IPA | switxboard in the News


  • The Independent

    “We need to get away from the idea that refugees are poor little things that need to be fed and pampered – they’re capable human beings,” says Kleinschmidt, who worked for 25 years for the UN and the UN High Commission for Refugees in various camps and operations worldwide. “The whole aid conversation is about victims, which is why so many Europeans think these people are a burden, and not in fact an opportunity for change or development.”


    We’re working within a logic that has, so far, been that governments are in charge of hosting displaced people, but they shift that responsibility to humanitarian agencies. None of these structures have the right reflexes and the right skill set to develop a functioning system that is ecologically and economically sustainable. That responsibility needs to be handed over in order to ensure sustainability, innovation and change.


    The immovable state of the aid system, along with its organizations, was a very grueling one. "A post-war product," says Kleinschmidt. The organizational form requires that both humanitarian crises and relief organizations are in a permanent competitive situation.

  • CityLab

    “If you have people seen simply as a logistic challenge for the next 10, 15, even 20 years, then you are missing opportunities,” he says. “Instead of seeing this as a burden, transform it into an opportunity as a living space. People in crisis need to rebuild their identity and individuality, and only then can they give to community.” Kleinschmidt adds, “That’s another important point which we discovered again and again. We see that in Germany, and Jordan, and anywhere else. People need to have the feeling that they are treated and can live as individuals, that they can regain their identities.”


Weil es um die Menschen geht: Als Krisenhelfer um die Brennpunkte der Welt

Kilian Kleinschmidt, 352 pages
, published by Ullstein

A must read on the recent refugee crisis. For 25 years Kilian Kleinschmidt worked as humanitarian aid worker to the UNO at the focal points of the world, often risking his life. In his politically involved autobiography he talks about his challenging missions in Sudan and Congo, Somalia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. His work is shaped by emergency relief and sustainable development – and the good fortune to make a difference. Kleinschmidt brings us closer than the day to day life by sharing his lessons learned and focus points within the trouble zones. With exciting and touching stories he explores the possibilities and limits of humanitarian aid. Through that, he develops a new, global perspective for a modern and sustainable development and refugee policy.


Keiner hat hingehört

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Ruth Eisenreich, September 22, 2015

Kilian Kleinschmidt reflects upon the way Syrians live in the refugee camp Zaatari today and answers questions on how Jordan deals with refugees, how the lack of resources affect refugees, the refugee crisis in Europe and the reasons for refugees to move to Europe.

Vergessen Sie perfekte Pläne

Redbulletin, Andreas Rottenschlager, September 2015

This article shares Kilian Kleinschmidt’s start in Zaatari. What did he do upon arrival? How did he get to know Zaatari and its complex situation among 100.000 strangers? How to deal with interlocutors acting aggressive? Through this article, Kilian shares his personal experiences, lessons learned and impressive encounters.

CHAOS – Der Bürgemeister

Der Spiegel, Takis von Würger, Spiegel, June 4, 2013

An extensive article, kicks off by speaking about the violence experienced in the Zaatari refugee camp and the complexity of having an accurate overview on the present humanitarian aid organizations and good will of small initiatives. It continues with an overview of Kilian Kleinschmidt’s background and motives for being a humanitarian worker. He gives the three main declarations for the anger of 116000 refugees and the third one, the presence of mafia, appears to play a key role in the struggles with violence and illegal businesses. The mafia needs the instability of the camp, they need trade to be illegal and the chaos is used in order to continue the smuggling business. Going into dialogue with the leaders of the camp and understanding the motives of the trouble makers outside the camp, results in mutual understanding and respect empowering human relationships and collective collaboration.

Calm Boss Overseeing a Syrian Refugee Camp’s Chaos

New York Times, Rudi Rudoren, May 24, 2013

This article describes Kilian Kleinschmidt’s initial phase at work in camp Zaatari. It illustrates how he proposes to deal with the chaotic times in which mobile homes are vandalized, material is stolen, caravan are needed, demonstrations and tear gas and the challenge of controlling electricity connections. All of that in the midst of creating structures and visiting officials.

Er kämpfte, damit andere weniger leiden

Blick, Switzerland, Tanya König, November 23, 2014

One regular day with Kilian Kleinschmidt in the refugee camp in Zaatari, the different needs of the refugees in the camp, illustrated in the street image and shops that have opened in the Syrian Camp. It is the empowerment of private property that opens new possibilities for people to return to normality. By allowing these small businesses and initiatives, Zaatari turned into a more peaceful place, allowing Kleinschmidt to hand over his work to other experts and continue elsewhere.

Refugee Camp for Syrians in Jordan Evolves as a Do-It-Yourself City

New York Times, Michael Kimmelan, July 4, 2014

The change seen in Zaataria refugee camp – shops, markets, (paved) streets, electric poles, houses cobbled together from shelters, tents, cinder blocks and shipping containers, with interior courtyards, private toilets and jerry-built sewers, clusters of satellite dishes and water tanks – illustrates a basic civilizing push toward urbanization. This article describes that Zaatari’s evolution points more broadly to a whole new way of thinking about forced migrations and the need to treat camps as more than transitional population centers. A number of forward-thinking aid workers and others are looking at refugee camps as potential urban incubators, places that can grow and develop and even benefit the host countries.

Syria crisis: Zaatari refugee camp manager answers readers questions

The Guardian, Maeve Shearlaw, November 29, 2013

Syria’s civil war has forced more than 2.2 million refugees to flee the country, more than a million refugees are children, and Jordan’s Zaatari camp, gives a home to 45,000 of them. This article invites the readers to post their questions related to this fact, with answers given by Kilian Kleinschmidt. Are we looking at a lost generation? What are Zaatari’s children missing out on? How can traumatized children have space to be children again? Also questions related to the economy, businesses, vaccinations, humanitarian aid and urban planning are posted.

Syria crisis: Economy of Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp

BBC News, Howard Johnson, Zaatari, Jordan, August 12, 2013

The UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency), encourages trade and services at the ‘Champs Elysees’ which is a nickname for the street right in front of Za-atari, the world’s second-largest refugee camp and the largest camp for Syrian refugees. Although taking care of a shop and turning a profit is supposedly reinforcing peace and stability in the camp, it has also led to the tackling of the camp’s black economy. As a sense of permanence residence starts to kick in, Kilian Kleinschmidt has been brought into the scene in order to reorganize and re-establish the camp.


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledges refugee camp Internet access

BBC news, September 27, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg invites everyone to work together to make connecting to the world a priority for everyone. He contributes by announcing plans to help bringing the internet to UN refugee camps.