Oslo Declaration and Plan of Action
|Publisher||Partnership in Action (PARinAC)|
|Author||Other Specialised Conferences|
|Publication Date||9 June 1994|
|Cite as||Partnership in Action (PARinAC), Oslo Declaration and Plan of Action, 9 June 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae68f3d8.html [accessed 29 March 2015]|
|Comments||The PARinAC Global NGO and UNHCR Conference included 182 NGO representatives from 83 countries, as well as observers from intergovernmental bodies, the United Nations system, agencies and members of ExCom. The conference, which took place in Oslo, Norway, from 6-9 June 1994, adopted by consensus the Oslo Declaration and Plan of Action, which endorses the regional proposals from all the consultations. The Plan of Action includes 134 recommendations that will serve as guidelines for present and future response to humanitarian challenges.|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The global NGO and UNHCR Conference which took place in Oslo, Norway, from 6-9 June 1994 was the culmination of a year-long series of consultations and regional meetings in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe, as well as national consultations in Canada, Japan and the United States, to discuss the operational relationships between UNHCR and NGOs and the criteria for building a more constructive and concrete partnership for the future. The Oslo meeting was the biggest and most comprehensive meeting of its kind between any UN agency and its NGO partners. We issued some 450 invitations to individual agencies and about 250 participants from more than 100 countries actually attended the Conference.
The Oslo Plan of Action represents a synthesis of the hundreds of proposals which emerged from the six regional conferences on the five agenda items of protection, internally displaced persons, emergency preparedness and response, the relief to development continuum, and NGO-UNHCR partnership. The Plan of Action, therefore, represents the collective efforts of practitioners in organizations involved in refugee work in all parts of the world. It also reflects the changing roles of NGOs and UNHCR. We are constantly more involved, not only in strictly humanitarian efforts, but also in efforts related to human rights, early warning, prevention, reconciliation and peacekeeping and peacemaking.
We believe this document provides an excellent basis for improved partnership between UNHCR and NGOs and challenges us both to forge new mechanisms to implement the concerted Plan of Action. This will require continued good will and strong committment both from the NGO community and from UNHCR.
The PARinAC Conferences have started a way of thinking and a way of acting which we must not allow to stop after Oslo. The UNHCR and NGOs have committed themselves not only to a Plan of Action but also to a set of structural changes which will focus on follow-up.
We look forward to the day when our agenda for joint humanitarian action will become part of a Global Agenda for Humanitarian Action, to join those agendas already formulated for Peace and for Development.
Finally, we encourage you to study this document and to seek ways to promote and implement the recommendations in your work.
Dennis McNamara Trygve G. Nordby
UNHCR Senior Coordinator Chair, ICVA's
for PARINAC Executive Committee
Refugee movements constitute one of the most important and difficult challenges facing the international community in the post-Cold War era. Rising nationalism, violent fragmentation of existing states, and the formation of new national entities are generating increasing mass movements of refugees and displaced persons. We are living in a period without precedent, both in terms of the numbers of refugees and displaced persons and the complexities of the global humanitarian challenge. In 1951 when UNHCR was established, there were some 1.5 million refugees; in 1994 there are over 20 million refugees and an even larger number of internally displaced persons.
Over the past forty years, the UNHCR-NGO partnership has evolved with the changing nature of the global refugee problem and the new challenges facing those who work for the uprooted victims of persecution and violence. Today the magnitude and nature of the refugee problem call urgently for new approaches. We are confronted by the suffering of the victims of conflict and human rights violations, and concerned about protecting them. With all of us moving into the uncharted waters of a new international era, there was a particular need to map out together a strategy and plan of action for a reinvigorated NGO-UNHCR partnership. That is why UNHCR, together with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), launched the PARinAC process which culminated in the global UNHCR-NGO conference in Oslo from 6-9 June 1994.
The pages that follow contain the Oslo Declaration and Plan of Action which seek to define the agenda for future NGO-UNHCR humanitarian action. I am encouraged by the progress we have made so far in redefining and strengthening our cooperation and collaboration. I pledge that my Office will work closely with its NGO partners to ensure that the ambitious recommendations are properly implemented. Translating the Plan of Action from rhetoric to reality will require substantive efforts by both UNHCR and NGOs, including changes in both thinking and approach, and a willingness on both sides to meet our respective responsibilities.
Crucially, the success of our joint efforts also requires broadening the range of actors in humanitarian action to include governments, development agencies, human rights networks, peacekeeping and conflict resolution mechanisms - all of which must be involved in finding innovative approaches and collaborations to resolve conflicts and their accompanying displacements. If we hope to ensure cooperation in achieving a solution to the refugee problem and phasing out the political source of forced displacement in the future, we must work at improving coordination with other international, regional and non-governmental agencies. The Oslo Plan of Action sets us firmly on that path.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The Global NGO and UNHCR PARinAC Conference took place in Oslo, Norway from 6-9 June 1994 under the shadow of appalling events in a world riven by crises. These tragedies continue to drive millions from their homes to seek refuge.
Despite recent encouraging social and political improvements in some regions of the world, many societies continue to suffer civil strife, armed conflicts and gross violations of human rights which produce refugees and displaced persons in ever greater numbers. The grave humanitarian crises of forced displacement that confront the international community are exacerbated by the widening gulf within and between rich and poor countries of the world, the growth of racism and xenophobia, and the erosion of the institution of asylum in many parts of the world. The enforcement of established human rights norms throughout the world demands that urgent priority is given to preventive actions. Nevertheless, despite the efforts of the United Nations, many governments, non-governmental humanitarian and human rights organizations, development organizations and the people at large, the international response to problems facing refugees, internally displaced persons and other victims of human rights violations is inadequate.
Against this background, NGOs and UNHCR met in Oslo to restate the responsibility of governments, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations to promote the ethic of human solidarity, to explore new forms of joint action to meet present and future humanitarian challenges, and to enhance international humanitarian response in favor of uprooted populations.
UNHCR and NGOs reaffirmed the tradition of shared responsibility towards refugees and the institution of asylum. In view of the very great humanitarian and human rights challenges facing UNHCR, other UN and international organizations, and NGOs, there is an urgent need to strengthen international and national structures of cooperation. NGOs and UNHCR believe in the need for comprehensive and coordinated strategies to address these challenges.
Realizing the importance of strengthening the UNHCR-NGO partnership to enhance the international humanitarian response in favor of refugees, returnees and displaced persons, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) launched a number of worldwide consultations over a period of 12 months known as PARinAC, Partnership in Action. The PARinAC process comprised regional meetings between UNHCR and some 450 NGOs in Caracas, Kathmandu, Tunis, Bangkok, Addis Ababa and Budapest. There were supplementary consultations in Canada, Japan and the United States.
The Oslo Conference fully endorses the proposals formulated at the six regional PARinAC meetings and underlines their particular relevance to each of the regions concerned.
The Plan of Action adopted by this Conference represents the consolidated proposals for improved UNHCR-NGO collaboration which have emerged from the regional consultations. These consultations have shown an openness and willingness to promote trust and mutual understanding and to build bridges of communication. Participants acknowledge the differences and limitations of their respective mandates and capacities, but strongly endorse continuous efforts to work together in a cooperative, coordinated, and transparent manner.
Therefore, the participants at Oslo are committed to implement the Oslo Plan of Action. The Plan identifies various ways that this collaboration can and should be enhanced, and is intended to provide a common agenda for UNHCR-NGO partnership in the following five priority areas:
a) Refugee Protection
To ensure, through an open process of consultation and involvement in the formulation of policies, that the protection and assistance needs of asylum-seekers and refugees are met; to reinforce the mechanisms for monitoring and information-sharing in potential or unfolding refugee crises; and to advocate more effectively on behalf of refugees and asylum-seekers.
b) Internally Displaced Persons
To develop, in cooperation with the United Nations, other agencies and institutions and with governments, a comprehensive approach to the protection and assistance needs of internally displaced persons, based on clearly defined legal and operational criteria.
c) Emergency Preparedness and Response
To ensure a better coordinated approach to emergencies involving refugees and internally displaced persons through all stages, from early warning to operational responses, including training and funding.
d) The Continuum from Relief to Rehabilitation to Development
To formulate and implement, early in refugee emergencies, comprehensive strategies and programmes for solutions which combine a concern with immediate humanitarian needs with longer term planning for rehabilitation and development.
e) NGO-UNHCR Partnership
To reinforce the partnership between UNHCR and NGOs, particularly at regional and local levels, through a number of concrete measures, including the strengthening of local capacities and increasing training. This would facilitate follow-up and implementation of the Oslo Plan of Action. Refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons should be considered joint partners with UNHCR and NGOs in all programmes and activities of concern to them.
Participants also commit themselves to respond to the particular needs of refugee women and refugee children and their central importance in all aspects of protection, assistance planning, and programming.
In the spirit of PARinAC, NGOs and UNHCR undertake to reinforce their actions in favor of building and/or strengthening local NGOs' capacities to respond to humanitarian challenges, including the achievement of durable solutions.
Effective partnership must involve governments who have strongly supported the PARinAC process and whose continuing cooperation, along with UN and intergovernmental institutions, is vital to the implementation of the Oslo Plan of Action.
The Conference, grateful for the contributions made by donors to the PARinAC process to date, calls upon the international community also to consider favorably the provision of additional financial resources which will be identified to carry out this plan.
We are determined to enhance and develop mechanisms to improve cooperation between UNHCR and NGOs for the benefit of, and in solidarity with, the world's refugees, returnees, and displaced persons. By this declaration, we commit ourselves to the spirit of PARinAC and to follow-up and implement the Plan of Action.
OSLO PLAN OF ACTION
Part I - REFUGEE PROTECTION
The broad issue of refugee protection was a major topic of discussion in each of the regional meetings. There was general agreement that a prerequisite for a successful partnership in protection is coordination of complementary UNHCR and NGO actions in order to maximize joint efforts and understand better each other's mandates, roles and responsibilities. Likewise, it was recognized that improved UNHCR-NGO communication and consultation is a key to effective complementary action. With regard to intergovernmental meetings and consultations relevant to persons in need of international protection, it was felt that governments should fully include UNHCR in their discussions and that, where possible, NGOs should be given meaningful opportunities to give input to those discussions and to have timely access to relevant documentation. It was also emphasized that protection actions should be taken in consultation with, and with the full participation of, the affected populations. This overall process needs to be cognizant of the contribution of NGOs to refugee protection. NGOs have primarily an advocacy mandate for protection, including moral, practical and humanitarian dimensions. They have a clear role to play in protection matters and have shown that they are able to handle this role responsibly in sensitive situations.
UNHCR and NGOs should establish appropriate coordinating mechanisms for the implementation of protection activities, which would facilitate regular consultations and dialogue at the international, regional and national levels on an institutionalized basis; sharing of mutual concerns; and strengthening of the complementarity of UNHCR's and NGOs' protection activities. This process should be guided by a spirit of greater accountability, transparency, exchange of information, and cooperation in the formulation of protection policies.
UNHCR should ensure greater involvement of NGOs in the process of policy formulation on protection issues, including those which are not currently its implementing partners. UNHCR and NGOs should meet on a regular basis at country and regional levels to define together comprehensive short-term and long-term refugee protection priorities, objectives and strategies, and jointly evaluate common activities, taking into account broader human rights concerns and taking into consideration the points of view and expectations of the refugee population.
UNHCR should prepare a protection field guide which allows for flexible application, for NGO staff, and conduct regular training seminars for NGO personnel, and should consider possibilities for funding support of NGO protection activities, especially those of local NGOs, whose participation in protection activities should be supported and strengthened where possible.
Joint efforts are needed to assist the establishment of local NGO committees to promote their involvement in specific protection activities and programmes. Taking into account local conditions and organizational autonomies, efforts should be made to facilitate a greater acceptance by governments in respect to local NGOs' protection roles. UNHCR should take practical steps to strengthen the human and financial capacity, especially of local NGOs, to fulfill these roles.
B. Accession to and Implementation of the Universal and Regional Refugee Instruments
The validity of the principles contained in the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as the contributions of regional instruments to the protection of refugees, were reaffirmed. However, concern was expressed that in some regions few countries have acceded to the universal refugee instruments.
UNHCR and NGOs should advocate and promote, in a complementary fashion, States' accession to, implementation of, and compliance with the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the need to lift the geographical limitation by States which have not yet done so. They should also promote with the States concerned accession, implementation, adherence, and compliance with the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa; as well as adherence to the protection standards and principles set forth in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees; the principles and criteria of the 1989 CIREFCA document for the Protection and Assistance to Central American Refugees; and the 1992 Cairo Declaration on the Protection of Refugees and Displaced Persons in the Arab World.
UNHCR and NGOs should promote States' reporting on the implementation of universal refugee instruments through, inter alia, new monitoring arrangements and mechanisms such as optional protocols.
UNHCR and NGOs should establish a working group to analyze why countries in some regions have not acceded to the universal refugee instruments. They should devise strategies to encourage accession to, implementation of, and compliance with the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
In view of the widespread threats posed to the institution of asylum, the primary importance of the right to seek and enjoy asylum and States' obligations under the international principle of non-refoulement as basic to the protection of refugees were underscored. Reference was also made to article 14.1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as States' treaty obligations under international and regional human rights instruments. Increasing numbers of persons in need of international protection are frequently subject to restrictive admission measures, prevented from access to asylum procedures, and in a number of countries refugees are not treated in accordance with basic human rights standards. They are subject to unduly prolonged detention and discriminatory measures; attacks on their physical security and inadequate living conditions in camps; and in some instances often transferred between camps, thereby increasing their sense of vulnerability, insecurity, and displacement.
Concern was expressed that the application by some countries of notions such as "safe third country" and "first country of asylum", coupled with the effects of readmission agreements between certain countries, are leading to "chain deportations", thereby forcing some refugees back to countries where they will not have access to effective protection.
It was acknowledged that formal refugee recognition requires an asylum-seeker to establish the individual character of his/her well-founded fear of persecution in order to be entitled to refugee status. It was noted in this regard that in many cases the interpretation by States of the 1951 Convention refugee definition is far too restrictive and consequently denies access to international protection to some persons or groups of persons in need thereof. The urgent need for some persons or groups, who might not readily fall within the terms of the Convention/Protocol refugee definition, to benefit from international protection on humanitarian grounds, was emphasized, noting that States have obligations for the protection of such persons under the other international and regional human rights instruments to which they are party.
UNHCR and NGOs should advocate for host countries to observe the fundamental right to seek asylum, and its corollary international principle of non-refoulement. States should be actively encouraged by UNHCR and NGOs to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with admission to safety and access to fair and meaningful asylum procedures; to grant UNHCR and NGOs effective access to all asylum-seekers at points of entry, detention centres, and prisons. In this context, UNHCR and NGOs should advocate against refugee policies and practices which discriminate against any particular group on the basis of nationality, race, gender, economic status, religion, or other basis.
UNHCR and NGOs should advocate for host countries to observe the right to enjoy asylum; and when required by circumstances, alternative and additional humanitarian protection mechanisms such as temporary protection may be adopted. Refugees, asylum-seekers and those granted temporary protection should be allowed to engage in productive activities and also provided with education and employment opportunities. They should also be allowed to reunite with their families in the country of refuge, as well as when they return to countries of origin.
All possible efforts should be made to prevent human rights abuses from taking place at points of entry, particularly the use of detention as a "humane deterrence" measure. UNHCR and NGOs should advocate so that formal and informal "safe third country" arrangements among governments do not result in interdiction and/or forced return of asylum-seekers. UNHCR and NGOs should actively gather concrete examples where the application of such formal and informal arrangements has resulted in lack of effective protection for asylum-seekers and/or "chain deportations", with a view to influencing decision makers to halt such practices and arrangements. UNHCR and NGOs should bring to governments, and where applicable, to international and regional human rights mechanisms, concerns about denial of access to refugees and asylum-seekers, including interdiction practices.
UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate, as well as encourage governments, to provide legal assistance and counselling by culturally sensitive trained staff to refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and other persons in need of protection, returnees, and where appropriate, displaced and stateless persons; they should promote the legal rights and obligations of these groups. UNHCR and NGOs should inform those to whom they provide legal assistance and counselling what can be done to help; when it can be done and how it may be made available. This should be in particular reference to work, social assistance, health, education, and nationality for children, as well as essential documentation for these needs. This should also encompass comprehensive psycho-social rehabilitation to provide therapy which is culturally sensitive to survivors of torture and other forms of violence. In refugee situations where NGOs are permitted to provide assistance but UNHCR is not present, UNHCR should openly declare the refugee character of the situation so that protection concerns raised by NGOs can be seriously considered by the governments and the international community.
A strategy should be developed by UNHCR, NGOs and academic institutions, to promote the application by States of a broader refugee definition, such as that set forth in the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, and universal and regional human rights instruments. This might be assisted by referring to all persons in need of international protection outside their country of origin as refugees, which would encourage States to develop comprehensive protection standards for people in need of protection even if they are not deemed to fall within the 1951 Convention refugee definition. UNHCR and NGOs should promote fair procedures for persons to apply for such protection standards, to be implemented by governments.
Governments should be encouraged to respect the neutrality of camp settlements; to ensure that camps are situated in safe locations and that armed groups or individuals in camps or their surroundings are disarmed or prohibited entry; to provide refugees in camps access to adequate living conditions; and also ensure adequate protection of camp settlements from military and paramilitary forces, bandits or other armed groups or individuals, and bring perpetrators of such acts to justice.
Since the presence of refugees can sometimes impose considerable strains on infrastructure and natural resources, there is both a need to sensitize local communities about the needs of refugees living in their midst, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance provided to the refugee community does not give rise to disparities between refugees and local populations, thereby compromising the protection of refugees.
Maximum efforts should be made to use the media to promote a greater acceptance of refugees; to combat more effectively xenophobic tendencies and other hostile attitudes; and to encourage tolerance and respect for multi-racial and multi-cultural societies. It is also necessary to promote the participation of civil organizations and other groups in the host communities to sensitize them about needs of refugees. In addition, UNHCR and NGOs should undertake coordinated campaigns to increase public awareness on the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers, to obtain wider public support for the promotion of refugee protection and for the liberal interpretation and application by States of the universal and regional refugee instruments.
In accordance with its supervisory role, UNHCR should emphasize to States Parties their obligations under Article 35 of the 1951 Convention. UNHCR and NGOs should continue to promote strict compliance and implementation of protection policies in keeping with the Conclusions on the International Protection of Refugees adopted by the Executive Committee of the UNHCR Programme by, inter alia, continually asserting the need for States to base their asylum policies on these Conclusions.
(i) Refugee Women and Children
International protection calls for more effective protection of refugee women and children, based on the principles set forth in the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol, on the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and on the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was acknowledged that refugee women and girls are often subject to sexual harassment, sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence. Concern was expressed that the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol refugee definition does not include fear of persecution based on gender, and that its gender neutral approach to the protection of refugees does not reflect the realities of the security problems frequently faced by refugee women.
Governments should be encouraged to treat women subjected to persecution in their country of origin by reason of their being women, as refugees. They should establish appropriate legal mechanisms to allow the victims of sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence to seek redress for such violations and punishment of offenders, including law enforcement agents. They should be encouraged to adopt and implement the recommendations set forth in the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, and to enact legislation and adopt institutional policies to ensure that the rights granted to women under the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women are equally accessible to refugee women. Pursuant to article 21 of this Convention, refugee women should be included as a special category in the national reports presented by States Parties under this international instrument.
UNHCR and NGOs should continue to discuss ways and means to implement more effectively the UNHCR policy and protection guidelines on refugee women and on refugee children, in order to devise innovative responses in meeting their needs and securing their rights. UNHCR should distribute these guidelines widely among NGO field staff in view of the active role that NGOs play in promoting their accession and monitoring their implementation.
Reference should be made by UNHCR and NGOs to policies and guidelines on refugee women and refugee children, and these should be incorporated into project agreements signed between UNHCR and implementing parties, and amongst NGOs. This step will encourage the implementation and inclusion of the guidelines in the evaluation process.
UNHCR and NGOs should operationalize the specific protection needs of unaccompanied refugee children, including protection from child abuse or other forms of exploitation such as military recruitment and child slavery. UNHCR and NGOs should underline the principle of family unity, and ensure that interventions concerning children are culturally sensitive.
UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate in the provision of culturally sensitive and holistic psycho-social rehabilitation and counselling services to women survivors of torture and others who are often victims of sexual violence. Confidentiality should be guaranteed by these agencies to prevent re-victimization of survivors in the provision of treatment and other legal assistance and/or referral services. In this context, UNHCR should broaden the definition of Women-at-Risk, to reflect accurately their numbers. In cooperation with concerned NGOs, UNHCR should give due priority to Women-at-Risk programmes to ensure that women-at-risk are identified and removed from situations of extreme persecution in countries of origin.
The World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in September 1995 presents an opportunity to ensure that issues concerning refugee women remain on the international agenda. NGOs should ensure their participation and the participation of refugee women in the planning for the Conference itself, and the inclusion in the agenda, through country and regional issues papers, of issues related to the situation of refugee women. UNHCR and NGOs welcome the International Conference on Uprooted Muslim Women to be held from 11 to 14 September 1994 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. They also welcome other conferences dealing with such subjects as the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and the 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen.
(i) Voluntary Repatriation
There was general agreement that voluntary repatriation is the preferred and best solution to the refugee problem. However, it was noted that in some instances UNHCR has placed too much emphasis on early return to countries of origin which has resulted in return movements to less than favorable conditions.
It was stressed that UNHCR should always be involved in any organized voluntary repatriation programme, and that NGOs can play an important role in both spontaneous and organized repatriations. Support was expressed for establishing consultative and coordination mechanisms - involving UNHCR, NGOs, refugee representatives and potential donors - that should continue through all phases of the voluntary repatriation process: preparatory, movement and re-integration. Voluntary repatriation programmes should generally be implemented under a UNHCR coordinated framework and local communities should be sensitized to the reintegration and rehabilitation needs of returnees. Reference was made to UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusion No. 40 on Voluntary Repatriation which states, inter alia, that UNHCR has a legitimate concern over the outcome of any return it has assisted and should be given direct and unhindered access to returnees in order to monitor the guarantees and assurances on the basis of which the refugees have returned.
It was reaffirmed that UNHCR and NGOs should never be involved in operations of forcible return, whether these result from formal policy or from practices that appear to preserve the principle of voluntariness, but which in fact, constitute forced return. Nor should UNHCR monitoring of the safety of returnees in the country of origin be used as an argument for legitimization of forced return.
(i) Consultations and Coordination
UNHCR-NGO coordination could take the form of regular meetings, cross border task forces, emergency groups, and other exchanges. It should begin with initial planning and continue through repatriation movements into the continuum post-return phase. The need to establish national NGO coordinating bodies was emphasized, and NGOs were encouraged to organize themselves sufficiently prior to moving into the coordination process with UNHCR.
UNHCR and NGOs should establish repatriation committees involving NGOs, UNHCR, and refugee representatives in the countries of origin and of asylum, to facilitate efforts of voluntary repatriation, and should designate focal points to liaise with these committees. Development agencies should be involved at the earliest possible stage to prepare for the transition from relief to development in consultation with representatives of refugees and refugee organizations.
UNHCR and NGOs should develop databases on: (i) the population profile of returnees and (ii) the actual situation in the country of origin. This information should be shared with international organizations, NGO partners, and refugees/returnees in countries of origin and of asylum, with a view particularly to identifying any Extremely Vulnerable Individuals. UNHCR should identify a lead agency under whose umbrella the repatriation of such vulnerable refugees would be funded, carried out and/or coordinated in conjunction with local NGOs in the country of origin. UNHCR should also supply information on conditions in the country for refugee status determination purposes that is as complete as possible, while NGOs should make every effort to access such information.
(ii) Preparation and Planning
UNHCR and NGOs should develop an information campaign to provide balanced information exchange with refugees, profiting from their knowledge of their country of origin. Specific fears of refugees should be investigated and answered as part of an assessment of the situation in the country of origin. When planning for and carrying out repatriation programmes, UNHCR should seek information from NGOs well established in such countries and knowledgeable of the political and security situation, state of national infrastructures and local conditions. In addition, a mechanism for comprehensive monitoring of returnees and ascertaining the viability of involving local NGOs, should be established by UNHCR with NGO cooperation as early as possible.
UNHCR should distribute widely among NGOs the UNHCR Guidelines on Voluntary Repatriation, share information with NGOs on planned and/or on-going repatriation programmes, and involve NGOs and prospective repatriates in the actual planning and implementation of repatriation programmes.
Where appropriate, UNHCR should clearly identify lead implementing agencies in repatriation operations, and ensure in consultation with the repatriation committees that criteria for voluntariness are met and that conditions of safety and dignity prevail.
UNHCR and NGOs should view education of refugee children within the terms of durable solutions, and such programmes should be undertaken in a culturally sensitive way, bearing in mind their eventual return, reintegration, and/or resettlement. UNHCR and NGOs should also work toward increased education of adolescent girls through culturally appropriate modes of instruction and by gaining family support for female education. More informal ways of meeting the education needs of refugee children to prepare them for reintegration upon return should be explored. A particular focus should be given to self-sufficiency projects for female-headed households, as well as households where the primary care-taker/wage earner is disabled.
UNHCR and NGOs should ascertain the profile of potential residual caseloads as early as possible in order to design effective and culturally sensitive counselling programmes and to explore possible alternatives to repatriation, if needed. They should cooperate in the provision of counselling of returnees, both before and after return, and agree upon common, minimum humanitarian standards for phasing down or eliminating services in refugee camps, as well as on minimum standards for services and protection in countries of origin, as repatriation takes place.
Considering that anti-personnel landmines are a daily and serious life-threatening danger in many countries to which refugees are fleeing and/or returning, UNHCR and NGOs should: (a) continue to promote the establishment and international financing of humanitarian landmine clearance and eradication programmes, as well as victim assistance and rehabilitation programmes; and (b) continue actively to support on-going international campaigns calling for an international ban on the production, distribution and use of landmines.
In situations of internal armed conflict, UNHCR and NGOs, in consultation with refugee populations, should cooperate in monitoring the situation and consult as to when organized voluntary repatriation would be feasible, in accordance with international standards. They should also monitor closely any signs of recurring military activity or human rights abuses which could possibly affect returnees. In these situations, UNHCR and NGOs should balance the various factors and risks - in coordination with governments concerned - in considering facilitation or promotion of voluntary repatriation and return to home areas.
It was noted that there is a potential for joint advocacy for resettlement quotas, as well as the need for consultation on resettlement services in the adjustment and integration phase.
UNHCR should develop a closer relationship with resettlement NGOs in the area of resettlement needs for vulnerable groups. UNHCR should formalize and regularly consult with NGOs in the field, as well as in resettlement countries, to better utilize the annual resettlement needs assessment, as a tool to maintain, increase or target resettlement quotas established by governments. UNHCR and NGOs should develop a closer consultation mechanism in the design, analysis, and use of the annual resettlement needs assessment document.
There was broad agreement that while it is important to meet the needs of refugees in countries of asylum, much more needs to be done in order to address the root causes of refugee flows and to support nationals' right to remain in their home countries in conditions of dignity and security. Prevention activities, such as early warning and monitoring and reporting human rights violations, are a fundamental component in any comprehensive strategy which seeks to address these causes, but should not be used to preclude the right to flee and seek protection and asylum abroad.
UNHCR and NGOs should establish effective early warning systems through which they can share essential information on root causes and on areas of prospective refugee flows, as a way of contributing to early conflict resolution and promoting peace-making and peace-building efforts. UNHCR should provide NGOs, especially local NGOs, with information on existing databases and information systems, such as the International Refugee Electronic Network (IRENE). NGOs should be trained on collection, analysis and dissemination of early warning information and the use of such networking systems with a view to improving early warning mechanisms. NGOs should share early warning information directly with UNHCR to avoid compromising their activities in areas of prospective refugee movements and to ensure confidentiality.
F. Human Rights Protection
The importance of the linkage between the protection of refugees, returnees and displaced persons and the more general protection afforded under human rights instruments, was emphasized. Since refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons are often victims of human rights violations, attempts to safeguard and/or restore their human rights, whether in the country of asylum or upon return to the country of origin, were considered fundamental to any comprehensive response to refugee crises.
UNHCR and NGOs should promote and disseminate widely the accession by States to the international human rights instruments, as well as information on human rights mechanisms, and focus on advocacy, dissemination and media relations in order to promote wider support and awareness of the basic human rights of refugees and internally displaced persons. UNHCR and NGOs should encourage States and de facto authorities to comply with human rights and humanitarian law applicable to refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons.
UNHCR and NGOs should disseminate information on situations and specific cases where the human rights of refugees and internally displaced persons have been violated. They should report such instances to the appropriate UN bodies such as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Commission on Human Rights, as well as with local and regional human rights organizations.
UNHCR and NGOs should assume joint responsibility for ensuring necessary training, in particular for local NGOs, to strengthen their contributions for the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons. Such training should especially focus on the use of international human rights instruments and refugee law and principles. UNHCR and NGOs should provide local NGOs with assistance and promote their participation in international refugee fora, specifically the relevant preparatory meetings and appropriate UNHCR Executive Committee meetings.
G. Promotion and Training
The need for UNHCR and NGOs to participate in the promotion and dissemination of refugee law, humanitarian law, and human rights law, and to develop, through training seminars, practical applications of refugee law and its principles, was stressed.
UNHCR and appropriate NGOs should jointly conduct training seminars on refugee law, human rights law and humanitarian law for government officials, members of academic institutions and other concerned institutions and organizations, as well as refugees, displaced, and stateless persons, whenever possible. These seminars should be conducted on a systematic basis at the international, regional and national levels, in collaboration with other relevant organizations. Training seminars should place special emphasis on the humanitarian dimension of the refugee problem by promoting accession to, implementation of, and compliance with the universal and/or regional refugee instruments, international human rights and humanitarian law instruments.
Use should be made of training modules and guidelines, including those in the People Oriented Planning (POP) training programmes. UNHCR should facilitate the training of NGO staff as POP trainers. Local and national NGOs should also provide orientation to international UNHCR staff regarding the political, social, economic and cultural conditions of their respective countries. UNHCR and NGOs should contribute to the development and organization of training courses for refugee women, as well as for persons dealing with prevention and assistance of victims of sexual violence and child abuse, commensurate with the specific cultural and social background of persons concerned.
H. Information Sharing
Existing cooperation between UNHCR and NGOs in developing refugee databases on countries of origin and relevant refugee law and practice, such as the UNHCR Center for Documentation on Refugees (CDR) databases, should be strengthened and expanded. NGO access to these databases and other sources of information should be supported and facilitated. UNHCR should systematically make available public information material among NGOs at the national, regional and international levels, and should make these materials available in appropriate languages to ensure the widest possible distribution.
Part II - INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS
In view of the new dimensions that the issue of internal displacement is assuming worldwide, special attention was given to the plight of internally displaced persons. Acknowledging that refugees and internally displaced persons are often in equal need of protection, it was stressed that the international community has not yet acted in a concerted manner to respond to the needs of the internally displaced. Support was expressed for the High Commissioner's appeal for the adoption of pre-emptive measures to prevent or ameliorate conditions leading to internal displacement, especially through early warning and the promotion of respect for human rights. It was emphasized, however, that prevention activities should not obstruct escape from persecution but should aim to make flight unnecessary by alleviating conditions that force people to flee.
The difficulties of adopting a universal definition of internally displaced persons that adequately reflects the root causes of displacement were underscored. Some participants felt that a definition of internally displaced persons as those who find themselves in refugee-like situations may be too restrictive and may not accurately depict the variety of the root causes of displacement, which also include socio-economic conflicts, drug trafficking, development projects, natural disasters, among other things. There is a need to identify the various root causes of displacement, and for international bodies concerned with the internally displaced to draft guidelines taking into consideration the variety of situations and ensuing needs.
There is a need for a flexible definition of internally displaced persons which should not be restricted by existing mandates of concerned UN agencies and/or NGOs, and should be based on practical and empirical analysis of the root causes of displacement. The phenomenon of displacement should be approached in a holistic manner by adopting a definition which includes a diverse set of causes. The various grounds for displacement should be given due attention when discussing the roles of various agencies.
B. Institutional Arrangements
Concern was expressed that there is no international agency which has a comprehensive mandate to protect and assist internally displaced persons. Support was expressed for the work of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons and for his efforts to present viable options for the UN to cater to the needs of internally displaced persons. In this regard, it was noted that UNHCR has developed a special role due to its experience and organizational capacity in working in the field, and that, in the case of armed conflict, ICRC has a specific mandate given to it by the international community through the four Geneva Conventions and the two Additional Protocols. Some NGOs considered that among the existing UN agencies, UNHCR is presently the most suitable to respond to the needs of the displaced. Other participants noted that the ICRC role and mandate vis-a-vis the internally displaced needs to be better understood. It was generally felt that international and intergovernmental bodies should be more active in fostering an understanding by the NGOs of their respective mandates.
The UN should ensure a more effective and better coordinated response to the needs of the internally displaced. In specific situations, the Secretary-General should seek to designate a lead agency in charge of providing relief assistance and, where appropriate, protection. This lead agency should involve international and local NGOs in programme implementation. Where designation of a lead agency is not feasible, UN agencies, UNHCR, governmental authorities, intergovernmental bodies and NGOs should join efforts in order to forge a combined humanitarian response and to gather the necessary human, financial and material resources.
The ICRC should provide NGOs with information regarding its mandate, in particular concerning the internally displaced, who as civilians, benefit from the protection of international humanitarian law. In this connection, better ways of cooperation should be pursued.
It was recognized that a strong international commitment to eliminate the root causes of involuntary displacement is the first pre-requisite to effective prevention. The usefulness of early warning mechanisms in the monitoring of situations which can give rise to displacement was stressed, while insisting on the corresponding need to mobilize an early response to prevent these situations from deteriorating further. In this connection, the capacity of local NGOs, through their constant presence, to alert concerned agencies to the need to respond to the protection and assistance needs of internally displaced persons was underscored. Such alert mechanisms could facilitate an adequate response by UNHCR and/or other UN humanitarian agencies to increasing demands for them to assume responsibilities in such cases where they might have the competence to intervene.
UNHCR and NGOs should encourage the international community to mobilize multilateral political, economic, and humanitarian responses to prevent and/or mitigate causes of displacement. UNHCR, NGOs -- including human rights NGOs -- intergovernmental organizations and other agencies and mechanisms should coordinate -- through international, regional and national early warning networks -- activities related to monitoring, sharing of information and reporting on specific situations which might give rise to displacement.
Multilateral and sectoral efforts to meet the protection and assistance needs of the internally displaced should involve local NGOs. They should capitalize on the benefit of their constant presence and knowledge of local conditions, and alert UNHCR, other competent UN bodies and other NGOs of the need for rapid involvement to meet the protection and assistance needs of the internally displaced.
UNHCR and NGOs should explore, with the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, potential areas of cooperation in specific situations, such as country-specific information gathering and assisting with country visits by the Representative.
UNHCR and NGOs should organize joint training seminars both to benefit from each others' experiences and to enable local NGOs to strengthen their emergency response capacity in situations of displacement. UNHCR and NGOs, particularly local NGOs, should participate in the promotion and dissemination of the relevant international and domestic legal instruments applicable to internally displaced persons. UNHCR and ICRC should also organize training seminars for NGOs and the affected population, including their organizations, in each region to enable them to become familiar with these instruments.
The need to apply and supplement existing mechanisms to provide internally displaced persons with adequate protection and assistance, the importance of a UNHCR and NGO presence in the countries of the displaced, and the need for mutual consultations in devising strategies to respond to the needs of the displaced were underlined. It was noted that persons should not be forced into exile, and that the fundamental right to remain should be stressed as central to the notion that international protection is not an adequate substitute for national protection. While the protection of internally displaced persons is incumbent upon the government and/or de facto authority, the international community also has an important responsibility in this regard.
Note was taken of the absence of an international legal instrument which provides a comprehensive protection and assistance framework for internally displaced persons. However, it was recognized that certain provisions and principles of international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, directly apply or could be applied by analogy to the situation of internally displaced persons. It was noted that frequently these principles and provisions are not respected by States concerned and/or parties to a conflict. While some participants believed that existing international instruments provide an adequate framework for the protection of the internally displaced, others believed that existing gaps in this regime should be identified, and new instruments proposed.
The need to vigorously and effectively promote the strict observance of international humanitarian law by States and generally by all parties to a conflict, and to disseminate its principles widely, was stressed. The primary role of the ICRC in this regard was underscored. There is a need for international supervision to ensure that international law applicable to situations of internal displacement is incorporated into national legislation, and that violations of its provisions are accompanied by appropriate responses.
UNHCR, UN agencies, ICRC and concerned NGOs should participate actively in international efforts, such as those by the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, to strengthen the basis for the protection of internally displaced persons, building on existing norms currently found in human rights law, humanitarian law, and refugee law, resulting in a code of conduct comprising guiding principles to govern the treatment of internally displaced persons. There should be a greater involvement of local NGOs and the displaced's own organizations in this process, and their work should be recognized and respected by governments.
UNHCR and NGOs should strongly emphasize the need for States to assume responsibility for the protection of their own nationals. Displaced persons are of course entitled to protection of their human rights, even where they find themselves under the de facto authority of a non-State entity party to an internal conflict. UNHCR, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and NGOs should support ICRC programmes aimed at encouraging members of the armed forces and/or armed groups to familiarize themselves with international humanitarian law instruments and respect their provisions.
There is a need to establish mechanisms that would facilitate the personal documentation, without discrimination, of internally displaced persons. UNHCR and NGOs should urge governments to respect the right of internally displaced persons to such documentation.
There is a need to document and expose cases of human rights violations against displaced women, children, elderly people, persons forcibly recruited by armed forces, as well as members of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous people. UNHCR and NGOs should take action to monitor, report and to counter human rights violations, and should adopt measures to provide adequate protection to victims of violence. The involvement of organizations of the above-mentioned groups in this process should be sought. UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate with the relevant human rights mechanisms in this respect.
(i) Internally Displaced Women and Children
Internally displaced persons are specially vulnerable and the majority of them are women and children, whose safety continues to be seriously affected. There is a need to promote the implementation, without reservation, of the norms and principles of humanitarian and human rights law applying to situations of forced displacement, particularly in cases of armed conflict, generalized violence and violations of human rights. Rape and sexual violence against women in situations of conflict are international war crimes, which should be subject to the same legal remedies and restitution as any other war crimes.
The applicability to both internally displaced and refugee women and children of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, should be strongly emphasized, and the principles set out in the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Children should be applied to internally displaced women and children. UNHCR should finalize the draft Guidelines on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence against Refugees and ensure their wide distribution among all personnel working in the field, including UN peace-keepers and NGO staff.
(ii) Humanitarian Access
Increasing international concern over human suffering and human rights violations has led to initiatives on the part of the international community to intervene to monitor and ensure respect for human rights, and to report on their violation. While emphasizing the primary importance of the principle of humanitarian access to displaced populations, it was noted that where governments refuse access, there might be circumstances where this matter could be taken up by the political organs of the UN for appropriate action. The importance and potential usefulness of the designation and establishment of safe zones and humanitarian corridors in providing protection to internally displaced was recognized, though concern was expressed about the capacity of these measures to provide the minimum level of security. There is a need to clarify the use of these measures both to ensure that they do not hinder rather than aid the protection of the internally displaced, and that they do not create obstacles for the internally displaced to seek asylum in other countries.
International and intergovernmental organizations and NGOs should ensure that governments and all parties to a conflict grant access to the internally displaced, and respect the humanitarian role played by such organizations. UNHCR and NGOs should coordinate operations in a systematic manner in order to increase the impact of international presence in areas of internal displacement. This is particularly relevant where UNHCR - or the UN - has no, or only minimal presence. At the same time, NGOs should support UNHCR in insisting on access to all populations it seeks to assist and protect.
UNHCR and NGOs should jointly seek to clarify the use of safe zones and humanitarian corridors with a view to defining minimum standards of safety and related conditions, such as levels of assistance and access. They should seek ways to ensure that such measures do not deprive anyone of the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries. They should also consider deploying staff in those zones and corridors.
(iii) Safety of NGO Staff
It was highlighted that NGOs, both international and local, are increasingly working in conflict areas and that their staff, both international and local, should benefit from the protection offered by international security and evacuation plans.
Security measures need to be extended to all NGOs working in the humanitarian field, and to the displaced persons' own organizations. UNHCR should make a strong commitment to protect the international and local staff of its partner agencies by responding to their concerns, in particular, on security. Security Council Resolution 868 (1993) concerning attacks on UN personnel should be extended to NGOs. Security and evacuation plans for UN and NGO staff should be formulated and implemented in close cooperation between the concerned UN agencies and NGOs.
People uprooted by persecution and conflict often require a full range of humanitarian assistance. In such situations, the need for a cross-mandate and community-centered approach in the implementation of relevant programmes was underscored. Mention was made of the code of conduct elaborated by the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response in cooperation with ICRC, and of the ICRC's role in providing assistance to internally displaced persons in situations of armed conflict and internal violence.
When UNHCR is involved, UNHCR and NGOs - particularly local NGOs who are familiar with local conditions and needs - should cooperate in the provision of relief and rehabilitation assistance to internally displaced persons, ensure their participation in the design and implementation of programmes, and support and strengthen local NGO initiatives. In particular, UNHCR and NGOs should consult and involve displaced women in the decision-making process and project design, and ensure their access to assistance programmes. Assistance programmes for internally displaced persons should address the psychological trauma of those affected by the events that have caused the displacement, and take into account the special vulnerability of displaced women and children.
In assistance programmes for internally displaced persons, care should be taken that the emergency relief phase is, as quickly as possible, followed-up by longer-term rehabilitation and development programmes.
UNHCR and NGOs should coordinate the use of human and financial resources in order not to duplicate efforts and to ensure a concerted impact of assistance programmes, following in-depth needs assessments. Where internally displaced are mixed with refugees and/or returnees, agencies should ensure that there is no discrimination or distinction other than based on needs between the quality of assistance provided to refugees/returnees and that provided to internally displaced persons.
When implementing assistance, relief, rehabilitation and development programmes for the displaced, UNHCR and NGOs should ensure that such programmes also have a beneficial impact on the host communities.
Voluntary return in safety and dignity to places of origin and/or permanent internal settlement were considered the preferred solutions to the problem of internal displacement, always bearing in mind that internally displaced persons should be able to seek asylum in another country whenever necessary. The discussion of solutions to involuntary displacement should not ignore the responsibility of the State to offer social reparation to victims of violence in general, and to the displaced in particular; nor should it ignore the responsibility of States and of all parties to a conflict to redress the root causes of displacement.
UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate in the formulation and implementation of community-centered assistance programmes which enable the internally displaced to reintegrate in their places of origin, or in another location of their choice. Wherever they choose to re-establish themselves, their security, protection and development must be ensured and monitored. The longer-term objectives of community reconciliation, rehabilitation and development, and the social and psychological needs of the displaced should be recognized. Support should be extended to displaced persons and other victims of violence to obtain social reparation.
Part III - EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
The current magnitude of global refugee emergencies is such that only a combined institutional response including UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs, can hope to respond adequately. While there is a need for UNHCR to provide the framework for assistance, there is also a need for experienced, creative and well-motivated NGO staff to work within this framework. The need for UNHCR and NGOs to define jointly and clearly their respective responsibilities, and to formulate clear operational procedures for each, was strongly emphasized.
B. Coordination and Communication
Effective coordination in emergencies is the key to UNHCR-NGO emergency preparedness and response and should take place at the national and regional levels. The primary importance of UNHCR-NGO consultations before a refugee emergency occurs and early in an emergency was emphasized. Mechanisms such as UNHCR-NGO coordinating committees could facilitate this task through regular exchanges of information on potential refugee emergencies and discussion of essential details of response to emergencies.
Emergency planning should be region specific, and UNHCR and NGOs should coordinate emergency planning and response with other international organizations and governments in countries of asylum and of origin, with potential donors, as well as with refugees, where possible. UNHCR should also inform concerned governments of emerging refugee situations and should take concrete measures to involve them in policy and programme coordination.
UNHCR and NGOs should facilitate the establishment and/or the reinforcement of coordinating committees to enhance the effectiveness of both UNHCR and NGO emergency preparedness and response programmes. These should be established before an emergency situation arises, making full use of local NGOs, as well as existing NGO coordinating bodies.
UNHCR, NGOs, and other agencies involved in refugee emergencies, should strengthen the existing coordinating committees to (i) coordinate various activities to avoid duplication and overlap of activities; (ii) facilitate information-sharing through periodic and regular meetings; and (iii) evaluate effects and results of ongoing and completed common activities.
NGOs should recognize the coordinating responsibility of UNHCR as the lead agency in refugee emergencies, and UNHCR should ensure that it has the capacity to undertake this coordination effectively. Where appropriate, NGOs should establish inter-NGO committees to promote cooperation and coordination in matters of concern to UNHCR and NGOs, using effective and flexible mechanisms, such as the "Refugee Alert Network".
C. Early Warning
It was acknowledged that early warning information facilitates an assessment of general conditions both in countries of origin and of asylum, which in turn facilitates the forecasting of refugee influxes, and allows for the preparation of contingency emergency plans in receiving countries. It was considered that coordinated emergency preparedness and response are directly dependent on the capacity of UNHCR, NGOs and other concerned actors to assess and take full advantage of early warning information on conditions which may lead to refugee flows. However, it was noted that the impact of early warning systems is often limited by the availability of training and contingency plans as well as by the absence of interagency information-sharing structures.
UNHCR should take further steps to develop effective inter-agency early warning information-sharing systems. This should be done both at international and regional levels and before refugee emergencies develop. It should allow for an assessment of political, economic, social conditions and risks in the affected countries. In countries where UNHCR and NGOs do not have the capacity to monitor situations potentially leading to mass population movements, they should consider developing close contacts with international human rights organizations and local NGOs. NGOs - especially local NGOs well-established and knowledgable of local conditions - should share early warning information with appropriate inter-agency coordinating bodies.
D. Operational Issues and Procedures
UNHCR's international mandate to provide protection and assistance to refugees and its lead role and primary responsibility to respond to refugee emergencies with adequate human and financial resources were stressed. However, it was recognized that UNHCR's emergency response can be considerably assisted by NGOs and other relevant agencies. The need to undertake innovative approaches such as "cross-mandate" and "cross-border", whereby UNHCR and other UN agencies provide assistance to people who would not normally fall within their mandates, was stressed. In addition, contingency plans were deemed to be an essential component of refugee emergencies.
Special note was taken of the recommendation that the conclusions on UNHCR programming and budgeting procedures of the special session held at the end of the PARinAC Addis Ababa Regional Conference should be an integral part of the process.
Where appropriate, UNHCR and NGOs should promote 'cross-mandate'/cross-border approaches in responding to refugee emergencies, in order to ensure a more efficient use of resources, promote flexibility in emergency response, and encourage a community approach. They should hold regular meetings at the national level to (i) review refugee emergency activities; (ii) identify actual capacities for emergency preparedness and response; (iii) devise appropriate contingency plans; (iv) devise relief emergency programmes which take into account the longer-term objectives of rehabilitation and development; and (v) decide on the applicability of well-proven emergency programmes in different emergencies.
UNHCR should clarify and, where appropriate, simplify its emergency arrangements and programme procedures to ensure rapid emergency response in order to maximize the contribution of local NGOs and refugee groups, and create a more flexible and less bureaucratic decision-making and procurement system for emergencies, which does not require lengthy negotiations with Headquarters. UNHCR should also inform its partners clearly and early of the respective roles of each UN agency during a refugee emergency.
UNHCR should adopt more flexible administrative and budgeting procedures to facilitate NGO implementation of projects to assist refugees; establish a specified time-frame for project review and approval; simplify existing sub-agreements; consider developing multi-year indicative planning and budgeting, as appropriate, in stable refugee situations; establish in the Programme and Project Management Handbook for UNHCR Implementing Partners technical, professional, financial and programming standards to be observed in the implementation of UNHCR funded projects; and provide a flow-chart in this Handbook of its project review and approval decision-making process.
Wherever possible, UNHCR and NGOs should assist each other in obtaining access to emergency areas. UNHCR should ensure appropriate involvement of NGO implementing partners, and should bring the important role played by NGOs in emergency situations -- especially in situations where UNHCR is not able to provide direct assistance -- to the attention of both host governments and donors. It should disseminate widely information about its resources for emergency preparedness and response.
UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate in security matters, including the possibility of evacuation, for international and local staff. Where appropriate, they should take account of budgetary requirements for coverage of medical cost and life insurance, especially in war zones, as well as social insurance for local staff in accordance with local standards.
Whenever possible, UNHCR and NGOs should share between themselves and with other concerned agencies existing disaster preparedness plans developed by governments. Where these do not exist, UNHCR and NGOs should encourage local authorities in their development.
UNHCR and NGOs should consider conducting joint missions to assess needs and to devise comprehensive emergency assistance and relief programmes. They should plan emergency relief in a manner that is realistic and consistent with both local standards and standards of refugee care. This may include supplementing local services which make provision for refugees.
The coordination role of DHA in complex emergencies should be strengthened. DHA should not become an operational body but remain a coordinating one in mobilizing resources in complex emergencies. In some instances, a UN lead agency mechanism may be preferable to ensure prompt and coordinated emergency response. Similarly, NGOs involved in a particular emergency should cooperate with a lead and/or coordinating agency which may be the ICRC and/or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies where appropriate. NGOs and other agencies should be involved in all aspects of planning, programming and implementation.
(i) Databases and Human Resources
Early identification of human resources was considered an essential part of emergency preparedness and critical to emergency response. The need to maintain global and regional databases both of NGO expertise and experience in emergencies and UNHCR preparedness and emergency plans was underlined. These databases should contain operational procedures and regularly updated NGO and UNHCR emergency project information. Note was taken of the mechanisms developed by UNHCR whereby several countries second NGO staff to UNHCR for periods of time.
Where possible, UNHCR and NGOs should develop their databases of expertise and experience in emergency situations, which would provide information on material and human resources available to respond to emergencies. Local NGOs should be able to have access to this information. UNHCR should also evaluate current stand-by agreements with NGO partners, and consider other arrangements for secondment of staff by governments or other NGOs, on the basis of cost effectiveness.
(ii) Emergency Supplies and Resources
Emergency preparedness and response require detailed and regularly updated inventories and assessments of available resources. It was stressed that in certain instances NGO access to UNHCR warehouses and transport has been limited or denied, even when the NGO concerned was working under a UNHCR grant or contract, and it was noted that arranging for independent storage and transportation is often expensive and redundant.
UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate with other UN and international agencies on adequate arrangements for emergency stock-piling of food and supplies. Stockpiles maintained by government agencies, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies and other organizations and agencies, at the international, regional, national and local level, should be identified or developed, along with a record of inventories, an assessment of their condition, and a thorough understanding of the conditions under which they may be drawn upon. UNHCR should establish within project agreements, clear clauses for NGO access to UNHCR storage and transportation facilities, where necessary and feasible.
(iii) Institutional Capacity-Building of Local NGOs
It was noted that special efforts should be made to enhance the institutional capacity of local NGOs which have specific strengths in responding to refugee emergencies. It was stressed that while UNHCR and international NGOs may be present only during the first stages of a refugee emergency, local NGOs remain part of the local community, thereby maintaining an inherent ability to appreciate and tackle problems effectively.
UNHCR and international NGOs, in cooperation with other UN agencies and donors, should assist institutional capacity-building of local NGOs and strengthen and enhance their response capacity, both in countries of asylum and of origin, to enable them to take initiatives in responding to emergency crises, as well as in rehabilitation and development programmes.
(iv) Refugee Protection in Emergency Situations
The need to link assistance in refugee emergencies to the overall protection needs of refugees, and to pay special attention to the protection and assistance needs of the most vulnerable groups among refugees, especially women, children and the elderly, was highlighted.
Relationships between UNHCR field protection officers and NGOs present in the field should be strengthened to facilitate comprehensive and combined actions related to the protection of refugees in emergencies. UNHCR and NGOs should cooperate to support asylum-seekers and share information to enable the provision of adequate legal representation.
(v) People Oriented Planning
Attention was drawn to the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and UNHCR's People Oriented Planning (POP) training course which provides case studies and concrete advice on how to ensure that all refugees benefit from UNHCR's activities. It was noted that special attention should be paid to the needs of vulnerable groups by providing them with adequate living conditions in camps, as well as with counselling and other required social services. Refugees and representatives of local communities should be involved in planning for refugee emergencies from the outset, and refugee organizations, especially women's organizations, should be recognized and supported.
UNHCR and NGOs should ensure that all field staff are familiar with the Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and the Analytical Framework for People Oriented Planning (POP). Activities should be gender sensitive and target the needs of the most vulnerable among the refugees, incorporate women representatives into planning structures, and ensure an adequate level of female field staff in emergency situations to permit equitable access of refugee women to their programmes, especially when establishing new projects. UNHCR and NGOs should systematically review their programmes and projects to evaluate the impact of programmes on women and other vulnerable groups.
UNHCR and NGOs should seek to build refugee skills and capacities in refugee emergency assistance programmes, while employment opportunities and other self-help activities should be provided at the earliest stages of an emergency to avoid dependency. UNHCR and NGOs should develop activities, including household level surveys, to enhance family self-help mechanisms, such as traditional birth attendant training, vegetable gardening and small husbandry technologies.
In camp layout, planning of water and waste disposal systems, food distribution, and fuel supply, UNHCR and NGOs should specifically address the needs of women. Female medical and particularly obstetrics staff should be an integral part of medical services, as should programmes to increase awareness and the prevention of the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and other communicable diseases, within both refugee and host communities. The importance of psychological support services within any comprehensive programming effort should be emphasized.
UNHCR and NGOs should strengthen their relationships with local communities, municipalities and religious communities in order to facilitate emergency interventions. Local relief organizations can provide and exchange reliable information, both on local conditions and on the profile of the affected population, and they should be envisaged as part of prevention and preparedness.
UNHCR and NGOs should be cognizant of the social and economic environment of refugees and returnees, and ensure that refugees are involved in planning and implementation during refugee emergencies. They should tap effectively the expertise of local NGOs, and also of refugee women's organizations and committees.
(vi) Special Needs of Refugee Children
It was underlined that the UNHCR Policy on Refugee Children and the Guidelines on Protection and Care help to define the structure of interventions and the setting up of agendas, but also call for a joint re-thinking of design and implementation of existing programmes. Urgent attention should be given to meeting the basic primary education needs of refugee children, even in the early stages of an emergency. The special needs of unaccompanied children in the refugee population should also be considered at the earliest possible stage in an emergency.
NGOs should evaluate their own refugee projects in light of the Policy and the Guidelines on Refugee Children. They should ensure that all their staff members working with refugee children are familiar with the Policy and Guidelines, and share their experiences in this area. The impact on refugee children of projects designed for other target groups should also be reviewed.
UNHCR and NGOs should provide culturally sensitive psychologists, social workers and medical staff specialized in assisting children. They should also assume psychological trauma will be present and give special attention to children who have been forced into combat and who witnessed or committed atrocities. They should provide increased protection of children against unscrupulous child labor practices, child prostitution, and other forms of child abuse both within the refugee and host communities. Particular attention should be given to unaccompanied minors in all aspects of programme planning.
UNHCR and NGOs should raise awareness of governments and the public of the need for organized learning activities and access to education, even in the early stages of an emergency; cooperate in the establishment of common guidelines and standardization of tools for rapid response to education and social welfare needs of refugee children. Education should be geared towards durable solutions with appropriate curricula and languages.
UNHCR, NGOs and concerned authorities should cooperate in the early identification and registration of unaccompanied minors admitted into families other than their own. UNHCR and NGOs should jointly facilitate foster care arrangements within the refugee community, monitor their placement, including the quality of the care provided, and conduct follow-up activities, as well as set up procedures for effective family tracing and reunion, in cooperation with ICRC.
Participants noted the need to organize more emergency training sessions at the international, regional, and national level.
UNHCR and NGOs should provide training on refugee emergency situations to concerned government officials and NGO staff, particularly local NGO personnel, at the earliest opportunity. Both before and during an emergency, UNHCR should provide short-term in-service training programmes to strengthen NGO administrative skills and knowledge of the UN system. UNHCR should provide NGOs with increased access to UNHCR emergency response management training and POP programmes. UNHCR should attach to the Implementing Partners Handbook an Annex on structures and functions of UNHCR.
F. Emergency Funding
Participants stressed the need to secure funding to respond efficiently and comprehensively to refugee emergencies, and to identify sources of readily available funding for joint UNHCR-NGO contingency plans.
UNHCR and NGOs should urge governments and other donors to provide rapid financial support to operational budgets for emergencies. UNHCR and NGOs should endeavor to make donors aware of the problems that restrictive financial conditions cause to emergency operations; the need for flexibility on conditions of use of contributions to emergencies, and the need for the exercise of discretion in line with UNHCR and NGO professional capabilities in situations where there may be a need to shift resources to meet priority needs.
UNHCR and NGOs should work together to maximize resources available to each of them for emergency response. UNHCR should also provide rapid financial support to local NGOs to enable them to respond swiftly and adequately to refugee emergencies. International NGOs should make all efforts to obtain independently the material and financial resources needed to respond to emergencies, including support for local NGOs. NGOs should consider the creation of their own emergency funds through special fund-raising campaigns or the pooling of resources to provide a rapid response to emergencies.
Part IV - THE CONTINUUM FROM RELIEF TO REHABILITATION TO DEVELOPMENT
In order to meet the needs of refugees and enhance the capacity of local NGOs and concerned government agencies, a comprehensive approach to refugee crises should envelop relief, rehabilitation and development programmes, based on respect for international human rights. The experience of CIREFCA as a model which could be followed in other regions to initiate and help the transition from relief to rehabilitation to development was highlighted. However, there is a need to elaborate more clearly the concept of development in the refugee context in order for relief assistance to lay the foundations for development programmes. This includes comprehensive needs assessment -- multidisciplinary in nature -- and multi-year plans which should cover the needs of refugees as well as returnee communities. In the view of some participants, the distinction between relief and rehabilitation does not always represent best practice, and the concept of a continuum from relief to rehabilitation to development does not accurately depict in many instances their true interaction. Although these recommendations are addressed primarily to the partners in the PARinAC process, it is understood that refugees, displaced persons, other organizations, development institutions and inter-agency bodies are all potential partners in implementation.
A broad community development approach involving a comprehensive needs assessment should be part of the earliest possible planning stage after a refugee emergency occurs, and should be based on information provided by refugees, UNHCR and NGOs and the local population and institutions in countries of origin and of asylum.
Consultations and improved communications and coordination between UNHCR, local populations and relief and development NGOs, including local NGOs and human rights NGOs involved in the design and creation of early warning mechanisms, and concerned UN agencies is a prerequisite for effective response. UNHCR, NGOs, and concerned UN agencies should establish, at the regional level, directories of concerned agencies and resources in countries of origin and of asylum.
B. Planning and Identification
After the acute emergency phase, relief programmes should be oriented toward attaining durable solutions. While voluntary repatriation remains the most desirable solution to the refugee problem, it was stressed that it should be considered according to minimum standards of safety and opportunities for reintegration and rehabilitation. Relief programmes should involve both NGOs experienced in relief and development, and refugees, including refugee women, at all stages of needs assessment, planning and implementation, and should aim to promote self-reliance and reduce dependency. Planning for repatriation and/or local integration programmes should be community-focused and should involve local capacity for democratic processes and social participation. In this context, it was acknowledged that refugees are sometimes reluctant to move from the relief to development phase of programmes. It is therefore important that the handover of programmes be seen as a distinct stage in the continuum, which requires comprehensive planning, development of national structures, and institutional capacity-building among NGOs.
UN agencies and NGOs should plan their actions from the outset with a view to promoting long-term solutions. UNHCR, NGOs - particularly local NGOs and returnees themselves - should be involved in the needs assessment, planning, design and implementation of returnee programmes which provide adequate and up-to-date information on conditions of return and which are aimed at reducing dependency. Governments of countries of asylum and of origin should be involved in this process in order to include fully development issues in the preparation for return.
UNHCR and NGOs should develop an action checklist of the essential steps and structures which must be put in place prior to voluntary repatriation, with a clear delineation as to whom is responsible for each stage, with particular attention given to the transition stage. They should establish or strengthen, at an early stage, core working groups in countries of asylum and of origin, involving UN agencies, relief and development NGOs, refugees and governments. These groups should serve as a mechanism to implement recommendations and facilitate the preparation and implementation of development policies. They should be encouraged and given adequate resources to exchange visits and information to enhance understanding of circumstances and issues affecting programmes and preparedness on both sides.
UNHCR should ensure that the complementary roles of UN agencies are clearly defined in the fields of rehabilitation and development activities for refugees/returnees. It should also facilitate NGO consultations with UNDP, World Bank and other development agencies, and other concerned organizations, at the earliest stages of emergency response to support the transition from relief to rehabilitation to development.
UNHCR and NGOs should involve refugees in planning and preparing for repatriation. They should secure refugee participation -- at the outset of an emergency and throughout the handover phase -- in all matters pertaining to camp management, including relief, rehabilitation, development, resettlement and voluntary repatriation, and where appropriate, support collective returns organized by the refugees themselves. In the country of origin, UNHCR should assume the responsibility of ensuring that the planning process for moving returnees from relief to rehabilitation to development is initiated on time and in coordination with governments, relevant development organizations, NGOs and local communities.
Actions toward durable solutions should include, inter alia, skills training, education, including higher level and vocational training, designed to increase the self-sufficiency of individuals, particularly the young and demobilized whether in the country of asylum or upon return; rebuilding of physical and social infrastructures in the country of origin (whether funded by UNHCR or other agencies). UNHCR and NGOs should consistently encourage the formation of self-help groups amongst the most vulnerable displaced persons and refugees in countries of asylum as well as in areas of origin in order to maintain an adequate level of initiative and useful activity.
Flexible planning calls for both the preparation of population profiles of refugees and local populations and situation analyses of countries of origin as well as basic research which should be regularly updated and distributed to all involved agencies. Early identification of the socio-occupational profile of refugees/returnees is a pre-requisite for the success of rehabilitation and returnee development programmes.
UNHCR, NGOs, and development agencies should, where possible, jointly initiate complementary self-reliance and rehabilitation programmes in countries of asylum and of origin to facilitate the smooth settlement or integration of refugees or returnees. Refugees, returnees and local communities should be involved in the needs assessment, planning and implementation of such programmes.
UNHCR and NGOs should enter into tripartite or multipartite agreements with host governments which provide adequate guarantees to meet the relief, rehabilitation, and where appropriate, development needs of refugees, and in particular, to provide them with social services and specialized medical care. UNHCR and NGOs should raise awareness among governments and public opinion of the educational rights of refugees, and develop systems to ensure access, as well as appropriate curricula and languages which respect their cultural identity. UNHCR and NGOs should endeavor to bolster and guarantee the provision of social counselling services to the most vulnerable, particularly unaccompanied women.
Participants noted the need to address the gap between initial repatriation assistance and full reintegration, and the gap between the end of UNHCR's active involvement and the full establishment of development programmes to integrate refugees into their communities.
It was underlined that in post-conflict areas, where considerable material as well as psychological damage has been inflicted, the level of vulnerability must be expected to be extremely high and to remain so for a considerable period of time. There is a need to pay particular attention to the needs of refugee women and children, particularly child soldiers, to promote their psychological well-being, and to establish programmes which focus on helping women, children and families by supporting and strengthening local community support systems. The recovery process, therefore, and the shift from relief dependency to self-reliance, would necessitate continuous support and rely heavily on external assistance, since local government revenue and resources are likely to be inadequate to meet even minimal needs.
Cross-mandate approaches should be more widely adopted to support the continuum. In order to address the gaps identified, a planned transition stage should be provided for, outlining clearly the time frame, responsibilities of various parties, funding procedures, monitoring and accountability. In this regard, UNHCR and NGOs should engage in further dialogue to develop draft guidelines for project submissions which respond to operational requirements.
As NGOs have different orientations and specializations, there should be greater coordination amongst NGOs implementing relief, rehabilitation and/or development programmes to avoid compartmentalization and to support the successful transition within the continuum. In this context, and to promote the transition from relief to rehabilitation to development, local and international NGOs should play a significant role to reduce the gaps, and should develop progressive self-reliance programmes at the earliest possible stage as a substitute to relief assistance programmes, with particular attention to health, social services, education, and child nutrition.
Relief, rehabilitation and development programmes should aim at alleviating the psychological trauma caused by refugee crises, especially in the case of women and children and other vulnerable groups, who are often victims of sexual abuse and violence. Appropriate therapeutic approaches which address physical, psychological, social and spiritual considerations should be set up in post-conflict areas to provide counselling and therapy to enable affected populations to overcome psychological trauma, thereby facilitating their re-integration into society.
UNHCR and NGOs should design and implement community-based programmes which address the developmental needs of refugee children. Such programmes should enable families to help their children, or aim at helping refugee children directly, as well as providing psycho-social rehabilitation for refugee children victims of war.
(i) Impact on Local Communities
It was noted that refugee influxes and returnee movements often cause problems to the residents of local communities by overstretching local capacity of available social, education, health and other services. It was also recognized that the targeting of assistance to refugees and the exclusion of local communities often causes unnecessary resentment and serves to heighten tensions between them. The crucial importance of ensuring the right to, and use of, available land in enabling refugees and displaced persons to become self-sufficient was stressed, as was the need for particular support for urban returnees.
UNHCR and NGOs should encourage government awareness of and support for development policies for refugees/returnees. In respect of returnees, host governments should include requirements for their reintegration into development plans for local communities. In respect of refugees, activities should be formulated by UNHCR, NGOs and development agencies in consultation with host governments and be designed in such a way as to be integrated into development plans for local communities. Support should be given to local communities to ensure that there are no discrepancies between the standards of services for refugees and local communities. UNHCR and NGOs should consult, in the initial phase of assistance, with the local community as well as with refugees to avoid problems pertaining to differences between conditions of local communities and refugees.
UNHCR and NGOs should urge local communities and governments to make land available, where possible, to enable refugees and displaced persons to become self-reliant.
While acknowledging that Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) can be successful in initiating the process of reintegration for returnees, it was stressed that, because of resource constraints and instability in many countries, they are not always successful in bridging the gap between the initial repatriation and the prospects for sustainable longer-term development.
UNHCR and NGOs should continue to support QIPs, in spite of their limitations, in the context of self-reliance programmes. They should also design programmes in refugee camps to facilitate the reintegration of refugees upon return, and support capacity building of relevant organizations and infrastructure in countries of origin. Umbrella grants provided to lead NGOs could also be used as a more effective and efficient means to address sectoral needs in a sustainable fashion.
(iii) Role of Local NGOs
It was acknowledged that local NGOs, aware of local realities and needs, have a crucial role to play in moving from relief to development, and in all aspects of promoting sustainable development. It was recognized that local/refugee NGOs with relevant local, social and economic knowledge must undertake continuum programmes.
Phasing out of relief assistance programmes by UNHCR should be undertaken in cooperation with its NGO partners, and UNHCR should systematically assist its NGO partners, especially local NGOs, in their dialogue with the authorities, development agencies and donor countries to enable them to continue programmes which support long-term rehabilitation and sustainable development. It should endeavor to phase-out operations in the field in a smoother transitional fashion allowing sufficient time for NGOs and development agencies to phase-in rehabilitation and development initiatives. UNHCR should also examine the possibility of leaving assets with NGOs for the continuation of their development programmes for refugees/returnees.
It was stressed that the link between emergency and development should be an integral part of training seminars on emergency response.
UNHCR, in consultation with NGOs and UNDP, should develop a training module on the "Continuum" which should be tested and disseminated to UNHCR staff, implementing NGOs and development partners. UNHCR should share its training programmes and materials more widely with NGOs (Voluntary Repatriation, People Oriented Planning, etc..), and involve appropriate NGOs, wherever possible, in the future development of training materials.
NGOs should participate in UNHCR training activities related to refugee children, thereby contributing to the creation of a common platform for action, while sharing their experience in designing and implementing programmes for children.
It was noted that local NGOs should urge the international community to take into account that the transition from reconciliation, to rehabilitation, to reconstruction to development is a priority task to be undertaken in order to avoid return to situations of social violence. Therefore, there is a need for international financial support to sustain this transition.
UNHCR and NGOs should seek to identify additional sources of funding from bilateral and multilateral donors and funding institutions to finance development related programmes for refugees/returnees and to ensure that continuum projects are sustained. They should raise donor awareness of the need for greater flexibility regarding the classification of emergency versus development funding. Similarly, UNHCR should consider setting up more flexible funding arrangements for filling NGO funding gaps. NGOs should maintain a continuous dialogue with donors to mobilize additional resources for their activities and widen their donor support as much as possible in order not to become excessively dependent on UNHCR. International NGOs should make all efforts to obtain the material and financial resources from their traditional donors to respond to the needs of refugees, returnees, and displaced persons, and particularly to support local NGOs.
Part V - NGO-UNHCR PARTNERSHIP
The PARinAC regional conferences identified the overall objectives of UNHCR-NGO partnership as being: to maximize the effective use of resources; avoid duplication of efforts and competition; to benefit fully from comparative advantages and expertise; to carry out concerted and coordinated advocacy activities; to improve joint efforts to implement programmes targeted at refugees in general, internally displaced persons, where appropriate, and at refugee women and refugee children in particular; to undertake joint UNHCR-NGO training in all areas; and to establish improved mechanisms for dialogue, particularly with local NGOs. They also recognized that partnership should be based on the principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality.
The partnership between NGOs and UNHCR should be based upon equality of respect, with both parties recognizing each others' expertise and mandate. To effect this, open communication, frank exchange of views and specific reporting techniques should be institutionalized and reviewed periodically to ensure their effectiveness.
The partnership should include all NGOs sharing a mutual concern for the cause of refugees and displaced persons, as well as associations of the affected populations, and other expressions of civil society beyond NGOs, such as women's groups, religious organizations and community groups. In this context, UNHCR should seek to diversify its discussions and contacts with NGOs at the national, regional and international levels and go beyond existing networks.
B. Institutional Arrangements
Participants highlighted the need to strengthen existing NGO consortia and/or to establish such structures where they did not exist. The need for transparency in such consortia was underlined. It was stressed that the possibility of UNHCR-NGO staff exchanges could enhance credibility, transparency, accountability and an improved working environment, while UNHCR and NGO staff relations should be guided by a spirit of cooperation, rather than competition, to minimize misunderstandings in field operations.
Transparency and accountability remain the underlying principles of the NGO-UNHCR partnership, which calls for close UNHCR-NGO communication and coordination of actions. UNHCR and NGOs are accountable to refugees, host governments, potential donors, and to each other. Communication facilitates the operationalization of the principles of transparency and accountability and requires ongoing UNHCR-NGO consultations, especially at the field office/country level. It implies an enhancement and diversification of joint UNHCR-NGO training programmes, which would help broaden the understanding of differences of mandates. It was recognized that the partnership between NGOs and UNHCR is an evolving and continual process, and that UNHCR and NGOs need to know and understand each other better in order to find common ground upon which to realize meaningful, workable and long-lasting actions.
UNHCR and other UN and intergovernmental organizations should be sensitive to and respect the different traditions of NGO work, as well as the variations in the potential of NGOs, in developing partnership structures.
UNHCR and other UN agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP, should cooperate with existing NGO consortia, and assist in their launching, where needed, and strengthening by developing models of cooperation and offering relevant training. UNHCR and NGOs should facilitate the establishment of sub-regional and national networks in which up-to-date information on NGO activities and locations could be shared between local NGOs, international NGOs, and government agencies involved with refugees. There is a need for existing umbrella organizations at the sub-regional level to coordinate with NGO non-members to facilitate approaches to UNHCR.
NGOs should establish NGO consortia and other networks at the national and regional levels, where these do not already exist. NGOs should also create or further strengthen mechanisms to incorporate a broad range of NGOs and affected populations, particularly to take account of the critical importance of comprehensive responses to the problem of forced displacement and the continuum from relief to rehabilitation to development.
UNHCR-NGO partnership must be transparent and should not depend on the goodwill of individual representatives. It must be based upon concrete instructions from UNHCR and NGO Headquarters to their respective field representatives. These instructions should include respect for each others' identity, structures and existing national and international linkages. This process should be subject to periodic joint evaluation. In order to strengthen UNHCR-NGO partnership, UNHCR should establish a structure at Headquarters to which NGOs can refer matters or issues which cannot be satisfactorily resolved at the national level.
UNHCR and NGOs should develop closer coordination between offices in countries of origin and countries of asylum to facilitate a holistic approach to eventual repatriation operations. NGOs should review the ICVA study of umbrella bodies and other studies with a view to developing appropriate coordinating mechanisms in each field situation. This exercise would benefit from UNHCR-NGO annual meetings at the national level to discuss common approaches and strategies.
C. Institutional Capacity Building and Training
Training in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations is essential to effective partnership. These activities are most effectively carried out in situations where government, NGO and UNHCR personnel work together. It was stressed that the process of dialogue begun by PARinAC should continue in order for NGOs, particularly local NGOs, to have access to training which would enhance their management skills and credibility. Networking and training should be used to bring about improved consultation, coordination and communications between NGOs and UNHCR and amongst NGOs at the international, regional and national levels. This would increase awareness of each others' mandate limitations, and would prevent duplication of efforts.
ICVA or another specialized NGO, should respond to requests by local NGOs in establishing training programmes to provide NGOs with the necessary skills to work with UNHCR in emergency situations. Governments, other UN agencies, and international organizations and NGOs should be approached to fund training programmes of local NGOs.
UNHCR should help provide NGOs with appropriate training, financing, institution-building and transfer of skills in view of its demands for a more efficient and effective performance by its partners. It should cooperate to the extent possible with international, regional and, particularly local NGOs, recognizing their specific local and regional knowledge and skills. UNHCR should take into consideration available local expertise when recruiting local NGO staff and should undertake capacity-building initiatives in non-crisis periods to enhance local capacity to cope with the demands of future large-scale emergencies, and ensure the transition from relief to development in the handover process.
UNHCR should facilitate training courses on UNHCR procedures at the field office level to avoid and address problems which host country and refugee/returnee NGOs may have in understanding UNHCR's budgeting and reporting requirements. Furthermore, training should be offered in ways which contribute to the strengthening of small NGOs. In addition, NGOs should actively facilitate training programmes on refugee protection, drawing upon available UNHCR resources in their respective countries/regions whenever possible.
D. Operational Procedures
It was underscored that the partnership between UNHCR and NGOs should not be limited to those NGOs which have a contractual relationship with UNHCR, but should include other NGOs sharing mutual concerns and commitment to the cause of refugees, returnees and/or internally displaced persons.
UNHCR should simplify its programme management procedures to facilitate NGOs' understanding and compliance, and establish clear objectives in its budgetary process and an improved reporting system. It should decentralize programme planning to the field office level to facilitate prompt and coordinated UNHCR/NGO responses to changing operational situations. A working group on procedures should be established to permit NGOs, both international and local, to have an input into the formulation of policies and strategies within a more decentralized decision-making process.
NGOs should actively participate, particularly at the local level, in the formulation of programmes for refugees, returnees and displaced persons, while recognizing that UNHCR is itself obligated to comply with host and donor government requirements. They should have a clear and well-formulated idea of their goals and objectives, independent of their role as UNHCR implementing partners.
UNHCR and those NGOs acting as operational partners should undertake regularly joint project evaluations. Refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons and other beneficiaries should participate in these evaluations. The results of evaluations undertaken separately by UNHCR or by NGOs acting as operational partners should be shared with the other parties.
UNHCR and NGOs should establish a framework for cooperation with national, regional and/or international umbrella groups before an emergency occurs. This would form the basis of UNHCR-NGO cooperation, enable NGOs to have a greater input into designing and planning responses and help avoid "crisis driven" signing of agreements with UNHCR imposed conditions.
UNHCR should also make efforts, in accord with the agreed upon inter-agency consolidated appeal process, to include NGOs in the early planning stages and assessment missions of emergencies; but with the caveat that in the early stages of a refugee emergency, UNHCR is not always immediately able to identify potential implementing partners. To facilitate an optimum rapid response, UNHCR and international organizations should, to the extent possible, draw upon the human resources of local NGOs.
At the earliest stages of emergencies, UNHCR and NGOs should deploy experienced staff who subscribe to the policy of mutual respect to avoid difficulties from inexperienced staff.
UNHCR should review its staff rotation policy to ensure postings of a sufficient duration which would help to stabilize the presence of key staff at the national level and contribute to a climate of true partnership.
UNHCR and NGOs should enter into contractual arrangements governing the transfer of skills between UNHCR and international and local NGO partners, which should clearly specify the phase-out period of international organizations and agencies.
E. Information Sharing and Public Awareness
A crucial element of partnership is the enhanced flow of information both between NGOs and between NGOs and UNHCR. Sharing of information on public information materials and access to documentation centers and databases, such as the International Refugee Documentation Network (IRDN) and the International Refugee Electronic Network (IRENE), and enhanced communication between UNHCR and NGOs, and between NGOs are essential for improving lines of communication.
UNHCR should further strengthen the growing cooperation with NGOs in the system for the sharing of information on country of origin information and relevant refugee law and practice, in particular through support for enhanced NGO access to UNHCR databases. IRENE should serve as the primary electronic network for UNHCR-NGO communication and IRENE's potential for early response should be further developed. UNHCR should ensure that NGOs who do not yet benefit from this cooperation be made aware of the immense potential available to them through UNHCR databases and the IRENE network. UNHCR should give priority to studying alternative ways of making available the above information in regions where on-line access is unlikely to improve in the near future.
UNHCR and NGOs should renew their cooperation in the field of public information and advocacy strategies and in the production of educational materials.
The designation by the UN General Assembly of an International Refugee Day, or possibly an International Refugee Year, would draw attention to the global refugee problem and assist with public awareness and information campaigns on refugees, returnees and, as appropriate, displaced persons. NGOs are urged to lobby those Governments which are members of UNHCR's Executive Committee to initiate this proposal.
It was noted that UNHCR-NGO partnership should concern itself primarily with the common commitment towards the protection and assistance of refugees, returnees, and internally displaced, where appropriate, with funding issues as a secondary consideration.
A number of concerns were expressed about UNHCR involvement in private sector fund-raising initiatives. In particular, serious concern was expressed that this practice could further erode the responsibility of national governments to fund UNHCR activities, as well as undermine private sector fund-raising activities of UNHCR NGO partners.
UNHCR and NGOs should work toward adopting cooperative and transparent private sector fund-raising strategies, rather than competitive ones. UNHCR should, when appropriate, devise and prepare funding proposals jointly with NGOs, particularly in those countries where UNHCR could facilitate and support the activities of NGOs who do not have an established tradition of private sector fund-raising. In view of the seriousness of the issue, particularly in some regions, the issue of private sector fund-raising should be discussed urgently with concerned NGOs and, if desirable, Governments.
NGOs or their umbrella organizations should act as intermediary in the early stages of the partnership with UNHCR to facilitate local NGO access to large donor funds. Consideration should be given to the possibility of providing direct funding to NGOs implementing programmes in coordination with UNHCR, rather than through government ministries. UNHCR should support direct NGO access to donor funds through including NGO projects in UN consolidated appeals. UNHCR should exercise greater care in duly attributing and reporting contributions made by NGOs to its programmes.
UNHCR should assist NGOs in securing funds for the continuation of development-related programmes for refugees, returnees and displaced persons from alternative funding sources to ensure that continuum projects are sustained. NGOs should establish inter-agency arrangements on relief, rehabilitation and development programmes at the international, regional and local levels.
The PARinAC process should build on Oslo. In order to sustain PARinAC's momentum and implement its recommendations, a UNHCR-NGO consultative mechanism should be structured at the national, regional and international levels to be decided at the respective levels. Immediate and effective evaluation, prioritization and follow-up of PARinAC recommendations are needed. The High Commissioner requested that "UNHCR and NGO regional focal points ... assess the practical and substantive measures needed to implement the various PARinAC proposals in each region over the coming two to three months." In response, an expanded PARinAC NGO Advisory Committee or ICVA should encourage the establishment of regional focal points to begin working immediately on the assessment of concrete follow-up mechanisms together with UNHCR. The regional focal points should report back to the UNHCR-NGO PARinAC consultation, taking into account representative NGO participation, which will take place prior to the forty-fifth session of UNHCR's Executive Committee in 1994, and at least annually thereafter.