The Settlements Approach: Where Boundaries and Action Merge

January 7, 2021

Protracted armed conflicts, fast-spread urbanization, and environmental pressure present new challenges, even as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. Such challenges are increasingly intertwined and tend to have cumulative negative effects in vulnerable territories. In response to this difficult situation, the humanitarian community has made numerous important commitments: calling for a more integrated approach to humanitarian response, for more tangible links between emergency and development interventions, and for a greater focus on the role local stakeholders’ play in crisis responses. Such commitments also demand from aid actors a better identification of the most vulnerable places where crises are most severe.

Settlement-based approaches have the potential to address these paramount challenges, by offering an area-bound, socially-defined and collaborative framework for aid interventions.

To support aid organizations and local partners in putting this concept into practice, IMPACT Initiatives and partners of the Urban Settlements Working Group released the “Settlements Approach Guidance Note” in December 2020.

Drawing from the vast experience and best practices witnessed from settlement-based programs across the world, and with the direct contribution of over 30 specialists, the Guidance Note offers both principled and practical guidance destined to operationalize core humanitarian commitments.

As a testament to the Guidance Note’s successful publication and potential to improve humanitarian action on the ground, 200 people participated in the introductory workshop webinar. Another 100 people signed up and participated in the technical sessions on how to concretely operationalize teachings from the Guidance Note.

Such collaborative efforts will help to serve as an impetus to launch further discussions within the humanitarian and development community on how to leverage the Guidance Note’s teachings in appropriate contexts including better collaboration between sectoral actors; national and international stakeholders; and humanitarian and development agencies.

The Guidance Note is available below and on the Urban Settlements Working Group webpage.


For more information

For any further discussion related to the guidance note, please feel free to contact Louise Thaller, IMPACT Initiatives’ Settlement and Response Planning Specialist at louise.thaller@impact-initiatives