Centralized evaluations completed in 2020
- UNHCR's Country Strategy in Afghanistan
- UNHCR's Country Strategy in Iraq
- UNHCR's Approaches to Workforce and Partner Learning and Development
- UNHCR’s Engagement in Humanitarian Development Cooperation – Year 2 Discussion Papers
- UNHCR's Emergency Response to the Venezuela Situation
Decentralized evaluations, reviews, synthesis completed in 2020
- Livelihoods Synthesis Report
- UNHCR’s Global Strategy – Beyond Detention 2014 -2019 (review)
- Evaluation of the Innovation Fund
- Individual Donor Assessments in Humanitarian Operations
- Effects of UNHCR cash-based interventions on protection outcomes in Rwanda
- UNHCR-Government of Colombia IDP Plan 2015-2019
Other reports produced by the Evaluation Service in 2020
- Synthesis Report: Angola, Morocco, Afghanistan and Iraq Country Operations Evaluations
- Covid-19 Response: Lessons from UNHCR’s Evaluation Evidence
- Rapid review of evaluative literature: A few lessons from responding to the Ebola Crisis in West Africa
- UNHCR’s Coordination and Leadership Role
- Synthesis of Evidence from Evaluations of UNHCR’s Cash-Based Interventions
Joint evaluations completed in 2020
UNHCR’s Efforts to Promote Refugee Inclusion and Engagement with Development Actors
The Evaluation Service is currently evaluating how UNHCR engages in humanitarian development cooperation.
Cooperation with development organizations has been part of UNHCR’s approach to building long-term support and finding durable solutions for people forced to flee. Over the past few years, UNHCR has deepened its cooperation with global entities like the World Bank, regional entities like the African Development Bank, UN development agencies and development donors.
Here are some of the emerging findings from the evaluation:
1) Further expand engagement with development actors
UNHCR is already engaging systematically with development actors in many areas, but there are opportunities to engage further, such as with the UN Country Team and the reformed Resident Coordinator function. We could also engage with peacebuilding and conflict prevention actors to strengthen the protection components in their initiatives.
2) Close the gaps in operational practice
There is broad buy-in across the organization to pursue more comprehensive responses to humanitarian development cooperation. UNHCR has made institutional investments in this area by, for example, introducing Senior Development Officer positions. However, UNHCR could further strengthen this agenda more broadly across the organization and consider having a more consistent stance on how to approach financial relations with development actors.
3) Strengthen engagement with partners on protection issues
UNHCR already engages extensively on protection-related issues with development actors. We provide advice, training, data, and conduct joint advocacy campaigns. We could go further and broaden UNHCR’s engagement in this field by strengthening both UNHCR’s ongoing advisory functions to the World Bank’s funding instruments on forced displacement (IDA 18 and 19) and UNHCR’s capacity to conduct protection analysis.
4) Look at planning and budgeting processes
UNHCR’s budgetary and planning systems are sound but the organization faces challenges when undertaking multi-year planning or when receiving funds from development donors. Potentially, there are different options that could be considered in line with the current Results-Based Management Renewal Project. These could include further decentralising spending authority for development resources; ensuring adequate funding within the Operating Level for core facilitation activities on development cooperation and; enabling multi-year partnership agreements.
UNHCR's Approaches to Workforce & Partner Learning and Development
The evaluation explored the performance of UNHCR’s overall organizational ‘learning system’ and its capacity to adapt over time to the changing context of UNHCR.
The evaluation found that UNHCR’s learning service was one of the most advanced among other UN agencies. But there are opportunities to further improve the alignment with regionalization, and to support an environment where learning is embedded in the day-to-day flow-of-work, and linked more clearly to organizational performance.
The evaluation highlighted UNHCR’s commitment to equality of learning. This is highly valued by staff, but there are practical impediments to it being realized. These include:
- Learning offers in languages other than English are limited
- Inequalities of access especially at lower grades and local positions
- Uneven management support for learning across the organization
- Literature suggests people learn from peers not specialists - examples of staff developing innovative practices to do this were documented by the evaluation but they fall outside of the Global Learning and Development Center (GLDC) learning offer and formal strategy
- Utilization rates are low for much of online learning on offer, with 42 per cent of those enrolling in a programme not actually completing it – often for work-related reasons.
The evaluation calls for a transformation in knowledge development and skill acquisition so that:
- Learning provision is more nimble and more responsive to the learning needs in emergency operations and new context and needs
- Learning is more firmly embedded and monitored against UNHCR’s strategic priorities, annual planning and budgeting processes
- Responsibility and resources for learning is shared more widely beyond GLDC with learning and development capability also being developed in the Regional Bureaus
- The current emphasis on training and formal learning shifts to greater support for ‘learning-in-the-flow-of-work’, with a greater focus on bite-sized/micro-learning and more mentoring, coaching and Communities of Practice
- GLDC’s role evolves to become less focussed on formal training provision and more focussed on supporting learning at the regional and country level, advising Bureaux and operations, and providing quality assurance
- Learning is more central to UNHCR’s recruitment, career planning and performance appraisal processes
- Managers are required to support the learning and development of their supervisees. This is integral to all management and leadership programmes.
UNHCR’s Response to the Venezuela Refugee Crisis
The evaluation of the Venezuela situation explored the extent to which UNHCR provided a timely and effective response to the needs of refugees and migrants and examined what enabling and constraining factors existed.
The evaluation found that UNHCR’s assistance and protection strategies were highly relevant and effective. While conditions and achievements vary across Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru, findings showed that the focus on support to the most vulnerable; the provision of assistance through helplines and cash-based interventions; and strengthening of asylum systems and mobilization of support networks, produced a relevant and effective response.
Lessons and recommendations:
- Bolster communication and community-based protection at irregular border entries
- Identify more good practices in virtual service delivery under COVID-19, such as telephone hotlines, chat apps and virtual CBI delivery
- Explore strategies to maintain and institutionalize capacity-building with governments and partners despite high staff rotation in these agencies
- Increase monitoring of partner capacity and detect potential rights violations in service delivery
The evaluation highlighted that UNHCR’s delivery of mid-to-long term solutions was nascent but uneven.
The findings revealed that UNHCR’s approach to socio-economic inclusion was limited. Likewise, there was a general lack of clarity on how programmes targeting persons of concern could transition from humanitarian assistance to longer-term development initiatives and what the effectiveness and impact had been of livelihoods and other solutions-based activities which were implemented.
Lessons and recommendations:
- Strengthen solution-based activities in cities further away from borders. These areas may present better opportunities to implement forward-looking protection and solutions initiatives
- Increase resource allocation and efforts in partnership development towards the region’s socio-economic inclusion strategy
- Leverage UNHCR’s ongoing advocacy efforts to strengthen regularization and inclusion into local and national development systems
- Expand evidence base on good practice for socio-economic inclusion and other solutions approaches.
The evaluation also finds that co-leadership of the response, data-sharing and communication externally and internally remain challenging.
Lessons and recommendations:
- Document and communicate UNHCR’s roles as catalyst, implementer and communicator and share with stakeholders
- Evaluate the inter-agency platform and response to provide lessons for future action and for other joint responses
- Seek data-sharing agreements and mechanisms with governments and partners to address data gaps and overlaps
- Facilitate opportunities for regular cross-country exchanges of experiences, ideas and good practices.
UNHCR - Government of Colombia Four-Year IDP Plan
In 2020, UNHCR in Columbia commissioned a decentralized evaluation of the UNHCR - Government of Colombia Four-Year Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Plan (2015-2019).
In this interview Jozef Merkx, UNHCR Representative in Colombia shares his experience with the evaluation
We are actively studying UNHCR´s response to COVID-19. Within the first three months of the pandemic, looking at previous UNHCR responses as well as the evaluative work of others we collated evidence, some of which fed into COVID-19 Response: Lessons from UNHCR’s Evaluation Evidence.
We have also distilled lessons from UNHCR’s Ebola responses in refugee settings. The lessons predicted increased mental health problems and sexual and gender-based violence risks. They also emphasized the importance of good data and strong coordination mechanisms and the need for significant recovery support for livelihoods and local economies. These findings helped UNHCR adapt current operations to the COVID-19 context.
Going forward, we will be leading or supporting three COVID-19 related evaluations in 2021:
- a meta-evaluation on UNHCR’s adaptation and response;
- a joint-evaluation on the protection of refugee rights during COVID-19;
- as a member of the inter-agency humanitarian evaluation of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan.