Making Lives: Refugee Self-Reliance and Humanitarian Action in Cities

Today I am launching Making Lives: Refugee Self-Reliance and Humanitarian Action in Cities, the final publication of a year-long research project into refugee self-reliance and humanitarian action in cities, which I carried out last year with the Humanitarian Affairs Team (Save the Children), the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (University College London), and Jindal School of International Affairs (O. P. Jindal Global University).

The project has explored the socio-economic practices of refugees and host communities, the challenges faced by refugees in gaining access to labour markets, and the ways in which humanitarian actors, often in collaboration with city authorities, seek to promote refugee livelihoods. A broad notion of the market as a space of social practices (characterised by power relations, flows and exchanges, negotiation, and the pursuit of aspirations) has informed an analysis of the way in which the activities of institutional actors become enmeshed with those of informal actors, which offer an alternative support network for refugees unable to engage in formal labour. While humanitarian organisations have placed particular emphasis on the economic dimensions of refugee self-reliance, this project has explored other aspects of refugee well-being too. Understanding the barriers and limits to refugee self-reliance, as well as the potential shortcomings of self-reliance as a conceptual and programmatic framework, is key to improving the support that is available to refugees in urban settings.

Making Lives brings together field studies on Halba (Lebanon), Thessaloniki (Greece), and Delhi (India), and an analytical overview on refugee self-reliance. A pdf version of the book is attached. Please write to for information on how to get hold of a hard copy.

Making Lives can be downloaded on the project website,, along with the pdfs of each individual study and other publications linked to the project.

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