Framework for Operational Cooperation between UNHCR and UNDP


1.         The High Commissioner for Refugees (hereinafter referred to as UNHCR) and the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (hereinafter referred to as UNDP) have agreed that existing agreements on cooperation between their two organizations need revision taking into consideration the changing operational requirements of humanitarian assistance and development cooperation.

2.         Building upon the experience gained through implementation of the agreement of November 1987 on "cooperation with regard to development activities affecting refugees and returnees" and joint work programmes subsequent to this agreement, the present framework affirms the commitment of both parties to promote a fresh culture of institutional collaboration, with particular attention to countries in special circumstances where a humanitarian crisis may be impending, is ongoing, or abating within a phase of recovery.

3.         This Framework recognizes the respective mandates and responsibilities of each organization, and the need to build on the comparative advantages of each in arrangements for cooperation that provide added value both for the beneficiaries and for the discharge of these mandates and responsibilities. In this context, UNDP shall associate the special funds and programmes administered under its authority in support of the Framework.

4.         In working to give effect to the present agreement, UNHCR and UNDP seek to reaffirm their support to United Nations system collaboration as provided for in General Assembly resolutions as well as decisions of the governing bodies of the two organizations. Mindful of the attributions of other organizations of the United Nations system, and in particular the members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), UNHCR and UNDP will support the mechanism for inter-agency coordination provided by the IASC, under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC). UNDP and UNHCR will also actively support and coordinate their efforts within the relevant frameworks established by the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), and the Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ). At the country level, UNDP and UNHCR will promote and support the efficient and effective utilization of the United Nations resident coordinator system as well as inter-agency mechanisms such as the United Nations Security Management Team and the United Nations Disaster Management Team.


5.         The principal objectives of collaboration between UNHCR and UNDP shall be to:

a).        enhance early warning of the possible displacement of populations which might lead to refugee outflows with a view to devising early and timely preventive/remedial responses to critical problems, in both home and potential asylum countries;

b)         address the negative effect of large inflows of refugees on hosting areas, taking into account their impact on local economic, social and environmental resources;

c)         promote, at the community level, post-conflict recovery, peace-building and reconciliation in war-torn countries with large displaced populations; ensure that the reintegration of returnees is planned and supported in an effective and well-coordinated manner, providing sustainable basic services and economic opportunities, thereby reinforcing the linkages between the needs of returnees and other groups in the areas of return;

d)         foster an early and smooth phase-out of humanitarian assistance in favour of sustainable basic services and local development in areas that have suffered from severe damage and dislocation as a result of conflict, and

e)         work jointly to mobilize national and international resources for measures designed to attain the above objectives.


6.         The following basic principles shall guide UNHCR/UNDP cooperation:

a)         Functional: cooperation shall be based on a pragmatic, mutual understanding of the concerns and mandates of the two organization; both agencies have responsibility to ensure that their headquarters and country staff are aware of available opportunities for cooperation, its scope and orientation;

b)         Complementary: country representatives of both organizations with the support of their respective headquarters, are encouraged to devise creative, complementary and mutually reinforcing operational initiatives at the country level;

c)         Decentralized: flexible and practical operational procedures, with adequate delegated authority to country representatives for planning and management, will ensure that opportunities for cooperation are seized and allow for the necessary operational variations;

d)         Verifiable: the cooperation shall yield tangible results to beneficiaries, with a demonstrated added value to the work of both organizations in pursuance of the objectives stated in this framework, and;

e)         Cost-effective: the cooperation shall be managed in a cost-effective manner with administrative costs justified against results.


7.         The scope of cooperation will vary depending on the operational context. Collaboration to cope with emergency calls for a different set of responses than those that may be needed to help a country recover from crisis. The elements of cooperation that are identified will be supported by management tools which will be jointly developed as required.

8.         UNHCR and UNDP will aim to harmonize humanitarian and development action at three separate but interrelated levels:

a)         Country specific: through situation-specific operational arrangements developed on a case by case basis in the light of the opportunities and constraints encountered in each context;

b)         Inter-country: through operational cooperation covering both asylum countries and countries of origin of the refugees, and

c)         Thematic: through a policy dialogue aimed at promoting conceptual and operational links between relief and development.


9.         In order to advance and facilitate operational cooperation, UNHCR and UNDP will:

a)         share information on the possible or actual movement of refugees, displaced persons and returnees, consult each other throughout the process of planning and implementing their respective programmes and jointly evaluate activities related to prevention, impact on host communities and reintegration;

b)         jointly participate in the formulation of a strategic framework for recovery and the United nations Country Strategy Note (CSN), ensuring that they properly reflect viable solutions to humanitarian crisis; UNHCR and UNDP shall align their prevention and rehabilitation assistance with the basic policy and assistance principles laid down in these frameworks;

c)         undertake joint planning and programming missions aimed at strengthening the operational linkages between the two agencies in all work concerned with prevention, host country impact and reintegration; ensure that needs assessment is carried out in consultation with refugee leaders, communities in areas of return where appropriate, local government bodies, NGOs and other civil society organizations;

d)         agree on the form and content of consultations to be held with national authorities in order to give effect to joint strategies and to implement programmes in the above-mentioned areas;

e)         jointly invite donors, United Nations system partners and NGOs for periodic briefings and consultations on specific joint strategies, programmes and projects;

f)          establish a joint approach to the effective utilization of United Nations Volunteers, under which initial assignments to UNHCR activities may be followed by a transfer to UNDP field-based programmes;

g)         coordinate their approach to the development of civil society and notable with respect to the role of international NGOs and to capacity-building among national NGOs;

h)         ensure, where appropriate and when resource availability permits, that UNDP support to local capacity building and UNHCR-funded local settlement and reintegration projects are mutually supportive and sustainable;

i)          collaborate in joint reporting to the national authorities and institute periodic briefings to local donor representatives on programme progress and constraints, policy and sectoral issues pertaining to the orientation of aid for prevention, post-conflict recovery and peace-building, so as to generate understanding and additional support in the interest of the overall effort, and 

j)          collaborate in identification of priority needs addressing the development dimension of emergencies which are complementary to UNHCR humanitarian assistance and which are eligible for financing from UNDP's TRAC line l.1.3 resources.

10.       Specific situations of cooperation are indicated below for the three principal operational areas, the first aiming at preventing a displacement crisis, the second at responding to the refugee impact on hosting areas, and the third at the reintegration of returnees and rehabilitation of communities and areas of return.


11.       UNHCR and UNDP shall:

a).        given the complexity of early warning analysis, agree on a limited set of simple base-line indicators, including push and pull factors, in areas jointly identified as high risk situations; such indicators should be monitored on a continuous basis;

b).        share assessments of risks of impending forced population displacement;

c).        develop strategies in countries identified as being at risk, so as to address the causes of potential displacement without jeopardizing the fundamental right of persons to seek and enjoy asylum;

d).        agree on joint initiatives to halt and reverse the deterioration of high risk situations, with clearly established roles and responsibilities, based on their mandates and comparative advantages, specifically in regard to resource and programme delivery requirements;

e).        identify ways and means to strengthen local capacities for crisis management and mitigation, including conflict and dispute settlement at the local level, strengthening of judicial systems and the human rights regime, to the extent humanitarian concerns are affected;

f)          where necessary, seek regional approaches to preventive action that address potential displacement, and

g)         where preventive action of a political nature may be required, jointly consult the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

Refugee impact on hosting areas

12.       UNHCR and UNDP shall:

            strengthen the operational linkages between refugee aid and development by jointly developing, in cooperation with national authorities and local communities, a comprehensive programme for support to receiving areas affected by massive influx of refugees and strengthening local and regional capacities to cope with and recover from refugee crisis.

13.       The UNHCR Representative shall:

            bring to UNDP's attention any adverse consequences of refugee concentrations on local communities.

14.       The UNDP Resident Representative shall:

            in consultation with UNHCR and the national authorities, propose and formulate programmes designed to meet the special requirements of local populations in areas exposed to the large-scale inflow of refugees including rehabilitation needs after the repatriation of the refugees.

Reintegration and rehabilitation

15.       UNHCR and UNDP shall:

a)         strengthen the operational linkages between the two organizations to ensure that the reintegration of returning refugees and the rehabilitation of receiving areas including basic services, are undertaken in a sustainable manner;

b)         seek a common and mutually reinforcing approach to reintegration support in returnee areas, and agree upon appropriate action in relation to issues of conflict-resolution and sustainable development, aiming at cost-effectiveness in interventions, efficiency in coordination as well as added-value through the combined humanitarian and development effort;

c)         in consultation with local authorities and implementing partners, jointly assess the human development situation in areas of reintegration, including identification of constraints to reintegration such as mines, land and property rights and opportunities for reintegrating skilled returnees in public services such as health and education; UNHCR shall make available information on the extent to which skills development has taken place in refugee camps prior to repatriation, and

d)         coordinate their approach to and agree on division of responsibilities in relation to the reintegration needs of internally displaced persons in those cases where UNHCR is working with internally displaced persons.

16.       The UNHCR Representative shall:

a)         invite UNDP to participate in the initial situation analysis and needs assessment of areas to which refugees are expected to return. The joint assessment shall serve as a basis for collaborative action to facilitate reintegration focused on short and medium-term impact, and

b)         ensure that UNHCR's reintegration strategy is developed with substantive inputs from UNDP, so as to enhance the development impact of UNHCR's initial reintegration support (including Quick Impact Projects, (QIPs)) and ensure its sustainability.

17.       The UNDP Resident Representative shall:

a)         undertake an analysis of local development management capacity, including the allocation of local resources for priority needs and for a sustained recovery;

b)         consult with UNHCR in the identification and formulation of UNDP development activities so as to reflect appropriate follow-up and/or linkages with reintegration assistance, and 

c)         liaise with UNHCR on its approach to the reintegration of refugees, ex-combatants and internally displaced persons, so as to develop a common understanding of the nature and level of support required for the community reinsertion of the different categories of such populations where UNHCR is working with such populations.


18.       Programmes aiming at the prevention of refugee situations, and sustainability of projects targeting host country communities, reintegration action and area development schemes require substantial additional and complementary resources to those provided under UNHCR's core funds or to resources available under UNDP's country programmes and TRAC allocations, including TRAC line l.1.3, assigned for "Countries in Special Development Situations".

19.       To the extent feasible, when seeking extra-budgetary resources for the purposes of such programmes, the two agencies shall jointly approach donors as early as possible on the basis of agreed arrangements for implementation and programme delivery.

20.       UNHCR and UNDP shall:

a)         consult with the government and actively use fora such as Round Table and Consultative Group Meetings, as well as regional or local donor meetings, to attract and mobilize resources for jointly identified programmes in the area of displacement prevention, impact on refugee host communities and reintegration, and

b)         cooperate actively in the elaboration of Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeals and possible future expansion, and ensure that the activities contemplated are consistent with the overall strategy of external support.


21.       In order to implement joint strategies of assistance to countries in special circumstances, as outlined in the preceding sections, mechanisms and procedures for regular and close consultation between the two agencies need to be systematized and reinvigorated, at headquarters and at the country level.

22.       UNHCR and UNDP shall carry out joint reviews and lessons learnt exercises both at headquarters and country level as a general feature of their cooperation. The two organizations shall apply the findings for the further refinement of collaborative instruments and activities and shall coordinate and, as appropriate, collaborate in the development of joint training programmes for field-based management staff UNHCR and UNDP shall also seek to contribute to the development of, and participate in, inter-agency training programmes such as those provided by the ILO Turin Centre on United Nations system coordination, the Disaster Management Training Programme (DMTP) and the United Nations Staff College Project.

23.       UNHCR and UNDP shall work towards a common approach to conditions of service, security and welfare of field personnel and shall arrange for the exchange of field staff through loans and secondments, bringing the mutual experience of each organization to bear on the activities of the other.

24.       UNHCR and UNDP shall:

            at the country level

a)         appoint a senior staff member within each office to act as focal point for the implementation of the Framework at the country level and, as appropriate, to support sub-regional and inter-country initiatives undertaken with the Framework. The focal points shall operate as a team and co-opt such other agency staff in their work as the situation may require, reporting jointly to the UNDP Resident Representative and the UNHCR Representative on a regular basis;

b)         develop a joint operational plan of action to implement the Framework in the context of country-specific requirements and agree on task management arrangements for the effective formulation, implementation and monitoring of joint endeavours;

c)         in support of the above and as warranted, establish joint offices in areas of repatriation to facilitate coordination of initiatives and the efficient transition of operations between the two organizations in support of sustainable area-based reintegration programmes;

            at the headquarters level

d)         conduct an annual senior level meeting to consider and provide guidance on general policy issues the inter-country ramifications of refugee displacement, and the implications of any joint initiatives in the field of prevention and reintegration;

e)         conduct quarterly meetings of the UNHCR /UNDP Working Group to review issues of common concern regarding operational collaboration and to prepare the annual senior-level meeting, and

f)          establish focal points within each organization to jointly take stock of achievements and constraints, to identify opportunities for collaboration and propose initiatives in this regard, to support country-level formulation and implementation of an operational plan of action and to monitor progress in implementing the present agreement.


25.       This Framework shall become valid from the date of its signature. It will be the subject of a general review and evaluation in December 1998.

26.       This Framework supersedes the agreement of November 1987 entitled "UNHCR/UNDP Cooperation with Regard to Development Activities Affecting Refugees and Returnees"

27.       Provisions previously agreed between UNHCR and UNDP relating to financial and personnel arrangements will remain valid until such time as they may be amended by separate agreements.

Geneva, 10 April 1997



James Gustave Speth 

Sadako Ogata

Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees