Evaluation of UNHCR’s Engagement in Humanitarian-Development Cooperation: Report on a Longitudinal, Independent Evaluation (September 2018 – March 2021), Volume I: Main Report – World
This report contains the findings of an evaluation of UNHCR’s engagement in humanitariandevelopment cooperation. As part of this cooperation, UNHCR variously acts as a catalyst for development engagement on forced displacement; leverages the influence of development actors for protection and policy advocacy with governments; gradually links services for refugees with national systems; and expands its support for self-reliance. The evaluation was commissioned by UNHCR because recent high-level policy developments and initiatives, such as the 2016 Global Compact on Refugees, support a more comprehensive response to displacement, involving both humanitarian and development actors. UNHCR plays a key role in implementing this reform agenda.
The evaluation was conducted between 2018 and 2021. This relatively long timeframe enabled the evaluation team to trace efforts and their results over time, and to support learning by regularly discussing the emerging findings and their implications with UNHCR colleagues working at different levels. Data collection focused on four UNHCR country operations (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan and Niger) and involved several country visits, a total of 551 semi-structured interviews, 19 focus group discussions with refugees and host communities, a staff survey and quantitative analyses based on UNHCR datasets.
UNHCR’s engagement in humanitarian-development cooperation
The evaluation found a consistent perception among interviewees that UNHCR’s engagement in humanitarian-development cooperation has increased over the past five years. UNHCR has systematically built partnerships with a number of multilateral and bilateral development actors. The partnership with the World Bank Group is exemplary and shapes UNHCR’s narrative on and approach to humanitarian-development cooperation. Cooperation with the EU, the OECD and some bilateral development actors has become more systematic. Cooperation with individual UN agencies has also increased, but engagement with the UN development system as a whole, other multilateral development banks, NGOs and the private sector has been less systematic.
In most cases considered by this evaluation, UNHCR’s engagement in humanitarian-development cooperation has focused on influential development donors with a strategic focus on displacement and reflects available opportunities. However, there were also calls for certain strategic adjustments. For example, UNHCR’s engagement with the UN development system as a whole was less advanced than engagement with other actors. Examples of cooperation on the rule of law and access to justice were positive, but small in number and scale. Most examples of cooperation covered by the evaluation focused on host communities and refugees, with little apparent focus on issues of internal displacement.
Crucially, most of UNHCR’s observed recent efforts to strengthen humanitarian-development cooperation have focused on engaging with external actors, while UNHCR’s own programmes often continue to conduct “business as usual” in parallel and provide direct services to refugees without consistently focusing on how to gradually integrate refugees into local and national service systems.