Strengthening Refugee Communities

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) approached Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) to collaborate on ways to better protect and support more than 42 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people worldwide. Follow project updates here.

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  1. After nearly a year of collaboration, four Stanford students head to Africa this month to visit refugee camps along the Sudanese border. They will meet with UNHCR workers at the camps, as well as the International Rescue Committee in Ethiopia and test out their prototypes in four project areas: improving camp communications, food security and economic self-sufficiency; host communities relations; and spaces that are shared by refugees and local communities. You can follow their trips here once they get underway. Click on the link below to read the story:
  2. After a year of collaboration, CISAC-UNHCR project moves to the field for research and engagement.
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  4. CISAC, UNHCR, NGOs, professors and students at the Institute of Design at Stanford, as well as physicians, architects and other professionals from across the globe have joined the volunteer redesign project in a series of Stanford workshops. Some have joined via Skype chats and Google hangouts. In this video, CISAC's co-director Tino Cuéllar discusses the key challenges from the sidelines of the workshop that launched the project in June 2012:
  5. CISAC: Why Refugee Issues Need a New Approach
  6. "Innovation is highly relevant to refugees in at least two areas: the emergency phase, in which alternative resources may be available across humanitarian sectors (water and sanitation, health, shelter, and internet and communications technology, for example) and protracted situations, in which innovation may provide ways to move beyond encampment through creating livelihood opportunities and self-sufficiency."
    - Alex Betts, former CISAC Fellow and Director of the Humanitarian Innovation Project at Oxford
  7. Somali Refugees in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia
  8. Question: How can we construct a settlement that will allow a single mother of five children to live in a safe shelter where she can access the relevant services she needs for her family? 

  9. Winter is coming: Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan
  10. The End Goal: To help UNHCR design, build and support refugee communities so they are safer, more integrated with host countries, and more supportive of refugee self-sufficiency.

  11. "There was some trepidation, as we have worked with some universities. Sometimes they have wonderful ideas, but they aren't complementary or appropriate for the context that we're working in. So one of the issues and challenges will be how you can help us think outside the box, but also think appropriately. This definitely is not one-size-fits-all. Mali and Thailand are very different, for example, so it becomes more complicated because you're dependent on local customs." - Paul Spiegel, deputy director of UNHCR's Division of Program Support and Management, told the June workshop via Skype from Geneva.

  12. UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner T. Alexander Aleinikoff estimates that in the last two years the UNHCR has seen, on average, an additional 2,000 refugees every day, making it one of the most challenging periods the global organization has faced in decades.

  13. Cuéllar and IDEO "utopian pragmatist" Leslie Witt to co-teach refugee community class 

    STANFORD LAW 676: Rethinking Refugee Communities

    Tens of millions of people have been forcibly uprooted by conflict or persecution worldwide. Although some of these people obtain asylum in advanced industrialized countries, a far larger number remain as refugees and internally-displaced people living in hastily-built refugee communities in the developing world. This project-based, interdisciplinary class is focused on exploring alternatives to improve the planning, design, and governance of refugee communities. It considers some of the legal, design, engineering, and governance challenges associated with communities of refugees and other forced migrants. The goal is to exercise and enhance students' ability to deal with multifaceted complex issues by developing recommendations that can be implemented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Terms: Aut | Units: 2 | Grading: Law Mandatory P/R/FInstructors: Cuellar, M. (PI) ; Witt, L. (PI)Schedule for LAW 676
  14. “I got involved in the project out of intellectual curiosity and because of the prospect of seeing our ideas applied in the field,” said Danny Buerkli, a second year master’s student in international policy studies, who is taking the law school class. “While most of us are not experts in humanitarian policy, we have the luxury of time to reflect and rethink how UNHCR deals with refugee situations. The project is a great way of exploring design thinking, humanitarian policies and working with a large institutional client all at the same time.”