Webinar: Managing camps in diverse contexts: Clinic on coordination and implementation challenges

Many humanitarian emergencies result in large-scale displacement, whether short-term or over many years. Although they should be seen as a last resort, camps and other communal settlements are often at the center of humanitarian response, as that is where those with the greatest needs are concentrated. Given this central focus for humanitarian action, what kind of benchmarks and standards can those managing camps and camp-like settings use as a reference point in their work? While standards exist for many of the technical areas that come together in a camp setting, the same has not been the case for the work of Camp Managers, who are responsible for coordinating the delivery of protection and assistance in such settings.

This was the starting point for the development of the Camp Management Standards, which have been developed by the CCCM Cluster over the past years through consultations with camp managers and residents. On 9 September, we held a webinar clinic and learned more about the challenges faced in camp management and how the draft Camp Management Standards can help to address these. We heard from experienced Camp Managers who discussed how to address practical challenges submitted by event registrants.

The webinar also launched an online consultation survey for humanitarian practitioners to provide their views on the final draft of the Standards.

Subtítulos disponibles en español.

Event polls

During the event, participants answered a number of polls about their recommendations for how to respond to the types of challenges discussed. Below are a selection of the recommendations submitted by participants.

What would be your main advice for how to approach situations of armed actors intimidating residents in the camp?

  • Build relationships and trust – and most importantly, explain the purpose of why you as an organization are on the ground and what your mandate is.
  • From my experience, we need to sensitize the groups about keeping law and order as the camp is within the country. Secondly, the soldiers providing security need to be sensitized about their roles in protecting the IDPs.
  • Long-term advocacy and relationship building with the government.
  • Advocacy and relationship building with the government along with CCCM training for government actors with a focus on the civilian character of camps.
  • In this case, ICRC would be the best organisation to contact, as it may relate to international humanitarian law.
  • Relationship with the government will also help them to see standards as more than optional.
  • Knowledge of the context and stakeholders is key.
  • Organizations need to hire technical experts that have knowledge or understanding of the sociopolitical dynamics of the area.

What would be your main advice for how to address situations where there is a problematic relationship with the local government?

  • In my view, we can't say no to the local government, but we are as Camp Managers obliged to the central government. In the case of Bangladesh, we maintained a good relationship with the host community's local government.
  • Negotiations and highlighting the independence of international NGOs
  • I think this goes back to the previous question: the need to continue building relationships and advocacy for the civilian character of camps. I have been in situations like that before and have been able to address this through CCCM training for local authorities.
  • Have regular meetings with local authorities to explain what is being done in the camp at the moment (in general, global activities) and always insist on humanitarian principles.
  • Support the government actors to understand data privacy concerns.
  • IHL should be disseminated and neutrality and impartiality should be maintained.
  • For the Iraqi context, what has been put in place regarding the situation of data requests from local authorities or armed groups was to explain that the camp management is not allowed to share data regarding the camp and refer them to the CCCM Cluster who could provide them with the available data allowed to be shared beyond humanitarian structures only.

What would be your main advice for how to best go about with decongestion of camps when there is skepticism from residents?

  • CBI coupled with spatial planning
  • Nigeria is generally a unique context. Settlement is on clan and community basis with beneficiaries preferring to live closer to their traditional leaders. However, service delivery is unequal, so these two aspects play a role in population distribution.
  • Community engagement in the decision process
  • Community engagement, addressing their perception of security issues with better communications, engaging with community leaders and influential people in the camps, and engaging with women & girls to address their concerns
  • Meaningful engagement with local authorities
  • For the decongestion, it would be better to shift in clusters, together with their relatives or neighbours who came from the same place of origin. This would make them feel secure in a new place.
  • Out of camp assistance to move to urban areas, e.g. cash-based interventions modality in Turkey
  • Ask the people living at the camp for their advice (nothing about us without us)
  • Between 2006 and 2009, we decongested camps by opening satellite camps. We started by ensuring that security situations in selected areas are permissive for offering full protection. Otherwise, the lives of the IDPs would be at risk.
  • Community-based approach
  • Working with the community through FGDs and consultation
  • More focus on community engagement and community participation
  • Engaging governance structures and other committees in the camp
  • Community participation in all camp processes is the key for handling any pressing issue in the camp.
  • Strengthen community engagement
  • The key is to be very transparent about the services available in that extension area. As Tom said, go and see visits can be useful. Also, about the specific Nigeria context, we see that security is often the main concern. IDPs would stay in congested areas.

What would be your main advice for how to strengthen women's participation in camp decision making processes?

  • Awareness raising is very important. It takes time but it’s a must. Protection teams should work with both women and men and increase awareness on women engagement in decision making and leadership.
  • The program must ensure local women to be part of field teams or in the committees where they have the opportunity and role to engage in program processes and decision making.
  • Participatory methods such as participatory video or PFIM (http://p-fim.org/)
  • We need to take into consideration “Do no harm” principles. Therefore, our presence in the camps should not endanger women by going against their culture that has been there for a long time. Therefore, we need to align our engagement with women by involving them more.
  • Assess the specific barriers to women's participation and discuss with the community what actions can be undertaken to increase their participation in decision making (which sometimes might happen outside formal governance structures).
  • In the Bramapara camp in Bangladesh, it was the case in the beginning. Later on, the Majhis agreed to send women starting from their family members and slowly it improved. We engaged the community women which were separately mobilised to make trail road.
  • Why not engage the women with a specific initiative that they will be in charge to design, implement, and follow up? This could help in building trust and at the same time in giving concrete opportunities to make decisions for their community in the camp.
  • Community consultations with women to try to understand what they are willing to do and not to push certain activities on them to accept and FGDs with men members to try to understand the reasons behind the resistance if any.
  • Women empowerment and training in leadership
  • For global engagement, creating discussion sessions (not FGD but free from any topic discussion) where women can come and meet with high-level female CCCM staff to get information and then ask them how they want to get involved in decision making in the camp
  • Holding focus group discussions (FGDs) to target women and girls in more engaging and less male-dominated spaces
  • IOM did an endline learning report in 2017 focusing on barriers and opportunities to women's participation, looking at formal and informal support networks, business skills training, and their effect on women's self-worth and self-esteem: https://womenindisplacement.org/sites/default/files/report/2019-02/GBV_DraftEndline_Report_2018_July18.pdf
  • Most often, this is attached to religion. The best practice is to engage the influential local leaderships such as Sheiks and chiefs. In South Sudan, our context is similar to Nigeria where women participation in decision making is very low.
  • Strengthening women camp committees through provision of tools, leadership training, and also training men on the value of women participation
  • Ensuring that coordination meetings are user-friendly for women
  • Providing space where women can engage socially to discuss common issues affecting them
  • Empowerment activities for women to become change makers in a patriarchal culture
  • Women should be involved in the field teams of the program (staff, volunteers, facilitators) and in committees so that they get an opportunity to actively participate in the program and influence and make decisions. Women can be consulted by women colleagues in an easier manner compared to men colleagues in the team.
  • Remember Women in Displacement, a platform providing tools and building common learning towards the enhancement of participation and inclusion of women and girls in displacement: https://womenindisplacement.org/
  • Regarding women's participation, I think it's vital to have women's groups as well as to ensure women's roles in the camp committees
  • On women's participation, consider having both separate mechanisms or structures where women can discuss the topics they are concerned about, but also make sure they are part of decision-making and broader governance structures.
  • Building a specific area for women might highly increase the willingness of female residents to participate in such activities. The CCCM agency needs to open a special channel of communication with women. This will encourage a lot of women to participate as this area (women center) will remove many obstacles caused by local traditions or customs in this regard.

What would be your main advice for how to communicate the value of camp management to local authorities?

  • Capacity development and focusing on relevant topics and using user-friendly methodologies
  • Explaining to them that CCCM is there to support the government and build capacity for smooth camp management, as most of the times government thinks we try to take over their role
  • From my experience, there is no specific answer to this question because it depends on the operation situation. If the data would enable the LG to plan for services, I think they can get it from the government agency that coordinates humanitarian response.
  • Sharing of benefits of CCCM (experiences from other countries) and the risks/challenges if CCCM is not present (again from experiences) would also help
  • It depends on the specific context, but I would say communicate the benefits of having a site management agency and how this will support the work of authorities in addressing their main concerns related to the displacement.
  • There is always a conflict of authority between government, UN, and INGOs at the time of inception of camp set up. Later on, each party understands their role and settles down. I worked as camp manager for 7 years in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal and felt it.
  • Moving ahead, use the standards as a tool to communicate the role of CCCM with the government.
  • Ask if representatives of the refugees can explain that to the authorities. Ask refugees what they think is the value of camp management.
  • Time investment here is the key to address this issue. I currently find myself in this very same situation and finally seeing progress through ongoing advocacy for the CCCM but using alternate terminology.

What would be your main advice for how to strengthen participatory structures in transit sites?

  • Consultations with affected populations and more persons with disabilities
  • Ask the people residing there what would work for them.
  • Participation is not happening only through committees so why not rather focus more on direct channels to encourage participation including feedback mechanisms, consultations, and other CwC mechanisms.
  • Establish a committee including women and other groups to understand the ground rule for camp. Conduct workshop and FGD training to make sure everybody is involved.
  • In my experience of the formation of CMC in Bhutanese refugee camps a long time back, the participation as a committee forms should be on a rotation basis, taking consent from the community.
  • Adapting the proposed participatory approach and establishing different kinds of engagement mechanisms
  • Regular and early mapping of traditional leaders (formal and informal) will help to identify temporary representatives for community feedback. Then mobile outreach teams doing FGDs with different demographic groups.
  • You need to review the criteria and process of how the community participation structures are formed. The people involved in these structures should be chosen by the community themselves with the agreed criteria by the community. If this is done in a fair and transparent and community-led manner, there will be less possibility of people leaving the groups/structure so quickly.
  • It would be good to know what type of transit site. Is it an aid transit site for migrants moving through or is it a site where the NGO is looking to establish long-term assistance to stop the migrants from cross-border transit?
  • It depends on how long they stay on the sites. If it is for a few days, the structures are not sustainable. Participation is a process.
  • We also need to include reporting mechanisms in order to give the community different channels of communications and other opportunities to express themselves. This can also give our organization more improvement opportunities.

What would be your main advice for situations with complex land ownership for where camps are situated?

  • It depends on how strong the central government is. And if the central government and tribal or local government are from the same ideology, it will be easier to deal with. In such cases, better to deal with civilian authority and this type of issue is complex.
  • We need to also consider that these lands can be the only livelihood option for the tribes. As such, we need to engage with the tribes and find a win-win situation for both groups.
  • Strong advocacy with the local authorities as well, to reinforce rule of law against forced evictions and land ownership
  • Good to look at local HLP expert/network

What would be your main advice for how to handle tensions with the host community?

  • Providing equal opportunities to both community members
  • The host community always deserves some facilities. NGOs can discuss with the local community and local government and host government at both ground and higher level.
  • Ask the host community how the tension can be handled/lowered/addressed.
  • Having specific activities that will also target based on vulnerabilities and not just status, to provide support to vulnerable HC members, and creating specific opportunities for the communities to interact in a positive way (youth engagement works well)
  • Perhaps creating mixed community committees (camp residents & host community) to discuss those issues in order to see how to best address the issues
  • We can engage host communities in different income generation activities (e.g., infrastructure development and other activities in the camps).
  • Ensure that there is a role for the host community in governance structures.
  • Advocate to ensure that during project design a certain percentage of support is allocated to the host community. This has worked in some locations in South Sudan as vulnerability levels are always almost at the same level.
  • It is important for the humanitarian actors to make sure that they do not disturb the local eco-system, local practices, standards, and community equations, etc. Providing much higher (to camps) than what is available normally (to the host community) will definitely cause tensions and is also against the principle of do-no-harm.
  • I believe we should have a balanced approach and advocacy for partners to intervene in areas such as wash and protection in host communities.

What would be your main advice for how to improve coordination with partners in camps?

  • Transparency and accountability improve coordination
  • Ask yourself: Do you trust the partners? Ask yourself as well if you think partners trust you. What can you do to be more trusted?
  • Carrot and stick approach: first approach the partner bilaterally to see how coordination can be improved from their point of view and how CM can engage better with them. But if this doesn't work and it hampers the safety of the residents, raise the issue with CC.
  • It is important to have a common coordination platform with all partners where the "who is working what and where" and other relevant information are shared openly to make sure there is no duplication and no overlaps. The common platform should also jointly come up with common accountability and transparency mechanism and processes that each partner/member should follow/adhere to as their commitment to the process. There could be multi-stakeholder representation including government as well (depending on context and operational environment).
  • The Camp Management agency should always be on top to understand the service providers in the POCs. Training of partners to understand the roles of CMA and let the partners aware of the importance of accountability as well as capacitating the community to better monitor the situation and make partners accountable.

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Veronica Costarelli Veronica Costarelli CCCM Program Support Officer (Syrian Cross-Border Humanitarian Response), IOM Turkey
Dher Hayo Dher Hayo Global CCCM Cluster Coordinator
Kate Holland Kate Holland CCCM Cluster Coordinator, Iraq
Jennifer Kvernmo Jennifer Kvernmo CCCM and Protection Capacity Building Coordinator
Thomas Stork Thomas Stork Global Emergency Specialist, EMPACT, Danish Refugee Council (DRC)


Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, PHAP