FY 16: Supporting How Service Providers Coordinate Services to Refugees in Urban Areas (The RAND Corporation)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
October 7, 2016

Final Report


The RAND Corporation conducted a PRM-funded study to determine the best coordination practices among humanitarian actors for urban refugees. As the number of refugees in urban areas grows, stakeholders must develop new approaches to identifying, protecting, and assisting these populations. This report analyzes service provision coordination to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and provides recommendations to improve coordination strategies and practices in urban refugee settings. The study’s methodology is derived from a literature review, interviews with host governments, donors, and NGOs, and focus groups with refugees.


  • Refugees adapt best when they can become self-reliant, gain employment, and meet many of their own needs.
  • In urban areas, many services to refugees rely less on aid agencies (such as the UN and international NGOs) and more on line ministries, municipal authorities, the private sector, and national civil society actors.
  • Because the Syrian refugee crisis is likely to be protracted, local authorities and services are critical. Refugee responses must be linked with host-country development plans. The expensive parallel set of structures for refugees and host communities is not sustainable in the long-term.
  • The Jordan Response Plan (JRP) and Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP), which were developed from the UN-sponsored 2015 Refugee Response and Resilience Plan, enable a stronger host-government role and thus more-effective integration of host-government priorities with those of the international aid agencies.
  • Unclear roles and conflicting priorities between NGOs, government agencies, and the UN have led to inefficiencies in the JRP and LCRP response.


  • A new model: This study proposes a new model when planning and evaluating coordination of public services in refugee responses, based on decisions in five areas: short- versus medium-term planning, parallel versus integrated services, international versus national lead, funding to international entities versus funding to national entities, focus on refugees versus focus on host communities.
  • Create a U.S.-led “Contact Group”: As the largest funder of the Syrian refugee response, the United States is in a unique position to coordinate a Contact Group of interested parties. This Contact Group would allow the largest donors to formally coordinated policy priorities for the refugee response.
  • Develop a ten-year plan for refugee response: The Contact Group should develop a planning process and funding mechanism in conjunction with UNHCR that assumes a ten year refugee response in Jordan, Lebanon, and other host countries.
  • Capacity building for host governments: Building capacity of governments, municipalities, national civil society, and local NGOs would allow these stakeholders to take on greater roles managing refugee responses.
  • Coordinate refugee needs and host-country development goals: Find opportunities where intervention can fund initiatives that benefit both refugees and host communities.