The aim of this chapter is to provide the Camp Management Agency with insight into best practice in camp set-up/improvement and closure. It gives an overview of what is required to ensure camps are established with proper attention to site selection and site planning, that they are well maintained and that camp closure processes are developed early for the population's protection and the management of the site and its assets. This chapter acts as a reminder to help the Camp Management Agency ensure that the right questions are being asked and that their role and responsibilities are clear.

The location of a camp and how it is planned have a critical impact on the health, well-being and protection of the displaced population, as well as on the ability to manage daily activities, ensure participation and develop relations with the host community. Just as important as the physical location and layout of the camp is the process by which a camp is established, grows, changes, improves and ultimately closes down.


Camps as a Last Resort

In all cases, the first question to be asked is whether or not a camp is the most appropriate transitional settlement option for the displaced population. Camps are a last resort and should be established only when other solutions are neither feasible nor preferable. This can especially be the case if people are removed from their livelihoods and homes and their displacement is reinforced unnecessarily when they are no longer at risk from the hazard, whether natural disaster or conflict. If groups within displaced populations are staying with host families or are self-settled in rural or urban areas, there must be consideration given to the rationale for these decisions, and to what extent supporting such alternatives might be more appropriate than establishing a camp. For the purposes of this chapter, it is assumed that national authorities, involved agencies, and the displaced populations, will consider all options available. All actors must bear in mind:

  • the need for efficiency in providing goods and services
  • concerns about protection and health risks
  • risks of environmental degradation
  • the psychosocial impact of life in a camp
  • impacts on the surrounding community.


While camps are often set up with the expectation that they will be short-term, planning should always aim for longer-term needs, expansion and unexpected eventualities. In addition, the needs of the host community should be considered in relation to the services, infrastructure and assets established for the camp. Services and infrastructure, such as school buildings, community halls, roads, electricity cables or wells, may benefit local communities after the displaced population has returned. Conversely, buildings which have been degraded due to their temporary use as collective centres can have a negative impact on the local community. The eventual handover of such assets during camp closure should be defined and agreed with involved stakeholders from the outset. The planning of camp set-up/improvement and camp closure are interrelated from the beginning.

Although national authorities are ultimately responsible for camp set-up/improvement, and camp closure, the Camp Management Agency, with the support of the Cluster/Sector Lead Agency, must ensure all actions taken during the camp cycle are comprehensive, inclusive, well-coordinated and uphold the rights of the displaced population. It is important to note that in some contexts, especially during natural disaster related displacement, the camp management and camp coordination roles are more and more being carried out by national authorities.