The challenge

Migration is among the main trends of this century, with more than 258 million people living outside their countries of origin. 60 per cent of migrants (and 80 per cent of refugees and IDPs) are drawn to cities in search for safety, shelter and housing, increased access to basic, social and administrative services and better livelihood opportunities. The reasons for migration and displacement include conflict, impact of environmental degradation and climate change, poverty, lack of (employment) opportunities and (spatial) inequalities.
Many local authorities, especially in cities with already strained (human, institutional and financial) capacity, require support to better manage rapid urbanization caused by mass influx of people, to provide effective services for all inhabitants and to harness the opportunities resulting from migration.


In Dafur (Sudan),
internally displaced people (IDP)/returnees and low-income families now have access to improved building material technology and basic services facilities .
In the Kalobeyei settlement in Northern Kenya, UN-Habitat contributes to the spatial planning component of the settlement for
refugees in collaboration with Turkana County Government and UNHCR, to promote for greater self-reliance, reducing conflicts and increasing resilience
More than
conflict affected families from the North and East of Sri Lanka were provided with permanent houses and over 420,000 persons benefited from the reconstruction of community infrastructure facilities.

News and Stories

“I am really thankful for the assistance provided by UN-Habitat. The agency has contributed to restore the community stability in Ramadi and accelerated the return of the families in this neighborhood”.

Mr. Raji Aied Assaf, displaced to Baghdad with his family and returned to Tameem after his house was rehabilitated by UN-Habitat

Related Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 1 logo
SDG 3 logo
SDG8 Icon
SDG 10 logo
SDG 11 logo

Leaving no one and no place behind

Hover over or click the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

  • Addressing land-related conflicts contributes to peace and stabilization. Since 2006, UN-Habitat’s and GLTN’s work has been contributing to poverty alleviation through increased access to land and tenure security for all.
  • Many migrants also face discriminations to access to employability or livelihoods. Often in urban contexts, where many have arrived with the assumption of better economic opportunities, most end up living in levels of poverty and hardship, in informal settlements or resettlement areas which lack proper access and the distribution of adequate urban basic services and infrastructure. 
  • The Universal Declaration for Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Since 1996, UN-Habitat has been promoting the right to adequate housing for all. The access to adequate housing and shelter is among the biggest challenges faced by migrant and refugee communities and the basis for a decent live.
  • The human rights of adequate housing and tenure security as essential pillars of healthy, functional, resilient communities. This is inevitable in the case of the Yazidis. UN-Habitat and GLTN supported the Yazidis who were subject to protracted discriminating policies in the area where they were prevented from tenure security for decades. 
Human rights icon
  • Women are often particularly vulnerable in conflicts over land rights. UN-Habitat’s work focuses on enabling and empowering women to actively fight for their land rights, such as in women-led households, with greater emphasis on advocacy, positive urban policies and support networks for the promotion of these households.
  • Globally, nearly 50% of all migrants are women and girls, but female migrants and refugees face proportionally higher challenges while being on the move as well as for integration and return. Female migrants often face discriminations from adequate access to basic services, and often are excluded from the workforce, the extent of which also varying across multiple different cultural contexts and practices. Specific vulnerabilities also include vulnerability to mistreatment, and double discrimination (type of sex and as a migrant), and require greater equality and opportunities as a considered disadvantaged group. UN-Habitat strongly promotes inclusive urban policies as well as fostering the empowerment of women in places of origin, transit and destination, ensuring that the approaches used in the process are largely participatory, community and area-based responses.
  • Yazidi women and girls paid a terrible price with the Islam state invasion to Iraq, UN-Habitat and GLTN project placed a strong emphasis on gender, including during the selection of beneficiaries. Female headed households, including widows and households with young pregnant women, were given priority.
Gender icon
  • UN-Habitat has been supporting local authorities and communities internally to overcome acute vulnerabilities from migration that affect children and youth. Youth migrate for many reasons, such as obtaining higher education, work, or toe escape poverty, violence, or are displaced due to war or climate change. Youth are heavily represented in migration for humanitarian reasons, including as refugees, asylum seekers and as unaccompanied minors.
  • Children and youth play a fundamental role in the successful integration and development of communities and societies – they are the backbone for social cohesion, connectivity, and a source for innovative ideas. In community based and bottom-up approaches, UN-Habitat ensures the voices of youth are heard in multi-sectoral discussions, ensuring priority projects are emphasized.
  • UN-Habitat’s expertise and work with migrant youth also focuses on capacity development for better livelihood opportunities and participation in urban policy processes. Very often, migrant youth lack the adequate knowledge, education, or vocational skills, requiring mentoring, training or skills development, including connections to potential employment pathways for career building. They are also easily excluded from discussions with policy makers. UN-Habitat promotes cooperation and enhances the dialogue at many levels – local, national, regional and international, as well as ensuring meaningful youth participation to harness the development potential for youth migrants and better integrate migrant communities in urban areas.
Children icon
  • Although international frameworks have broadly recognised the needs of persons with disabilities in the fields of human rights and development, a greater emphasis has to be placed on subgroups within the disabled persons in the contact of migration, including migrant workers and refugees with disabilities.  UN-Habitat’s work on migration is increasingly exploring the importance of working with the most disadvantaged groups of individuals to ensure no one is left behind, such as supporting the equalization of opportunities of refugees with disabilities, advocacy, recognizing rights of persons with disabilities (Article 18 in the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises the rights of persons with disabilities for the liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residency on an equal basis as others.)
  • UN-Habitat will continue to ensure and promote for international mandates to directly integrate a dimension of disability into the normative language, and to promote for the equal rights, and access to basic infrastructure, housing, livelihoods opportunities for all.
Disability icon

Donors and partners

UN-Habitat cooperates with different UN agencies (including IOM, UNHCR, UNDP and UNICEF, among others), international organizations and development partners such as OECD, ICMPD or CMI on migration and displacement related initiatives in support of national and local government authorities in better managing integration of migrants, refugees and IDPs in urban areas and human settlements across the humanitarian-development nexus.

This work includes policy development, legislation and governance, urban planning and finance as well as concrete implementation of projects for localizing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the urban targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 11.

UN-Habitat cooperates with agencies like as well as the UN Regional Commissions on urban solutions, that benefit both, migrant and host communities.

Acknowledging the crucial role of local authorities, civil society and private sector for integration and inclusiveness in cities, UN-Habitat promotes and applies whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches.