Mott MacDonald offers humane sustainable solution to global refugee crisis

Mott MacDonald has set out a potential path for a humane and sustainable solution to the global refugee crisis. The consultancy’s Engineering Hope report calls for a broad-based coalition of donor governments, international financial institutions, management, engineering and development consultants, aid agencies and civil society organisations to bring the right skills and resources together to develop and implement the first of a new generation of high-quality, people-centred settlements.

Camps of tents or flimsy shelters are currently the go-to model for some of the world’s 16.1 million refugees who are trying to escape conflict or humanitarian disasters. Overcrowding at these settlements causes numerous health risks as latrines, water systems, power grids and other essential facilities are easily overwhelmed to the point of failure either by the numbers of users or by natural events such as rainstorms. At the same time, little governance or social infrastructure such as education, health and social care exists, leading to further problems.

Engineering Hope offers ways of transforming the life experiences of refugees, from one of surviving to one of living. Using the latest design and construction technologies, supply chain organisation, infrastructure finance and institutional knowledge, Mott MacDonald has put forward a number of  essential first steps to realising a better life for many refugees. These are:

Establish an advisory panel that disseminates knowledge, skills and experience to create and promote a set of international standards for the new generation of liveable settlements. 

Create a specific fund and an inter-agency trust to manage it. This trust should be able to advise on the contracting and regulatory frameworks required to deploy funds effectively and accountably. The funding model should be developed around clear guidelines for selecting the right private sector partners and for managing relationships to ensure that the commitments made on each side of the partnership are fulfilled.

Develop off-the-shelf, scaleable and flexible designs to enable developers to quickly plan and manufacture a city in the event of a crisis. There should be a full, open-source building information modelling (BIM) component catalogue for buildings and infrastructure that can be delivered using design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA). Organisations offering expertise in building design, engineering and construction, specifically those with BIM and DfMA experience, should lead this process.

Create a social infrastructure task force with the skills to address everything from governance, law and order, social inclusion and the provision of education, training, health and social care. The task force should provide a forum for the sharing and promotion of best practice and innovation.

Create a pilot settlement in a location that is welcoming of refugees and supportive of the idea of sustainable settlements. The settlement should be established as a satellite of an existing town or city to facilitate integration between refugees and communities, especially if this can be done in a way that engages the local community. Governments and local communities should be made aware of the benefits of accepting the camp and offered clear incentives for doing so, such as favourable trade packages or incentives for local firms to hire refugee workers.

 Keith Howells, chairman of Mott MacDonald, said: “We are confident that, with participation from key players, we can begin the process of transforming the way refugees are housed, treated and perceived. Together we can engineer hope and create a brighter and more prosperous future for millions of refugees worldwide, as well as the countries they seek haven in.”

Click here to download the Mott MacDonald Engineering Hope report.

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