The Urban Capacity Framework: Strengthening Urban Response

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As the world grows more urbanised, large scale disasters are increasingly impacting urban areas. Urban emergencies have a higher level of complexity and the kind of response required is greatly affected by the different urban environments, whether large cities, medium-sized towns, peri-urban or slum areas.

Humanitarian response in urban settings poses unique challenges and opportunities which require distinctly different skills sets and to those needed for the more familiar rural or camp context for which the majority of humanitarian frameworks, tools and research has been focused. 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.

To help address this gap, RedR UK is producing an Urban Competency Framework (UCF) for humanitarian action.  A first draft has already been completed and RedR UK is now calling for a sector-wide consultation to further develop the UCF.

Funding provided to the International Rescue Committee from EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) is supporting the work, which runs from  February 2018 – March 2019. It is part of a broader 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.’

The UCF identifies the behaviours and skill sets needed by all those responding to an urban crisis. In an urban context, this can include both aid workers as well as those in the private sector, institutions or government bodies. The UCF contains the distinct competencies and behaviours required for all individuals regardless of the typology of the emergency or the location of the urban setting.

 In doing this, the UCF will: 

• Enable individuals to assess their suitability for working in urban crises, identify competencies which they need to develop further and provide a common language for describing their abilities as they enter and progress through their humanitarian careers.

• Support organisations to recruit, deploy and manage professionals for urban settings and to support their further professional development.

• Provide a basis on which Educational and Adult Learning Institutions can build courses and materials that are relevant to the needs of learners entering or operating in urban crises. 

In order for the UCF to be relevant to a wide range of individuals and settings, the first phase of the project consisted of a literature review of lessons learned, tools, guidelines and research reports, along with urban-specific courses for humanitarians. This fed into the development of the first draft of the UCF, which was reviewed in detail by an advisory panel of urban experts. Their comments were used to refine and produce the second draft of the UCF, which we are now opening up for wider sector feedback and are pleased to share with you:


UCF V2 brief

Sector Consultation

We are now reviewing the feedback from  a sector-wide consultation process. The feedback will be used to inform the final version of the UCF, which will be published and presented at two global workshops in February 2019 in London and Amman.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above or would like to get in touch with us about the UCF, please contact

Our partners

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.'