Policy Paper | Responding to Today’s Refugee Crisis While Maintaining Social Cohesion: Lessons from Cities

About the Policy Paper

This Policy Paper examines the role of cities and other local actors in the integration of refugee and other forcibly displaced populations while maintaining – if not strengthening – social cohesion.

The paper draws on a Refugee Response Webinar Series, hosted by the Strong Cities Network in 2022, which brought together officials and non-government actors from a number of cities around the world to share their experiences, lessons and promising practices for sustainable and human rights-based solutions.

This publication and highlights key themes from the webinars and different city-level approaches across the refugee response cycle, and elaborates ten policy recommendations which, if implemented, could alleviate some of the challenges cities face in maintaining social cohesion, while supporting refugees as members of their communities.

Key Takeaways

1. Refugee influxes can happen anywhere and at any time, whether from conflict, famine, environmental disaster, or other crises. Unless cities have a pre-prepared plan in place, the unexpected arrival of refugees can be damaging.

2. The arrival of refugees is often accompanied by fears and negative stereotypes which, if improperly handled, can cause tension and division between the host and refugee populations.

3. Adequately addressing refugee crises can take several years, and require sustained financial and human resources to meet the range of social, economic and psychological needs of refugee populations.

4. There can be a tendency to isolate refugee populations from the wider community, keeping them in ethnically, linguistically or religiously homogenous enclaves. This can be harmful to integration, inclusion and social cohesion in the long-term.

5. The multitude of actors on the ground - from civil society and community groups to national agencies and multilateral organisations - can result in overlapping mandates and a confusion of responsibilities, with potentially harmful consequences.

6. Emphasis is understandably often placed on fulfilling the immediate needs of arriving refugees; however, host communities are also affected by the situation and may have issues or needs that are unmet or overlooked as a result.

Download the Policy Paper

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