Refugee camps are in many ways similar to towns. Many house several thousand residents, and some are as big as large cities. With so many people living together, sometimes in close proximity, a group or structure to organize the camp and the camp residents is usually a necessity.
Refugee camps are also similar to towns and cities in that many have existed for long periods of time. Although they’re always established as a temporary solution, camps usually remain for years – ARC manages Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda, for example, which was founded in 1958. Camps are diverse, sometimes with many different nationalities, ethnicities, and religions represented.
Imagine the city or town you live in is lacking a public works department or economic development office. Just as those roles and jobs are vital at the municipal level, so they are absolutely necessary inside of refugee camps.
A primary role of a camp manager is to coordinate all of the agencies and actors working inside of a refugee camp. Camp managers are tasked with understanding the needs inside a camp, knowing what services are being provided by which agencies, and identifying any gaps between the two. We coordinate agencies to ensure that there is no duplication of efforts and services are provided to camp residents in a consistent manner.
As the principal source of information, the camp manager can notify the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or other funding partners when an issue arises or a gap in services exists in a camp, and recommend strategies for addressing the problem.
Another vital role ARC plays as camp manager is to create systems, structures and mechanisms for camp residents to participate in the decision-making and daily life of the camp. This can include creating structures for refugees to have a voice and representation in their community.. Just as in a democracy officials are elected from specific jurisdictions, each sector of a camp is represented on a camp council. Representatives are the first notified of developments related to the camp and are expected to communicate with their constituents. Sector representatives also bring forward new problems or issues in need of resolution.
Participation should be as inclusive as possible. Camp managers are expected to create mechanisms for anyone to be able to make a complaint and have their concern addressed. In this role, camp managers like ARC act as a repository for camp knowledge and lessons learned. In Uganda, ARC recently launched an experimental feedback mechanism that included a hotline and simple red-yellow-green feedback machines associated with every major service provided in the camp. It’s giving residents a voice and helping our staff quickly identify problems or interruptions in service.
ARC currently provides camp management services in: