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UNHCR Tool for Participatory Assessment in Operations

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© UNHCR / B. Press

Refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees must be at the centre of decision-making concerning their own protection and welfare. UNHCR firmly believes that the participation of refugee women and men - young and old, and from diverse backgrounds - in the definition of problems and the design of programmes for their benefit is crucial to serving, assisting, and protecting them.

As a means to ensure better participation of all people of concern in decision-making, UNHCR has developed the UNHCR Tool for Participatory Assessment in Operations as part of its Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming Strategy. Participation is particularly important for those who are often excluded, such as women, children, adolescents, the elderly and other groups suffering from discrimination. The UNHCR Tool outlines 10 basic steps to ensure women, girls, boys, and men participate in analyzing protection problems together; in discussing capacities to face protection problems; and in finding solutions together.

Participatory assessment is a process of building partnerships with women and men of concern - of all ages and backgrounds - through systematic, structured dialogue on issues that they identify as important. In other words, people of concern to UNHCR describe their situation from their perspectives, voice their concerns, and mobilise their own efforts in solving problems within the community, thus taking control of their immediate future.

This UNHCR Tool offers a practical methodology for field teams, composed of UNHCR staff and partners, to operationalise protection and to support the implementation of a rights-based and community-based approach in their search for solutions to the protection problems of all people of concern.

It is the product of collaborative efforts, resulting from expansive consultations with UNHCR staff and partners in the field. UNHCR is particularly grateful to the US Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the UK Department for International Development for their contributions to its development. Participatory assessment has now been undertaken in more than 70 countries and is an integral part of UNHCR programming instructions.