Read caption Photo: NRC

Tenure security, land rights and the provision of humanitarian shelter

Lara Cunial and Jake Zarins|Published 17. Mar 2014
Providing shelter is essential in saving lives and decreasing the vulnerability of those displaced by conflict or natural disasters, and as such, should be a strategic priority in any humanitarian intervention. However humanitarian organisations increasingly struggle to provide shelter to those that need it most when the tenure of beneficiaries – that is the conditions under which they occupy land or dwellings – is uncertain or insecure.

Organisations like NRC have to approach this issue from both a humanitarian and an operational perspective. As an agency with strong legal assistance programming and a long history in the provision of large scale shelter programmes , NRC has been exploring ways to better target people without formal security of tenure in order to ensure that the most vulnerable get the humanitarian assistance they require.

In June 2013 the UK Department for International Development, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted a roundtable to discuss how to achieve a common understanding of security of tenure among humanitarian shelter providers and donors

Read also: Access to justice for displaced women – NRC launches a new report on rights to housing, land and property

As a follow up to the roundtable, NRC and IFRC today publish a new report – Security of tenure in humanitarian shelter operations .The report addresses both conflict and natural disaster settings with a focus on emergency and transitional shelter and unpacks the concept of security of tenure and sets out key issues such as legal pluralism and overlapping land tenure systems; urban contexts and disadvantaged groups including vulnerable women from an operational perspective.

The report introduces the concept of “secure enough” to provide practical guidance on how to address these issues in situations of displacement, or return and resettlement. It also offers some recommendations and sets out proposed follow up actions.

NRC and IFRC are undertaking further work on the “secure enough” approach with an aim to bring about a consensual operational definition of security of tenure which may be applied in responses to humanitarian crises.