Meeting the challenges of urban humanitarian response

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Following a series of workshops in Jordan and the UK, the Urban Competency Framework (UCF), supported by funding from the International Rescue Committee and EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), has been published online.

With the increasing growth and vulnerability of cities to natural and manmade disasters, there is an increasing need to adapt humanitarian expertise to urban crises. One key factor that has challenged effective humanitarian response in urban contexts has been the lack of sufficient personnel with the appropriate knowledge and skill sets for working in urban settings. 

Developed as part of a wider project for the Global Alliance for Urban Crises (GAUC), the newly developed UCF helps to address this need by providing the minimum standards of competency required for an effective humanitarian urban response. This includes both guidelines to soliciting the support of non-humanitarian professionals, as well as competency standards required of humanitarian actors deployed to urban crises settings.

Using the framework

The framework has been designed for use by individuals, employing organisations, professional institutes and learning providers to ensure that people involved in humanitarian action in urban crises have the competencies they need to work effectively. It draws from other successful competency frameworks, such as the Core Humanitarian Competencies Framework, to avoid duplicative messaging and ensure uptake, clarity, and ease of use. 

Olafiyin Taiwo is a senior planning policy officer with Be First Regeneration and Co-founder of Life Brooks International, a humanitarian organisation working to enhance the quality of life and experience of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in urban areas in Nigeria. Ola attended the UCF workshop and explains how the framework will support her work in urban areas:  

At Life Brooks Interational, we have a project working with young widows with children. We offer business and marketing training and then we give them a grant to help them set up their business. We’re working with people from a wide variety of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. The UCF will help guide us in how to create a project that takes those different beliefs into accounts and work with the participants to find the best way forward. It’s a more collaborative approach. I’ve sent it to all our delivery partners in Nigeria, to see how they can use it in training their staff in working in the areas where we are working.

Olafiyin Taiwo

Senior planning policy officer, Be First Regeneration

The challenges of urban response

The nature, scale and complexity of urban crises present a unique set of challenges for humanitarian response. One such challenge is the need to coordinate between a wide variety of different stakeholders. The UCF has been designed as a tool for improving communication between key stakeholders such as local authorities, humanitarians, built environment professionals, engineers, civil society. Ola explains more:  

It’s essential that the private and non-profit sectors work together in order to resolve urban crises. The ability to appreciate different perspectives is crucial in resolving the urban challenges. Each group has a responsibility to different stakeholders; the public sector has a duty to protect the rights of the citizens, the private sector has the objective of achieving profit and is responsible to its shareholders. The non-profit sector is responsible to its beneficiaries, to its sponsor and funders. The roles are interwoven, and the challenges are multidisciplinary, they cut across sectors. Using the framework, we will be able to identify the goals and objectives of each stakeholder, and at the same time we will also be able to develop an approach that is people-centered and participatory.

Olafiyin Taiwo

Senior planning office, Be First Regeneration

Download the Urban Competency Framework

The UCF is now available as a free download, along with a user guide and a series of training videos. Click here to find out more and download your free copy.  

Our partners

RedR UK has been working on behalf of the Global Alliance for Urban Crises (GAUC)  to develop the Urban Competency Framework. This work was produced through funding provided to the International Rescue Committee from EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and is part of a wider project for the GAUC entitled ‘Developing the skills to meet the needs of urban populations in crises through the alliance of urban responders’.

Global Alliance for Urban Crises was established to bring together the different actors who can help to improve crisis preparedness and response in our increasingly urban world

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future

The European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) provides assistance for affected countries and populations whenever there is a disaster or humanitarian emergency


  • Urban Competency Framework is produced through funding provided to the International Rescue Committee from EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). It is part of a wider project for the Global Alliance for Urban Crises (GAUC) entitled ‘Developing the skills to meet the needs of urban populations in crises through the alliance of urban responders.'