United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the priorities of your organization?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dual effect on UNHCR’s operational priorities. On the one hand, it further reinforced the importance of focusing on basic needs and essential services, whereby basic hygiene, adequate sanitation, and appropriate living conditions were central to the pandemic response and key measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. On the other hand, the pandemic also opened a new dimension of vulnerability for people who have been forced to flee from their homes, complicating the task of protecting them, assisting them, and helping them to get home again, or to start over. The importance of advocating for the inclusion of displaced and stateless populations in national response plans including vaccination rollouts was and remains paramount.
From the very start of the pandemic, communities themselves made extraordinary efforts to protect themselves and others, with displaced women often at the forefront. Community and religious leaders, outreach volunteers and women’s and youth groups all engaged to ensure culturally appropriate and understandable information reached displaced and stateless population through multiple channels. UNHCR adapted its programming, updating online guidance and tools and expanding community mechanisms.
UNHCR also developed new virtual networks of support and communication, rethinking biometric identity verification so people could continue getting assistance without raising the risk of COVID-19 spreading. With a collapse in incomes, many refugees, displaced and stateless persons faced eviction and extreme choices about how to make ends meet. UNHCR pushed everywhere for governments to bring displaced people under the umbrella of their health systems, and it supported those systems by providing critical equipment and supplies for hospitals and health workers.
For additional information and visual support, see this link:
UNHCR, Operational Data Portal, COVID-19 Platform: Temporary measures and impact on protection (https://data2.unhcr.org/en/dataviz/127)
UNHCR, COVID-19 and refugees (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/95cc3b65d9264cf3b80fffef0daa0358)
UNHCR, Space, shelter and scarce resources - coping with COVID-19 (https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/e1da7d80fbcf4ce8a3a954910c1e7f37)
2. In 2020/2021, how has your organization endeavored to support Member States to build back better from COVID-19 while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda? Please select up to three high-impact initiatives to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs. How has your organizations cooperated with other UN system organizations in those efforts to achieve coherence and synergies?
|UNICEF/UNHCR Blueprint for Joint Action|
|Partners: (please list all partners)||UNICEF|
|Relevant SDGs||SDGs 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 16, 17|
|Member States benefiting from the initiative:||During the two-year inception phase, the blueprint was tested in eleven focus countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Libya, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Honduras, Ecuador and Rwanda – before expanding globally in 2022.|
|Description:||The Blueprint leverages the capacities of the two agencies to bring about change in policy and practice to achieve more inclusive systems and services. UNICEF brings strong relationships with line ministries, expertise in social policy, WASH, child rights and protection, and strengthening systems. UNHCR brings their expertise and mandate on refugee protection and experience in frontline response and service delivery. Transformational change has also been achieved beyond the Blueprint countries. For example, in the East and Southern Africa region, under the “Blueprint for Sustainable WASH in East Africa’’ programme, pre-feasibility studies were carried out in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. Funded by 200 million Euro, this programme aims to develop a pipeline of WASH infrastructure and utility projects, designed to deliver on the Global Compact on Refugees and commitments under the UNICEF/UNHCR Blueprint for Joint Action.|
|UNHCR’s Global Public Health Strategy 2021-2025|
|Partners: (please list all partners)||WHO|
|Relevant SDGs||SDGs 3, 10, 17|
|Member States benefiting from the initiative:||Countries hosting refugees, displaced and stateless persons|
|Description:||The Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030Agenda with their emphasis on leaving no one behind provide further incentive for inclusive and comprehensive approaches to public health and nutrition at global and country level. The signing of anew memorandum of understanding between UNHCR and WHO supported by the World Health Assembly-approved Global Framework on Promoting the Health of Refugees and Migrants and the subsequent global action plan, provide tools to advance more collaborative and predictable responses at country level. However, the COVID pandemic has highlighted the capacity gaps in national health systems and the critical role health plays in realizing rights, well-being and development. The ramifications of COVID-19 extend far beyond health with major impacts on food security, socio-economic status, psychosocial wellbeing, living conditions, educational attainment and diversion from other health priorities. UNHCR’s Public Health Strategy 2021-2025 is based on the lessons learnt, and builds on the achievements, of the Global Strategy for Public Health 2014-2018.Progress was made on policies favouring inclusion and integration into national systems3 with 92% of 48operations surveyed reporting refugees having access to national primary health care facilities under the same conditions as nationals and 96% reporting refugees having access to all relevant vaccines under the same conditions as nationals. While many refugee hosting countries have policies that allow refugees to access national health services, many face partial access, prohibitive out-of-pocket expenditures and other barriers including distance to facilities, language and provide acceptance. Furthermore, more work is needed on strengthening these systems to be able to meet the needs of both host communities and refugees. Inclusion approaches in countries with weak health systems require the mobilization of significant additional support and a medium to long-term time frame. Refugees continue to face barriers of discrimination, long distances to health facilities and inability to pay, particularly when they are denied the right to work. Lessons learnt from assessments of the feasibility of including refugees in national or community health insurance schemes have demonstrated that refugees are still required to pay in most cases, demonstrating the importance of pursuing self-reliance strategies and the strategic use of cash assistance alongside inclusive approaches.|
|Operational Strategy for Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability 2022-2025|
|Partners: (please list all partners)||UN system and UNHCR’s operational partners|
|Relevant SDGs||SDGs 3, 7, 10, 13, 17|
|Member States benefiting from the initiative:||Countries hosting refugees, displaced and stateless persons|
|Description:||Along with COVID-19, climate change is the defining crisis of our time, with a particularly devastating impact on the forcibly displaced and their hosts, who often live on the frontlines of the climate crisis and its interplay with conflict. Millions of the world’s refugees are hosted in countries that are highly exposed to climate change but lack the resources to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable environment, resulting in the predictable consequences of increased loss of livelihoods, poverty, poor health outcomes and food insecurity. At the same time, humanitarian operations often take more of a toll on the environment than we would like, with the purchase, delivery, use and disposal of Core Relief Items (CRIs) resulting in significant environmental impact. It is against this backdrop that UNHCR launched the Operational Strategy for Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability 2022-2025. The overarching objectives of this strategy are to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on the people we serve, strengthen their resilience to climate-related and other environmental risks – including by preserving and rehabilitating the natural environment in displacement settings – and minimize the environmental footprint of our assistance. This strategy is grounded in UNHCR’s Strategic Framework for Climate Action, launched in2021, and aims at operationalizing its second Pillar of Action – Operations. This will feed into the realization of regional Climate Action Plans that will ground our ambitions in context-specific needs and realities. It recognizes the need for urgent action in three major areas: (i) Prepare and respond: To improve our predictability of engagement in emergencies brought on by climate-related and other natural hazards and integrate environmental considerations in planning and preparedness for emergency response; (ii) Respond &deliver: To incorporate climate and environmental considerations into sectoral operational responses, work with refugees, IDPs and host communities in the most climate vulnerable countries, and develop innovative sustainable energy and reforestation programmes for refugee-hosting areas; and, (iii) Supply& deliver: To improve the sustainability of the end-to-end supply chain, including planning, sourcing, contents, manufacturing processes, procurement, delivery and lifecycle management of CRIs and other goods.|
3. Has your organization published or is it planning to publish any analytical work or guidance note or toolkits to guide and support recovery efforts from COVID-19 while advancing SDG implementation at national, regional and global levels? Please select up to three high-impact resources to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs.
|Name:||Joint Data Centre on Forced Displacement is a UNHCR-World Bank partnership, routinely publishes analytical work to support recovery efforts from COVID-19, and further the implementation of the 2030 SDG Agenda.|
|Publishing entity:||UNHCR-World Bank Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement|
|Relevant SDGs||SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 16, 17|
|Target audience:||Governments, development and humanitarian actors, researchers, academics|
|Resource description:||The Joint Data Centre on Forced Displacement (JDC) is a UNHCR-World Bank partnership, routinely publishes analytical work to support recovery efforts from COVID-19, and further the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. Two issues of the JDC Paper Series are of particular relevance. Highly Vulnerable yet largely invisible – Forcibly Displaced in the Covid19 recession, provides a review of the existing evidence about the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on forcibly displaced, including refugees and internally displaced persons and host communities. It highlights the potential consequences of the global economic recession, as well as some of the implications for the income and wellbeing of this group, focusing on low-and middle-income economies where the overwhelming majority of the forcibly displaced live. This is the first in a series of JDC Papers on the pandemic’s socio-economic consequences The second issue Answering the call: Forcibly displaced during the pandemic takes stock of what is known about the experience of forcibly displaced and their hosts during the pandemic. It summarizes projections of the expected socioeconomic impact of the pandemic on those affected by forced displacement, using data from simulations and scenarios developed by other researchers. The paper also highlights results from high frequency phone surveys – based on more than 90,000 interviews –covering eight country-level data collection exercises in Bangladesh, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Uganda, and Yemen. Surveys in these eight developing countries suggest that the socioeconomic wellbeing of both forcibly displaced and host populations have deteriorated in most countries during COVID-19. The forcibly displaced have suffered setbacks in health access, education, wages and employment, non-labor income, and food security.|
4. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups to support SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery at national, regional and global levels? Please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. If your organization has established multi-stakeholder partnerships in this regard, please describe them and provide links to relevant websites, if applicable.
UNHCR published several field practice documents and lessons learned in the area of livelihoods and economic inclusion, cash-based assistance, and WASH. Phone surveys have been undertaken by UNHCR independently, or jointly with the World Bank and national governments with support from the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions in different countries including Nigeria, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. In Colombia, UNHCR and IOM co-lead the Interagency Group on Mixed Migration Flows (GIFMM in Spanish) and coordinate among the 21 group members joint data collection to assess the socio-economic needs of refugees. Data collection instruments are harmonized with existing government surveys for coherency and comparability and results published online. In Lebanon, regular protection monitoring conducted by UNHCR and partners revealed a rise in loss of employment and/or livelihoods (from 54% to 61% in 2021 Q1) among refugees, and rising levels of debts to meet basic needs.
www.unhcr.org, https://www.unhcr.org/5ecfacab4.pdf, https://www.unhcr.org/protection/operations/5e8af8b74/unhcr-cash-assist…, file://C:\\Users\TORZILLI\Downloads\WASH Emerging Practices COVID-19_v5 (2).pdf
5. Following the adoption of the 2019 SDG Summit declaration (GA resolution 74/4), where Member States outlined ten priority areas for accelerated action in SDG implementation, please highlight any major integrated and innovative policies or initiatives that your organization may have adopted in the following areas:
5.1 leaving no one behind;
The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), affirmed by the General Assembly in 2018, represents the framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing to address and find sustainable solution to refugee situations. It provides a blueprint for governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders to ensure that host communities get the support they need and that refugees can lead productive lives. The Compact is aligned to the 2030 Agenda and its principle of leave no one behind. A central arrangement of the GCR is the Global Refugee Forum, where States and other actors come together every four years to share good practices and pledge financial support, technical expertise and policy changes to help reach the goals of the GCR. The first Global Refugee Forum took place in December 2019 and was a true milestone in building solidarity with the world’s refugees and the countries and communities that host them. A recent joint DCO-OCHA-UNHCR report “The Road to 2023: assessing progress and accelerating delivery on the UN common pledges in advance of the next Global Refugee Forum” shows progress in the implementation of UN pledges towards the GCR and the principle of leaving no one behind: e.g. 86% of the UNSDCFs in refugee hosting countries are mentioning refugees in the outcome statements and 79% result framework in 2020 vs 60% in 2019. Leaving no one behind: Graduation for Refugees: Through the Graduation Approach, UNHCR and its partners set out to increase self-reliance and resilience among refugees and host community members living in extreme poverty. UNHCR has been enhancing collaboration with development actors to bridge the current gap between humanitarian and development efforts and ensure that refugees, displaced and stateless persons —in particular, extremely poor ones—are not left behind. UNHCR engages in efforts to strengthen self-reliance and resilience with the objective of equipping and preparing its persons of concern to respond to the protection risks they face and to take advantage of opportunities leading to solutions. How a displaced person fares in the future, whether in the country of asylum or origin or in a third country, depends on the skills, experiences and qualifications, mental and physical health, material assets and attitudes maintained and developed while displaced. These resources and qualities are beneficial not only to refugees but to their communities, including in areas of return or relocation, or in countries of settlement. https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/livelihoods/5a9e99884/leaving-be…
5.2 mobilizing adequate and well-directed financing;
UNHCR and the World Bank have been expanding strategic non-transactional collaboration including through joint analytical work and in operations in several regions. Since 208, the World Bank created a refugee sub-window of its International Development Association (IDA) to fund for the world’s poorest countries hosting refugees In addition, through the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF), the World Bank provided financing opportunities for middle-income countries hosting large number of refugees. The GCFF is already benefitting Lebanon, Jordan, Ecuador and Colombia
5.3 enhancing national implementation;
5.4 strengthening institutions for more integrated solutions;
5.5 bolstering local action;
5.6 reducing disaster risk and building resilience;
UNHCR Environmental Sustainability and Climate Resilience (launched in December 2021): Along with COVID-19, climate change is the defining crisis of our time, with a particularly devastating impact on the forcibly displaced and their hosts, who often live on the frontlines of the climate crisis and its interplay with conflict. Millions of the world’s refugees are hosted in countries that are highly exposed to climate change but lack the resources to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable environment, resulting in the predictable consequences of increased loss of livelihoods, poverty, poor health outcomes and food insecurity. At the same time, humanitarian operations often take more of a toll on the environment than we would like, with the purchase, delivery, use and disposal of Core Relief Items (CRIs) resulting in significant environmental impact. It is against this backdrop that UNHCR launched the Operational Strategy for Climate Resilience and Environmental Sustainability 2022-2025. The overarching objectives of this strategy are to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on the people we serve, strengthen their resilience to climate-related and other environmental risks – including by preserving and rehabilitating the natural environment in displacement settings – and minimize the environmental footprint of our assistance. This strategy is grounded in UNHCR’s Strategic Framework for Climate Action and aims at operationalizing its second Pillar of Action – Operations. This will feed into the realization of regional Climate Action Plans that will ground our ambitions in context-specific needs and realities. It recognizes the need for urgent action in three major areas: i) Prepare and respond: To improve our predictability of engagement in emergencies brought on by climate-related and other natural hazards and integrate environmental considerations in planning and preparedness for emergency response; ii) Respond & deliver: To incorporate climate and environmental considerations into sectoral operational responses, work with refugees, IDPs and host communities in the most climate vulnerable countries and develop innovative sustainable energy and reforestation programmes for refugee-hosting areas; and, iii) Supply & deliver: To improve the sustainability of the end-to-end supply chain, including planning, sourcing, contents, manufacturing processes, procurement, delivery and lifecycle management of CRIs and other goods. Innovation, Environment and Resilience Fund: The fund will identify and foster creative ideas related to climate change or environmental action that could improve the adaptive capacity and resilience of refugees and their host communities. This Innovation, Environment and Resilience Fund will strengthen their ability to mitigate, withstand and recover from events and conditions caused by environmental factors prior to or during their displacement. The fund will be accessible across UNHCR operations and will invite, identify and foster ideas for refinement, development and testing. Taking a collaborative approach, the fund will support selected ‘early-stage’ innovations that provide context-specific and locally informed solutions to identified challenges. It will go through a problem identification and solution development process, focusing on ideas that have not yet been implemented but need to be tested. The ideas may be highlighted as promising and viable in research or practice, and should be novel to a local context, UNHCR or the world. Indigenous solutions or traditional ecological knowledge and practices that have been overlooked by the humanitarian sector are also strongly encouraged. The fund will be open to all offices and colleagues across UNHCR, some of whom may be in partnership with local organizations. Those not working specifically on the environment will be encouraged to apply to promote interdisciplinarity. Proposals will be evaluated by a Technical Committee, which will generate a short list of projects based on criteria, including impact and value for persons of concern, participatory design, novelty, feasibility and sustainability. A Steering Committee of experts from HQ divisions and services and regional bureaux will review the shortlist and make final decisions. Project Flow: Over the past decade, UNHCR has solarized more than 165 diesel-powered water pumps using limited grant funding but there remain hundreds of large boreholes that continue to run on diesel power. This usage of fossil fuels contributes carbon emissions to the environment, currently amounting to ~40,000 L of diesel per year, which is the equivalent to 110 tons of CO2 per year generated by each water pump. In addition to its negative environmental effects, diesel-powered water pumps also have higher running costs than solar solutions, albeit the latter involve substantially higher initial investments than diesel systems. The Project Flow is envisaged as a revolving financing mechanism to support the solarization of UNHCR boreholes through the establishment of a relatively contained capital contribution from interested donors. The funding would be used to up-front to Operations the capital and other costs required to invest in establish solarized boreholes. Operations would run tenders to procure the solar system and Project Flow team would be available to provide technical support to operations. Operations would pay back the advance from Project Flow over a few years using the savings presumably earned from the discontinuation of diesel power according to an agreed schedule or in advance of schedule if requested by the operations. The pay back accrued would, in turn, generate resources available to finance additional sites to be solarized.
5.7 solving challenges through international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership;
UNHCR is an adherent to the DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian, Development and Peace Nexus, and be able to bring refugees/forced displacement related issues more forcefully to the HDP discussions. UNHCR’s Strategic Directions 2022-2026 renews the commitment for protection and solutions, targeting 8 areas including maintain development engagement in response from the outset especially through coalitions with development partners.
5.8 harnessing science, technology and innovation with a greater focus on digital transformation for sustainable development;
5.9 investing in data and statistics for the SDGs; and
5.10 strengthening the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
6. In the lead up to the 2023 HLPF to be held under the auspices of the General Assembly (or 2023 SDG Summit), please provide your organization’s recommendations on how to overcome challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs, taking into account the thematic reviews and voluntary national reviews conducted to date.
UNHCR is firmly committed to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. UNHCR continues to advocate for and work with States, host communities, civil society, private sectors and persons of concern themselves to ensure that no one will be left behind, especially those currently “further behind”. To this end, UNHCR aims to include refugees, the internally displaced and stateless people in national systems, including health and education, pending durable solutions to their displacement.
In the spirit of leaving no one behind and to bring coherence to UNHCR’s approach to the 2030 Agenda, UNHCR continue pursuing “inclusion” and “partnerships” as its strategic aims to secure progress for persons of concern to the High Commissioner and thereby contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. UNHCR recommends redoubling efforts for accelerated and inclusive implementation of the SDGs, strengthening and diversifying partnerships to bring together a broad range of actors – including the private sector – to innovate, create and mobilize solutions for forced displacement and statelessness.
The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) explicitly links forced displacement to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. It works to ensure the inclusion of refugees and forcibly displaced people in efforts to achieve the SDGs. Within the GCR UNHCR supports:
• Working with States, donors, UN partners and others to include refugees and host communities in their planning and policies to implement the Agenda 2030 and achieve the SDGs
• Working with countries of origin to establish conditions for voluntary repatriation
• Fostering collaboration between humanitarian and development actors from the outset of a refugee situation and in protracted situations in support of host countries and (where appropriate) countries of origin
• Leveraging development partnerships working on the SDGs
• Further advance the engagement of the United Nations system, which was deeply engaged in the development process of the Global Compact. The United Nations system leverages support for the Agenda 2030 and the Global Compact. This includes the contributions of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT), as well as all relevant agencies to ensure operational cooperation on the ground in support of national development activities working with host communities and refugees.
• While focused on refugee situations, the Global Compact recognizes the challenges posed by other displacement situations such as statelessness, internal displacement, mixed movements, or displacement by sudden natural disasters and envisages support in these cases. UNHCR’s engagement in the UN Strategic Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) furthers the Global Compact’s objectives and the pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 for example on: securing more support for hosting countries; ensuring linked up humanitarian and development programming; advancing the inclusion of refugees in national and UN development strategies.