People displaced into urban areas due to war, persecution, or climatic crisis have claimed an increasingly prominent position in humanitarian operations and research. Through an examination of three African municipalities currently hosting displaced persons we study the cognitive, financial, and political incentives that work for and against a proactive response to displacement. We find that in cities where deprivation is widespread, effective engagement with municipal authorities demands a shift in approach. Rather than appeals to domestic or international protection principles, effective engagement with local authorities requires recognizing local authorities’ interests and incentives to develop strategies to align protection concerns with local political economic factors.
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