During large and rapid influxes of displaced persons, hosting communities may face challenges in accommodating incoming populations. This study seeks to assess the institutional response to international displacement in developed urban contexts through exploring how stakeholders (de)legitimized (i.e., either withheld or attributed legitimacy to) the inclusion of cultural practices in the planning of water and sanitation for displaced persons. This study is enabled by 28 semi-structured interviews of individuals involved in the accommodation of displaced persons in Germany conducted in 2016. The interview content was qualitatively analyzed to identify the types of decisions made, legitimacy types used to (de)legitimize those decisions, and information used to assess cultural practices. Results indicate that the institutional response to international displacement was most commonly reactive rather than proactive. However, the interviewees demonstrated a willingness to adapt, primarily using their experiences (comprehensibility legitimacy) and moral considerations (procedural legitimacy). Recommendations to stakeholders arising from this study include: (1) improve access to information about displaced persons’ practices and needs in water and sanitation, (2) collect more information by communicating with displaced persons, (3) promote collaborations between involved organizations, (4) monitor organizational changes during the response, and (5) enhance discussions about integration through the built environment.
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