UrbAN-S consortium ushered in its first Urban Profiling Workshop

The Urban Analysis Network Syria (UrbAN-S) consortium organized an absorbing four-day workshop centered on Urban Profiling for organizations pushing towards gaining a much-needed urban perspective to improve programs in Syria.

A group photo of the participants of the first Urban Profiling Workshop

Once-vibrant hubs of a country steeped in history and culture, urban areas in Syria have been left in ruins as a result of the interminable war in the country, rendering them virtually unrecognizable. Ar-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo are just three of these prominent cities that experienced insufferable damage and destruction - infrastructurally, economically and socially.

Aleppo, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and the heart of some of the war’s most devastating fighting, has seen half of their population displaced, an economy crippled, an unemployment rate that has risen to ten times the pre-war levels, and 87% of their informal housing areas damaged or destroyed.

“If you walk through the city of Aleppo today, you will be struck by both the sheer level of physical destruction and the ability of the locals to go about their lives despite it. In the face of all the hardships they face, most Aleppans will agree on the need to come together to rebuild their city, specifically the Old City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the beating heart of this historic urban center,” observes an unnamed Aleppo resident.

From August 26-29, 2019, UrbAN-S consortium member iMMAP, alongside partners the Joint IDP Profiling Services (JIPS) and Common Space Initiative (CSI), held an urban profiling workshop at both iMMAP’s MENA Regional Office and the Kempinski Hotel in Amman, Jordan.

Urban profiling is a collaborative process bringing together key stakeholders from various sectors in a city area, to jointly collect, analyze and use the resulting evidence to inform decisions and planning. The information is collected through qualitative and quantitative methods, and analyzed using a holistic urban analysis framework to identify gaps between the needs of different population groups and the city’s capacity to provide for those needs.

For UrbAN-S, urban profiling is a useful process to foster a shared overall understanding of the current physical and social conditions in an urban environment affected by conflict and displacement. The resulting city profiles provide a snapshot of how cities are functioning or not functioning, and how the people living in them cope during and in the aftermath of the Syrian conflict.

JIPS’ Melissa Weihmayer opening the workshop

“Building robust data and analysis of a city in crisis is often a complex undertaking. It was great to see participants discuss key concepts such as urban analysis and dive deep into the practical exercises, including how to prioritise and contextualise relevant indicators, test area-based analysis and explore how to conduct joint analysis sessions. They all brought invaluable inputs from their own experience in Syria to contextualize the exercises and assess the opportunities and limitations of such approaches and tools. We look forward to seeing how participants apply this knowledge in their operations and contexts," stated Isis Núñez Ferrera, UrbAN-S training facilitator and JIPS' Head of Field Support and Capacity Building.

During the four-day workshop, facilitators worked with participants on numerous sessions dividing topics according to its diverse components: analytical framework, methodology, data collection methods, toolkit, the elements and objectives of urban profiling, the urban functionality index, and how to tailor the humanitarian and development response towards Syria’s cities.

The workshop also included an engaging hour-and-a-half panel discussion on complex issues, which consisted of CSI’s Co-coordinator of the Syria Project, Aziz Hallaj, the Regional Durable Solutions Technical Advisor for Save the Children’s Middle East and Eastern Europe Region, Laura Kivela, and independent investigative journalist, Emma Beals.

JIPS’ Isis Núñez Ferrera taking a question from one of the participants

Participating organizations included the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Humanity and Inclusion (HI), Coordinating Committee of the Organizations for Voluntary Service (COSV) and Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF). Armed with area-based approaches within an urban context, the UrbAN-S team is confident that the workshop will help facilitate decision-making for programming and planning for the welfare of Syrians.

“The sessions were very useful and well-structured, and the materials provided in the workshop were very informative. I was expecting to gain a deeper understanding of urban planning, and I did,” remarked a participant from COSV.

Another participant from HI noted: “The training was relevant, contextualized and had a logical flow. The trainers had relevant experience, which they applied very well to the workshop.”

Participants and facilitators immersed in one of the workshop’s several group activities

As the Urban Profiling Workshop came to a close, the organizers hoped that the juncture was of service and value to the participants and organizations. They also envisage a similar, but more refined and enhanced, workshop down the line to help promote the concept and practicality of urban profiling.

“The workshop went really well. It turned out to be a huge success, based on the really good post-evaluation feedback that we gathered at the end of the workshop,” reflected Yara Halaseh, Technical Trainer for the UrbAN-S project. “We’re conducting another training in Beirut in early December 2019. It’ll be a three-day event, purely in Arabic and with a refined objective, where we’ll concentrate on giving the participants a more practical, hands-on training using UrbAN-S products.”


About UrbAN-S

Funded by the European Union, UrbAN-S is a multi-year project bringing together consortium members iMMAP, Mercy Corps and DRC, alongside partners the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), JIPS, CSI, and Humanitarian Access Team. The project aims to contribute in different capacities to a high-standard urban analysis of the Syria crisis to enable effective planning and response.

iMMAP is the Lead Coordinator of the UrbAN-S process, ensuring successful linkages and outreach with the wide array of Syria-focused global partners and stakeholders.

The Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) supported the project overall in an advisory and technical capacity, building on its extensive experience through profiling exercises in urban displacement situations. In addition, the interagency service led the collaborative development of an Urban Profiling Toolkit tailored to the context of Syria’s cities, as well as the elaboration and joint implementation of this first Urban Profiling Training, including designing training materials and sessions to fit local needs. JIPS also works to feed experiences and lessons learned from the UrbAN-S project and other exercises into global discussions and frameworks, such as through the Global Alliance for Urban Crises.

To know more about the UrbAN-S project, please check out their web portal at www.urban-syria.org or get in touch at info-mena@immap.org. To know more about iMMAP MENA’s activities, please download the iMMAP MENA Brochure here.


This is a joint article by iMMAP and JIPS.