UNHCR crowd-sources solutions to urban refugee crisis

United Nations High Commission for Refugees has implemented a web-based platform for ‘crowd-sourcing’ solutions to challenges facing urban refugees. This is particularly relevant to Africa’s cities which host large refugee populations.

IRIN reports: The first challenge to be debated on the new crowd-sourcing platform is how to improve access to information and services for refugees living in urban areas. Connecting and communicating with urban refugees presents a major challenge, said Rocco Nuri, communications officer with UNHCR, “not only because they are scattered across sprawling cities, but also because poverty and unstable tenancy arrangements force them to move frequently.”

Three weeks into the process, over 100 ideas have been submitted and voted on. The most popular so far include: the development of a comic-book series aimed at young refugees that could tackle issues such as child abuse; country-focused online portals aimed at providing essential information to refugees; and the use of university students to deliver legal aid services.

“There’s definitely trends,” observed Anahi Ayala Iacucci, a senior innovation advisor with international non-profit media organization Internews, who is one of 10 experts reviewing the ideas. “There are a lot of ideas focusing on providing information through web sites or mobile technology. But there are also some ideas that are very out-of-the-box.”

The issue of how to reach out to and assist urban refugees, who now make up 58 percent of refugees worldwide, had been the subject of much debate both within and outside of UNHCR for some time before the launch of UNHCR Ideas.

The adoption of a new urban refugee policy by UNHCR in 2009 was widely welcomed as a move away from a bias towards assisting primarily camp-based refugees. However, in recent months, a number of commentators have used an online forum, launched by the NGO Urban Refugees earlier this year, to express disappointment about the degree to which the policy has been implemented.

One of the biggest disappointments, according to Tim Morris, an expert on refugee affairs who co-authored one of the posts on Urban Refugees, has been “the lack of the voice of refugees in urban environments”.

Of the 300 people participating in the current UNHCR Ideas challenge, only 10 are refugees. Nuri explained that the number of users, both staff and refugees, would increase for future challenges, after the new platform had been thoroughly tested and evaluated.

For the full story visit IRIN

Image via United Nations Photo


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