is not always the first settlement option chosen by displaced populations. When there is a specific social, ethnic or religious relationship between the displaced and friends or family, temporarily staying with a host family is common. Seeking post-displacement shelter in a host family may be short or long term, and levels of humanitarian intervention may vary from substantial assistance to nothing. However, resources within a host family, and across communities, may become strained, particularly when displacement becomes protracted.

There is a common perception that populations living in a camp are clearly separated from the surrounding areas. In reality, camp borders are less rigid and the movement in and out of camps is very fluid. Often the Camp Management Agency is confronted with the need to provide support to operations that target populations outside camps such as when IDPs living in the host community are assisted within the camp structure. In other cases the Camp Management Agency is involved in facilitating return and reintegration processes at the community level, either by providing assistance in the preparation of an IDP return or in following-up assessments of IDPs' reintegration after departure.

For these reasons, the CCCM Cluster explored how camp management tools and methodologies may be relevant and adaptable to out of camp contexts. The analysis' results were presented in a desk review conducted in 2013-2014.


Trends of Outside of Camps Displacement

Eighty per cent of IDPs currently live outside camps in isolated rural areas, hosted by local families, in subsidised or rented housing, dispersed in urban environments and often mixed with migrants and local poor, or gathered in small spontaneous settlements of three to five households (Urban Displacement and Out of Camp Desk Review, 2014).

More than half the global number of refugees are in individual accommodation (54 per cent), while 35 per cent were reportedly in planned/managed camps, 6.5 per cent in self-settled camps and four per cent in collective centres (UNHCR, June 2013 and UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2012).

Displaced persons decide to reside outside camps due to a number of factors. In some cases camps are not available, security is lacking or distance makes camps inaccessible. Displaced persons may also feel more physically and emotionally secure outside camps, or living in a camp may be unacceptable for cultural reasons.


The Camp Life Cycle

The life cycle of a camp may be illustrated as followed:

Chapter 1: The Camp Life Cycle

The illustration introduces the three phases of a camp's life cycle: camp set-up/improvement, camp care and maintenance and camp closure. These three phases follow each other with an overlapping period. The common zones represent situations where a camp may face two stages at the same time. For example, on one hand the Camp Management Agency may be engaged in simultaneous activities with new arrivals by coordinating the start-up of services and protection activities such as shelter, food and NFIs assistance and provision of water (set-up phase) and on the other hand monitoring the gaps and overlaps in protection and services (care and maintenance phase) for displaced populations already living in the camp. The Camp Management Agency's role will vary according to the phase the camp has reached in its life cycle.


Durable Solutions

Residence in a camp is never to be considered a durable solution. Rather, it is always a temporary response to a situation of displacement. For IDPs and refugees, achievement of a durable solution is the key to ending displacement and has to be taken into consideration from the beginning of the camp response.

There are three types of durable solutions: repatriation/return, local integration, or resettlement (Brookings, 2007).

Durable solutions



Repatriation to the country of origin Sustainable reintegration at the place of origin (also referred to as return)
Integration in the country of asylum Sustainable local integration in areas where IDPs take refuge (also referred as to local integration)
Resettlement in a third country Sustainable integration in another part of the country (also referred to as settlement)


The Pinheiro Principles provide international standards relating to the rights of refugees and displaced persons to return. Principle 10 outlines the “right of all refugees and displaced persons to return voluntarily to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence, in safety and dignity” (Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions, 2005). The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement further outline the rights of IDPs relating to return, resettlement, and integration (IASC 2004).

Status as a refugee ends once an individual re-establishes a protective state-citizen bond through one of the three durable solutions. There is no legal consensus as to when the condition of being an IDP ceases because identification as an IDP does not confer special status under international law. However, a person can be considered no longer being displaced when s/he no longer has protection and assistance needs directly related to her/his experience of displacement.


IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons

This states that durable solution are: “achieved when IDPs no longer have specific assistance and protection needs that are linked to their displacement, and such persons can enjoy their human rights without discrimination resulting from their displacement” (IASC, 2010). Resolution of the immediate cause of displacement is usually not sufficient to create a durable solution. For example, when a camp is closing and IDPs are not registered to receive assistance, it does not necessarily mean they have found a durable solution.

The framework introduces eight criteria to help determine where a durable solution has been achieved:

  • long term safety and security
  • adequate standard of living
  • access to livelihoods
  • restoration of housing, land and property
  • access to documentation
  • family reunification
  • participation in public affairs
  • access to effective remedies and justice.


Because residence in a camp is only a temporary solution to displacement, the Camp Management Agency, within its circle of influence, has an active role to play in contributing to analysis of whether a durable solutions has been achieved. Achievement of durable solutions is intrinsically linked to camp closure. In certain circumstances, the closure of a camp does not mean a durable solution is attained. It is the role of the Camp Management Agency to coordinate with all stakeholders, including donors and national authorities, to advocate for the conditions for an appropriate voluntary return, integration, or resettlement process, and to inform members of the camp community of their rights.


Contingency Planning and Preparedness

Contingency planning for camps is often overlooked in disaster risk reduction and disaster response preparedness. However, there is much that both national authorities and humanitarian stakeholders can do in terms of mapping capacity, resources identification, gap analysis, training on preparedness measures, establishment of displacement tracking systems, identification of vulnerable persons in high risk areas, and planning for different disaster and conflict scenarios. As global lead for CCCM in natural disasters, IOM is working to integrate preparedness planning, safe evacuations and risk reduction into its CCCM work with national authorities, in particularly with regard to being prepared to respond to displacement-induced needs with camp based responses. UNHCR, as the global lead for CCCM in conflict situations, also works with relevant national authorities to plan how to respond to additional displacements, potential changes in conflict dynamics and sudden camp population increases.

As part of preparedness activities, stakeholders can work together to build the capacity of all actors to be better prepared for potential large scale displacement which requires the planning and creation of camps. In disaster prone countries, in particular, national authorities are becoming increasingly organised to address national disasters, including with planning responses to communal displacement. Greater coordination and joint planning between stakeholders as part of contingency planning will only serve to strengthen humanitarian responses.


The Mass Evacuation National Disaster (MEND) Guide

When a natural hazard occurs, a large number of persons may need to move within a very short period of time from a dangerous area. The ways evacuations are carried out have a significant impact on the ability to provide assistance and protection to populations in evacuation centres. The CCCM Cluster has developed a guide for planning mass evacuations in natural disasters (MEND Guide, 2014). This provides key background considerations as well as a template to assist relevant national authorities with the development of evacuation plans in accordance with emergency management principles.


Humanitarian Reform and the Cluster Approach

In 2005, in response to the ad hoc and unpredictable nature of many international responses to humanitarian emergencies, the UN Secretary-General commissioned an independent Humanitarian Response Review (HRR) of the global humanitarian system. In response to its recommendations, IASC launched in 2005 a process to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response through greater predictability, accountability, responsibility, and partnership in situations of internal displacement. A key initiative of this reform was the creation of the Cluster Approach.

Clusters are groups of humanitarian organisations, both UN and non-UN, in each main sector of humanitarian action. They are designated by the IASC and have clear responsibilities for coordination. The Cluster Approach aims to ensure sufficient global humanitarian capacity, as well as effectiveness of response, in five key ways:

  • ensure sufficient global capacity
  • ensure predictable leadership
  • enhance the concept of partnership
  • strengthen accountability
  • improve strategic field-level coordination and prioritisation.

The IASC further agreed that the Cluster Approach was to be implemented at the field level in all L3 emergencies –the UN classification for the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises– involving internal displacement, in ongoing emergencies and in all contingency planning for new emergencies.

The diagram below illustrates the 11 global clusters and indicates their leads (IASC, 2012):

Chapter 1 - Humanitarian Reform and the Cluster Approach


The HRR also noted that almost all recent operations have disclosed a weakness in camp management. It highlighted a lack of ownership for the broader aspects of working with internally displaced populations in camp situations, weak capacity, and a lack of standards and shared tools. This resulted in the creation of the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster as a key priority where there was no established network of agencies and organisations, beyond the Inter-Agency Camp Management Project, working in a coordinated approach to camp management and coordination.

Recognising the challenges within the multilateral humanitarian response, the IASC undertook a review of the cluster system, building on lessons learned in 2010 and 2011. Based on an analysis of challenges to leadership and coordination, in December 2011, the IASC agreed to the Transformative Agenda, a set of actions that collectively represent a substantive improvement to the current humanitarian response model (IASC, 2012).

These include:

  • a mechanism to deploy strong, experienced humanitarian leadership
  • strengthening of leadership capacities and rapid deployment of humanitarian leaders
  • improved strategic planning
  • enhanced accountability
  • streamlined coordination mechanisms.

Within the Cluster system, the global CCCM Cluster is a joint cluster with two co-leads: UNHCR for conflict-induced displacement and IOM for displacement following natural disasters. The unified CCCM Cluster for conflict and natural disaster was agreed so as to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure complementarity in activities, as the priorities in both types of emergencies are similar and many field partners respond to both types. CCCM, as a cross cutting cluster, works closely with other clusters to ensure gaps are filled and duplication is limited.

At the field level the CCCM Cluster strives to achieve an effective and efficient coordinated humanitarian response in situations where IDPs are forced to seek refuge in camps and camp-like settings. The cluster does not promote camps, and aims at ending camp life through the promotion of durable solutions. The main goals of CCCM include:

  • improving assistance to and the protection of IDPs in and across camps
  • advocating for durable solutions
  • securing humanitarian space
  • ensuring that camp coordination and camp management as a key sector is resourced with adequate staff and funding
  • organising closure and phase-out of camps upon IDP returns
  • mainstreaming cross-cutting issues including gender, age, HIV/AIDS, environment and psycho-social support.

The CCCM is now a well recognised cluster playing an important leadership role in coordinating and managing camps. Since the humanitarian reform, the CCCM developed a number of tools, training materials and technical guidance that are increasingly applied in numerous countries.


The Refugee Coordination Model

"The Refugee Coordination Model ensures inclusiveness, predictability and transparency, as well as clear lines of accountability. It aims to be light, operations-focused and impact-oriented. The standard elements are:

  • Direct advocacy on all international protection matters with the host Government by the UNHCR Representative.
  • Strategic planning for all phases of the response led by the Representative with operational partners in the development of a protection and solutions strategy, including development actors.
  • An inclusive Refugee Consultation Forum at national level, co-chaired by the Government (wherever possible) and the Representative, on the overall refugee response.
  • A UNHCR Refugee Coordinator to lead and coordinate a multi-sectoral response and ensure participation of sector-leads and all players at the field level, supported by a Multi-sector Operations Team with expertise and capacity to facilitate needs assessment, planning, monitoring, reporting and information management across all sectors.
  • A UNHCR-led Refugee Protection Working Group responsible for the coordination of protection services and for mainstreaming protection throughout other operational sectors. Service-delivery sectors, led by Government line ministries and/or (co) chaired by partners and/or UNHCR. Sectors are intended to connect to Government-led development mechanisms, if feasible.
  • Arrangements on sector coordination and delivery with multiple potential partners, to ensure a predictable response. Agencies may wish to draw upon Global Cluster resources to support the delivery of services."

UNHCR, Refugee Coordination Model, 2013. A comparison of cluster, refugee and development systems may be found in the Tools section.


Stakeholders Involved in Camp Response

A variety of national authorities, humanitarian agencies, community volunteers, civil society and private sector stakeholders will be involved in the running of a camp. As a result, the Camp Management Agency will need to work in close coordination with a variety of actors, all of whom have a vested but often distinct interest in the life of the camp.

Camp Management Agency

Because all displacement and humanitarian interventions are different, a Camp Management Agency may begin its work at different times. It must be prepared to cope with rapidly evolving situations, new challenges and frequently changing tasks as the needs of the population change.

In the camp, the Camp Management Agency plays a central role to ensure the provision of assistance and protection for the displaced by taking into account their physical, psychological, cultural, social, and emotional well-being. This is achieved through establishing monitoring and oversight systems for tracking the changing needs of the camp population and promoting community participation. The Camp Management Agency must promote adequate and appropriate assistance through the implementation of standards and promote protection mainstreaming in all sectoral interventions. The Camp Management Agency also develops governance and participation forums that enable displaced women, men, boys, and girls to access services and protection.

Under the overall coordination and support provided by the Camp Coordination Agency, the Camp Management Agency closely collaborates with on-site authorities (the Camp Administration) and liaises with them on behalf of all humanitarian actors and service providers. The Camp Management Agency has the oversight of both the camp residents and the physical infrastructure of the camp, the core responsibilities include:

  • recruiting, training and supervising Camp Management Agency staff
  • coordinating and monitoring the delivery of, and access to, services and protection in accordance with international standards
  • establishing camp governance mechanisms and enabling community participation
  • ensuring the care and maintenance of camp infrastructure, while mitigating impacts of environmental degradation
  • managing information on the camp population’s changing needs
  • disseminating information both to the camp population and other stakeholders
  • participating in strategic planning with relevant stakeholders around issues of contingency planning, environment, exit strategy, camp closure and facilitation of durable solutions.


Humanitarian Space

A Camp Management Agency requires, above all else, the humanitarian space in which to operate. Humanitarian space includes access to displaced populations and assurance of security and operational space for agency staff.


Developing and maintaining an effective partnership between the Camp Management Agency and the various stakeholders can be complex and may be impacted by factors such as limited mutual understanding, conflicting political or programmatic agendas, competing priorities and/or a lack of capacity and resources.

Camp Population

A camp population, like the communities from which it is drawn, may be comprised of diverse populations, potentially divided by ethnicity, religion and/or political affiliations. Even in camps where the population is relatively homogeneous there will be residents with specific needs. Regardless of the level of diversity within the camp population, the Camp Management Agency will need to ensure the mobilisation and participation of residents in governance, planning and implementation.

Displacement renders people vulnerable and dependent. If they additionally become passive recipients of support and assistance, their dependency and vulnerability is further increased. Actively developing positive partnerships with the camp population is one way of recognising the skills, knowledge and capacities, and thereby supporting the independence and dignity of the camp population.

The roles and responsibilities of a Camp Management Agency are diverse, extensive and often challenging, even where humanitarian assistance programmes are functioning well. Building effective relationships within the camp population, and establishing trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the displaced community, involves more than ensuring their participation. It also entails ensuring equitable access to services, security, protection and empowerment.

Host Population

For a nearby village, town or other local community, hosting a camp population can place significant demands on precious and limited resources. The host community may lack economic and natural resources, have limited livelihoods opportunities and inadequate or non-existent facilities. They may also have been impacted by the disaster which caused the displacement and have needs which are as great, if not greater, than those of the displaced population. As a result, tension often exists between camp and host populations who may perceive that their land, livelihoods, culture, safety and security, community infrastructure or natural resources are under threat. They may further resent the assistance the camp population is receiving, especially if they do not share the same ethnicity, language, history, political affiliations or traditions.

The role of the Camp Management Agency is to establish and promote links with the host community such that their fears and needs can be heard and participatory action taken to ensure that the impact of the camp on the host community is effectively managed, insofar as this is possible. Establishing lines of communication and ensuring host community representation at camp meetings is important, as is jointly exploring scope for interventions which are mutually beneficial for camp and host communities. Transparent action should be taken by the Camp Management Agency to ensure that scarce natural resources, like firewood and water, are protected and alternative sources are found when possible.

Camp Administration

State authorities are responsible for providing protection and assistance to IDP and refugee populations on their territory. Historically, camp coordination and camp management roles have been played by UN agencies and INGOs. National authorities are increasingly taking a combination of these roles. When this is the case, appropriate support should be provided to enable national authorities, who may be new to the camp management process, to effectively assume their responsibilities, provide necessary protection and look after the welfare of camp residents.

The traditional role of Camp Administration refers to the functions carried out by national authorities that relate to the oversight and the supervision of activities in camps. It comprises such sovereign state functions as:

  • designating, opening, and closing camps
  • securing land and occupancy rights for a temporary settlement
  • resolving disputes arising from land appropriation and preventing claims against individuals and agencies living and/or working in a camp
  • providing security, maintaining law and order, and guaranteeing the civilian character of a camp
  • organising a registration system
  • issuing documentation, permits and licenses (such as birth certificates, ID cards and travel permits) to camp residents
  • protecting citizens and preventing evictions, relocations or further displacement of those living in the camp
  • facilitating access to camps by humanitarian agencies.

Camp Coordination Agency

The primary objective of the Camp Coordination function is to create the humanitarian space necessary for the effective delivery of protection and assistance. Camp Coordination also entails:

  • coordinating roles and responsibilities
    • related to the development and support of national/ regional plans for establishment and management of camps
    • in the overall humanitarian camp response, including ensuring adherence to agreed IASC standards and operational guidelines regarding the CCCM Cluster
  • ensuring that plans incorporate exit and solutions strategies
  • ensuring there is situational assessment, operational planning, strategic design, monitored and evaluated programme implementation, technical support and cluster coordination
  • ensuring that the humanitarian response involves full and appropriate consultation with:
    • displaced populations, involving them in needs assessment, delivery of protection/assistance, and development/implementation of durable solutions
    • national authorities or, if not-present, the nonstate actor in control of the area where the camp(s) are situated
    • humanitarian and development partners in the CCCM Cluster, including Camp Management Agencies and service delivery partners, and in other clusters and/or sector partners and the IASC country team
    • other actors such as civil society, donors, the diplomatic community, host communities and the media.
  • providing appropriate support to national authorities where requested, including capacity building and promoting and encouraging government ownership of the protection and assistance strategy for camps
  • establishing an open dialogue with the authorities so as to discuss any problems arising as a result of stakeholder activities
  • promoting the application and the maintenance of international standards in camps
  • identifying and designating Camp Management Agencies and service providers
  • addressing issues of poor performance by Camp Management Agencies and/or service delivery partners
  • setting up and maintaining assessments, monitoring, and information management systems
  • ensuring that all partners and service providers have access to, and share, operational data at the camp and inter-camp levels to identify and address gaps and avoid duplication of effort.

The Camp Management Agency works closely with the Cluster/ Sector Lead Agency, whose responsibility it is to coordinate with national authorities in the provision of an overall camp response. It is under their guidance and support that inter-camp coordination is assured and levels of assistance between camps are monitored to ensure standards are comparable. Should this not be the case, the discrepancies in provision can create a pull factor as people from other camps and surrounding host communities move to camps with better services or facilities.

Service Providers

Service providers within a camp are diverse and can include INGOs, NGOs, UN agencies, national authorities, as well as private sector and civil society actors. It is a key function of a Camp Management Agency to enable service providers to deliver appropriate, timely and effective assistance to camp residents. Camp Management Agencies should empower service providers to provide services which are equitable, impartial and accessible for all.

To meet the needs of camp residents, service providers need accurate and up-to-date information on the camp population and camp life. They will further need to cooperate with other service providers, the Cluster/Sector Lead, national authorities and representatives from the camp population to ensure that services are not duplicated, that gaps in provision are met and that protecting camp residents is prioritised.

It is also the role of the Camp Management Agency to monitor and report on the standard of assistance and support delivered by service providers. A Camp Management Agency’s role in relation to monitoring service-providing agencies must be clearly outlined in Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and supported by Cluster/Sector Lead Agencies to ensure it has legitimacy and is respected. Best practice in camp management involves developing relationships of mutual trust, respect and support. Although inter-agency competition, incompatible agendas, disagreements, politics, or simply a lack of accountability can all make for difficult negotiations, a Camp Management Agency has a responsibility to advocate for coordination and to identify ways in which all parties can work cooperatively and transparently for the good of the camp population. The level of services in a camp may fluctuate or change for many reasons. It is the role of Camp Management Agency to find out what the status is at any given moment, the reasons for it, and take appropriate action with all those involved.

Security Forces

To effectively address the issue of ensuring the protection, and the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee- and IDP camps, host governments and the Camp Management Agency must work with camp residents, humanitarian stakeholders, service providers, the host community and security forces to ensure that within a camp (UNHCR, 1999):

  • law and order are maintained, creating a secure environment for residents
  • camp residents are prevented from engaging in subversive activities
  • exiled groups with access to weapons are disarmed and any flow of arms into camps is curtailed
  • bona fide refugees are separated from those exiles excluded from refugee status by virtue of their involvement in crimes against humanity, continued engagement in military activities or any other activity incompatible with refugee status
  • exiled soldiers and other armed elements are demobilised.

To achieve a safe camp, the cooperation of national and international security forces may be necessary. The involvement of security forces may include three options (UNHCR, 1999):

  • use of preventive measures and cooperation with national law-enforcement authorities
  • deployment of civilian or police monitors
  • deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Operation or a multinational or regional force.

In all cases, the Camp Management Agency will need to regularly liaise between security forces, service providers and the camp population to ensure that the protection of the camp population is maintained and that the security forces understand and adhere to humanitarian principles. The Camp Management Agency, in collaboration with humanitarian actors, should advocate for the handing over to civilian forces wherever and as soon as possible.


Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP)


Definitions of Accountability

“The processes through which an organisation makes a commitment to respond to and balance the needs of stakeholders in its decision-making processes and activities, and delivers against this commitment” (Pathways to Accountability: The GAP Framework, 2005).

“We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those from whom we accept resources” (Code of Conduct Principle 9 for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, adopted by the SCHR, 1994).

“An active commitment by humanitarian actors and organisations to use power responsibly by taking account of, giving account to and being held to account by the people they seek to assist” (Food and Agriculture Organisation: AAP Definition 2013).


The Camp Management Agency must demonstrate accountability in its activities towards affected persons and communities, as well as towards all other stakeholders in a camp response, like service providers, Camp Administration, donors and security providers.

Accountability to refugees and displaced populations involves two principles and mechanisms: those by which individuals, organisations, and states account for their actions and are held responsible for them; and those by which individuals, organisations, and states may safely and legitimately report concerns, complaints and abuses, and get redress where appropriate.

Accountability within a camp response should be seen both vertically and horizontally. When considering camp management responsibilities at the field level, the Camp Management Agency acts as the focal agency for sharing concerns, basic needs, and feedback. Here, the Camp Management Agency has horizontal accountability to the displaced populations, service providers and host communities. Issues of vertical accountability emerge in relationship with the home agency, national cluster, donors and national authorities. It is important to ensure reporting, feedback and delivery of services are being followed up.

What accountability is, who defines it, why it is important, and how the Camp Management Agency can ensure accountability in its daily activities, will be discussed below. Focus will be on the IASC’s five commitments on accountability to affected populations (AAP).

Who Defines AAP, and Who Provides Resources and Support?

AAP has become an increasingly important topic on the humanitarian agenda. It is becoming recognised as an additional humanitarian principle, supplementing the traditional four: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. AAP is one of the original pillars of the IASC-led Transformative Agenda.

There are multiple definitions of AAP, and many organisations providing support, guidelines and frameworks for action.

What Does AAP Require of the Camp Management Agency?

A shift in culture: AAP is not ‘something we do’ as a set of activities, but, rather a shift in mind-set regarding the ‘way we think’ about humanitarian action. It is the way we think about, and work with other people. AAP is an underlying operating principle on which all camp management processes and activities should be based. It is a shift from a culture of pre-determined service delivery, to one where the concerns of the camp population are considered central to planning.

Sharing power: Organisations which assist people affected by disasters, conflict, or other crises have significant power while crisis-affected people generally have no formal control or influence over them. It is difficult for affected populations to hold the Camp Management Agencies accountable for their actions (or inactions). Being an accountable Camp Management Agency requires recognising and redefining the power balances which exist between the agency and camp residents.

Listening: An accountable Camp Management Agency listens to the concerns of residents and other stakeholders in structured ways, involves affected persons meaningfully in key decisions and processes, relates to populations with dignity and respect and ensures transparent two-way communication. The diversity of the population and the diversity of its needs, abilities and concerns, and how we respond to this diversity, is a core aspect of accountability.

Adapting: Listening alone is not enough, the Camp Management Agency, as well as service providers in camps, must also be ready to change and adapt programmes and service provision when feedback from camp residents or other stakeholders indicates that changes are required.

Talking: Camp Management Agency decisions and activities that affect the camp residents need to be transparently communicated. After adaptations have been made, these in turn need to be communicated. An open and transparent camp management process is fundamental to AAP.

Being responsible: The Camp Management Agency must ensure quality responses and deliver relevant results and need to acknowledge and take responsibility for any failures to do so. They must behave with integrity, and keep to commitments made. Accountable Camp Management Agencies learn and adapt over time, and develop robust monitoring and evaluation processes in consultation with camp residents to review their work.

Providing better quality service: Being accountable to affected communities helps organisations develop quality programmes that meet people’s needs and reduces the possibility of mistakes, abuse and corruption. When accountability processes are in place and managed effectively, organisations perform better, protect communities from harm and uphold people’s rights and dignity.

Why Should the Camp Management Agency Be Accountable?

There are four key motivations for being accountable to crisisaffected communities:

  • Values: Camp Management Agencies should be accountable because it is the right thing to do and it is consistent with broader humanitarian values.
  • Operational: AAP makes humanitarian programmes and camp management more effective in fulfilling their objectives, by providing more targeted and relevant humanitarian action.
  • Emancipatory: Various aspects of AAP can strengthen social cohesion, and may address underlying vulnerabilities and/or inequalities through wider sharing of power.
  • Normative: Most international NGOs and all humanitarian operational UN agencies have agreed to internal and external commitments to AAP.

Camp Management Agencies should consider all of these motivations when ensuring an accountable response, however here we focus on the normative processes, and the guidance they generally contain. These include organisations’ codes of conduct, the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) Standard, Sphere Project standards and the Transformative Agenda protocols, such as the IASC Commitments on Accountability. This does not lessen the importance of the other motivations, and when ensuring accountable camp management, it can be useful to critically examine the key motivation and/or combination of motivations when taking decisions, to ensure the best approach is selected, and aims are achieved.

How to Ensure Accountability?

IASC is the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance. An IASC sub-working group developed a set of core commitments for accountability to affected populations (CAAP) and an operational framework based on the humanitarian programme cycle. These have now been endorsed by the IASC as Transformative Agenda Protocols, and (with their associated tools) provide the most broadly accepted normative AAP framework.

UN agencies, leading INGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have committed, through their members of the IASC, to incorporate these core principles into agency statements, policies and operational guidance. They have also pledged to develop plans to put these commitments into practice. They must ensure feedback mechanisms are integrated into country strategies, project proposals and other ways of supporting communities affected by a crisis.

The IASC's Five Commitments on Accountability to Affected Populations (CAAP)

The five Commitments to Accountability to Affected Populations (CAAP) highlight the following areas where humanitarian organisations, including Camp Management Agencies, should ensure accountability:


They must demonstrate their commitment to accountability to affected populations by ensuring feedback and accountability mechanisms are integrated into country strategies, programme proposals, monitoring and evaluations, recruitment, staff inductions, trainings and performance management, partnership agreements and highlighted in reporting.

The Camp Management Agency has a leadership role to play in AAP. It has numerous accountabilities, to a variety of stakeholders, both within and outside the camp. It is the responsibility of the Camp Management Agency to ensure that as much attention is given to being accountable to camp residents as to others.

How can the Camp Management Agency demonstrate leadership in terms of accountability to affected populations?

  • ensure accountability principles and mechanisms are integrated into camp strategies, programme proposals, monitoring and evaluations, recruitment, staff inductions, trainings and performance management, partnership agreements, and highlighted in reporting
  • share best practice and learn from other Camp Management Agencies in the same or similar contexts
  • learn and replicate also from global guidelines and good practice tools
  • hire the best possible staff and ensure their competency in their roles
  • ensure that reporting feedback and deliverables are being followed up by partners
  • allow camp coordinators (Cluster/Sector Lead Agencies) and service providers to explore new AAP attitudes and approaches
  • ask donors for flexibility to allow projects to adapt to a changing context
  • explain the principles of AAP to other stakeholders, including government or service providers in the camp
  • question how it has changed the way service providers and others in the camp operate to improve AAP.


Provide accessible and timely information to affected populations on organisational procedures, structures and processes that affect them to ensure that they can make informed decisions and choices, and facilitate a dialogue between an organisation and its affected populations over information provision.

Camp populations have a right to accurate and updated information about actions taken on their behalf. Being transparent about what the Camp Management Agency is planning and doing is the first step toward being accountable. When populations know what they can expect, they can provide feedback whether this is actually happening. Reliable and timely information can reduce anxiety and is an essential foundation of community responsibility and ownership.

What is the Camp Management Agency doing, and how is it being communicated?

  • discover how camp residents would prefer to receive information and use that method
  • spend as much time on developing and disseminating information products within the camp as you do for headquarter reports, situation reports and donor briefings
  • provide a description of the Camp Management Agency’s role and responsibilities, mandate and projects
  • outline the camp population’s entitlements and rights and when and where to access assistance
  • explain how and why the Camp Management Agency’s decisions have been made as well as what those decisions are
  • ask whether the camp population know the name of the agencies, including the Camp Management Agency, and its staff and projects.

Feedback and Complaints

Actively seek the views of affected populations to improve policy and practice in programming, ensuring that feedback and complaints mechanisms are streamlined, appropriate and robust enough to deal with (communicate, receive, process, respond to and learn from) complaints about breaches in policy and stakeholder dissatisfaction. Specific issues raised by affected individuals regarding violations and/or physical abuse that may have human rights and legal, psychological or other implications should have the same entry point as programme-type complaints, but procedures for handling these should be adapted accordingly.

It is essential for Camp Management Agencies to understand whether they are meeting the agreed needs and concerns of their resident populations. Feedback needs to be collected, digested and acted upon, and then the results of those actions relayed to the population. This is the feedback loop. Complaints mechanisms are a set of systems and procedures, designed to allow affected persons to provide feedback or complaints about services provided. Actively soliciting critical feedback is a powerful statement of humility, acceptance that mistakes can be made, and a commitment to listen and improve, as well as identify aspects of a camp that are going well. To function effectively, both complaints and feedback systems also need careful explanation and communication strategies to ensure they are used, understood and trusted.

How to listen and talk to the camp population to ensure accountability?

  • establish multiple feedback and complaints channels
  • consider technologies available, literacy and accessibility when establishing feedback mechanisms
  • discover how people would normally complain, be creative, use a variety of channels, through nurses, teachers and community leaders
  • ‘close the loop’ – feedback needs to be considered, and if a suggestion is rejected then the population needs to be told why. If changes are made, these can initiate a new feedback loop
  • establish a common referral system among service providers, to know who will respond to what
  • ensure there are secure and discreet channels for sensitive feedback
  • recognise that allegations of sexual or other abuse, exploitation or corruption cannot be treated like any other complaint
  • remain realistic, don’t promise to provide absolutely anything, or resolve any issue
  • share important or unusual feedback with colleagues
  • change approaches if suggested by the camp population.


Enable affected populations to play an active role in the decision- making processes that affect them through the establishment of clear guidelines and practices to engage them appropriately. Ensure that the most marginalised and affected are represented and have influence.

Participation in the AAP sense is slightly more restricted than general camp participation as discussed in Chapter 3, Community Participation. Participation as accountability should mean engagement in all phases of the camp management cycle; site and camp design, assessments, implementation, monitoring and evaluation and camp closure. Participation is a state of mind as well as an activity. Camp residents can provide managers with a variety of insights on their situation, and display competencies, energy and ideas of their own.

How to involve camp populations in decisions that affect them?

  • invite the community to be part of camp planning from the outset, and be informed of the results of it
  • ask more of the community, what are their roles and responsibilities, what can they provide to the camp life?
  • ensure access to participation, include different ethnicities, children, people of different ages and different genders, both together and separately as required by the context in coordination forums, meetings, activities and elections.
  • discover what forms of participation and governance are normal in the pre-crisis community as discussed in Chapter 3, Community Participation.
  • be clear about the limits to participation. If some aspects of camp management are non-negotiable, such as nondiscrimination, they may not need to be discussed.
  • consider carefully exactly who you are inviting to participate and how. Is it a representative selection? Is it a good decision-making process?
  • evaluate how often community representatives are included in decision making and whether they have real decision-making power.

Design, Monitoring and Evaluation

Design, monitor and evaluate the goals and objectives of programmes with the involvement of affected populations, feeding learning back into the organisation on an ongoing basis and reporting on the results of the process.

Accountable Camp Management Agencies must be able to transparently evaluate how they have been operating, and be prepared to learn and improve practice based on this. Participation in designing of assessments, programmes and evaluations means that the affected population have a direct influence on decision-making and improving programmes. Camp Management Agencies can design, monitor and evaluate the goals and objectives of camp activities with the involvement of affected populations, feeding learning back into the camp planning and operations on an on-going basis.

How to involve affected populations in the design of that which affects them? How to improve our practice?

  • be creative with how to involve the community in camp and programme design, hold competitions, provide employment for residents with specialist skills and hold focus groups
  • use the AAP indicators in the OCHA indicator registry as part of regular monitoring
  • ask the population what criteria they think should be used to evaluate camp operations
  • ensure the community has a say in whether projects within the camp should be repeated or changed in the next funding cycle
  • learn all you can, from as many sources as you can, and put that learning into action
  • ask the camp residents for ideas on how assessments, monitoring and evaluation of the camp management should be undertaken.