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Progress Report on the Consultations on the Standardization of UNHCR Reporting

Executive Committee Meetings

Progress Report on the Consultations on the Standardization of UNHCR Reporting

14 January 1999

1. Consultations on the Standardization of UNHCR Reporting were held on 9 December 1998 and 21 January 1999. The two sessions were chaired by the Chairman of the Executive Committee, His Excellency, Ambassador Victor Rodríguez Cedeño (Venezuela). The process of consultations was initiated following a suggestion both by Members of the Executive Committee and UNHCR during the meeting of the Standing Committee on 2 October 1998 to discuss the standardization of UNHCR reporting.

2. The proposal for consultations on this issue was made in light of UNHCR's move towards Global Appeals and Global Reports on its programmes. In this regard, it should also be noted that UNHCR is currently reporting to Members of its Executive Committee and donors in a variety of different ways and formats, including governance documentation and customized donor reports. This places a heavy burden on the Office, both in the Field and at Headquarters. An increasing amount of resources are required to meet reporting requirements at a time when the Office is trying to cope with shrinking resources. It is hoped that this burden can be lessened through a broad agreement between Members of the Executive Committee and the Office on the information required and the timing of reports. For the Global Report (which will be prepared for the first time in 1999 the 1998 programme) to be a meaningful document and to replace customized donor reports, UNHCR has to ensure that it covers the areas of interest of Members of the Executive Committee.

3. A Proposal for a Standardized Report on UNHCR's Programmes (2 December 1998) was presented to the first round of consultations. This paper put forward a general proposal to move towards the standardization of reporting and presented the suggested contents of a standard narrative report, as well as a format for a standard financial report. A reporting cycle, with the Global Appeal being issued in November of the year prior to the start of the programme and the Global Report being presented in June of the year following programme implementation, was also suggested. The discussion paper also raised the question whether a Mid-Year Progress Report will be required in August of the current programme year. Such a report was presented for the first time in 1998.

4. In relation to governance reporting, the Executive Committee planning meeting on 8 December 1998 already recognized the need for a Mid-Year Progress Report to cover programmes implemented in the current year to be distributed in August. In view of the issuance, as of 1999, of the Global Appeal, the Global Report and the Mid-Year Progress Report, the meeting decided to discontinue issuance of regional reviews at each session of the Standing Committee, while maintaining and enhancing regular Updates on Programmes and Funding. The consideration of the Global Report will become a regular agenda item at the June Standing Committee and the Mid-Year Progress Report will be discussed at the September meeting of the Standing Committee.

5. During the consultations on 9 December 1998, delegations welcomed the move towards a standardization of UNHCR reporting and emphasized the need for it to enhance UNHCR's efficiency, and to streamline procedures and the production of documentation. Delegations broadly endorsed the following appeal and reporting cycle, while stressing the usefulness and therefore need for a Mid-Year Progress Report:

  • Global Appeal: November of year prior to start of the programmes;
  • Global Report: June of year following programme implementation;
  • Mid-Year Progress Report: August of the year of programme implementation;
  • Updates on Programmes and Funding: each meeting of the Standing Committee.

The proposed contents of a standard narrative report (see Annex I) and format of a standard financial report (see Annex II) found wide support. In particular, delegations noted that the outline of the contents of the narrative report were very comprehensive and balanced. Delegations reiterated their endorsement for the changes to the provision of governance documentation already discussed at the 8 December 1998 Planning Meeting, in particular the discontinuation of regional reviews. Delegations felt that Observers, in particular the European Commission, as one of UNHCR's important partners requiring complex customized reporting, should be invited to the next round of consultations.

6. While there was a broad consensus on the need for standardized reports, their contents and the timing of their issuance (Global Report and Mid-Year Progress Report), specific comments by delegations can be summarized as follows:

  • The emphasis on protection and the linkages between protection and assistance activities found strong support and delegations stressed the need for protection to become more prominent in UNHCR's reporting.
  • The focus on women, children, gender mainstreaming, and age- and sex-disaggregated beneficiary information was welcomed by delegations.
  • Reporting should focus on results achieved and the references to impact, lessons learned and the potential for UNHCR's phase-out were considered important in this regard.
  • Delegations felt that the Mid-Year Progress Report will become a useful tool to adjust priorities during the second half of the year, including funding, and will thus add value to the documentation provided by UNHCR thus far.

While in agreement with the proposed contents of the report, delegations pointed out that it sets an ambitious standard and note was taken that the full compliance with this standard will take time, since UNHCR has to adjust its internal reporting system to ensure that the requisite information is provided by the field.

  • It was also acknowledged that achieving good quality reporting will also depend on the performance of implementing partners and that deficiencies in the reporting from UNHCR's partners need to be addressed.
  • Several delegations referred to their countries' rules and regulations with regard to the use of contributions, including earmarked funds, which curtail flexibility and make it necessary to show their contributions in the report.
  • The consequences of the new, unified budget structure, if adopted, on both the narrative and financial parts of the reports will have to be considered.

7. It was agreed to hold another round of consultations on 21 January 1999 and to invite Observer delegations, including the European Commission, to this meeting. The discussion during the second consultations will be the subject of an oral report during the February meeting of the Standing Committee.

Annex 1: Proposal for the contents of a standardized report on UNHCR's programmes

  • Background and Operational Environment

Provides a report on changes in the overall context in terms of major developments and their impact on the rationale for UNHCR's involvement in a country or situation.

  • Beneficiaries of Protection and Assistance

Provides in an age- and sex-disaggregated manner an analysis of changes or developments with respect to the beneficiaries of the programme.

  • Core Problems, Opportunities and Constraints: Changes in the Operational Environment

Provides an analysis of the core problems, opportunities and constraints faced by the programme for a beneficiary population/theme in terms of how it has evolved during the reporting period and how this has had an impact on the programme.

  • The Protection and Solutions Strategy

Summarizes the initial strategic plan for a beneficiary population or theme at the sector level and the strategies for achieving them, as well as any significant modifications in objectives or strategy during the previous year. The implementation and results of the initial strategy for gender mainstreaming and for prioritizing the specific rights and needs of women as well as men and of children and adolescents will be described. A brief analysis of the extent to which assumptions established in the plan were accurate and had a positive or negative impact on the overall strategy will also be included.

  • Progress Achieved: Impact and Delivery

This part of the report will make reference to the individual projects under which protection and assistance were provided according to the following sub-headings:

Impact: Based on performance indicators, a summary of progress achieved, in particular the protection impact of assistance activities on the beneficiaries within the context of the country situation (currently General Programmes) or programme/situation (currently Special Programmes) will be provided. The difference made by UNHCR's presence and activities shall be highlighted. This will be followed by a more detailed description of activities and impact by sector, always against the background of the protection objectives and rationale of the activities performed and with specific reference to the different impact on male and female beneficiaries. Specifically, the extent to which the objectives and intended outputs were achieved in the programme will be addressed. The extent to which UNHCR and its partners' interventions had the intended effect in terms of enhancing the well-being of the beneficiaries with regard to protection and meeting their basic needs will also be covered.

Delivery: Describes, at the sector level, the extent to which the implementation strategy, in terms of activities to be carried out by UNHCR and its partners, was successfully implemented. In addition, information on the participation of refugee women in commodity management and distribution will be provided. In the case of planned activities not being carried out, explanations will be given for why this was the case, for instance, when activities were not implemented or were delayed due to the absence or slow receipt of funding.

  • Age- and Sex-Disaggregated Mass Refugee Registration

Specific information about any registration exercises which have taken place during the reporting period shall be provided:the location of the registration exercise, the beneficiary population registered, the figures before and after the registration, the main purpose in carrying out the registration exercise and the type of documentation issued. The methodology used, the constraints met, the system to verify and update the population data, the link between registration data and the distribution of food and non-food items, as well as with education, community services, training and income-generation activities shall be described.

  • Women

Provides a description of the policy, including a gender mainstreaming strategy, in relation to women beneficiaries as well as results and impact of the specific measures taken to ensure that the programme responds to the potential and needs of women and addresses inequalities between male and female beneficiaries in accessing protection and assistance.

  • Children and Adolescents

Provides a description of the overall strategy of prioritizing the Office's policy on children and adolescents, including gender mainstreaming, as well as results and impact of the specific measures taken to ensure that their protection, assistance and educational needs and rights are met.

  • Beneficiaries with Special Needs

Provides a description of the results and impact of the specific measures taken to ensure that the special needs of beneficiaries were met.

  • Environmental Concerns

Describes the results and impact of the measures implemented to ensure environmental considerations have been taken into account in programme planning and delivery so as to prevent, mitigate or rehabilitate environmental degradation.

  • Potential for Solutions

Analyses the results of specific measures taken in order to achieve durable solutions.

  • NGOs, PARinAC and Capacity-Building

The state of the relationship between UNHCR and the NGO community, including coordination mechanisms as well as the impact of UNHCR and its partners' efforts to build the capacities of beneficiaries and (mainly local) partners within the operation, for instance the analysis and description of training programmes for implementing partners and activities to promote the participation of women and to prioritize children's concerns.

  • Inter-Agency Cooperation

Provides an assessment of how inter-agency cooperation has been achieved and what the results of inter-agency cooperation have been in terms of improved and more cost-effective programme delivery.

  • Structure and Impact of UNHCR's Presence

Provides an analysis of the UNHCR presence in the operation, including gender balance, examining how adequate it was in terms of implementing the strategy for the beneficiary population(s) and/or theme(s). Also describes UNHCR's protection, monitoring and coordination functions that are budgeted as Programme Delivery (PD) costs, since these are a core function of the Office. The impact of UNHCR's presence in the country will be described.

  • Potential for UNHCR Phase-Out

Analyses the potential for reductions in UNHCR's operational involvement and an eventual disengagement by UNHCR, for instance due to achievements made in the programme or the assumption of responsibility by alternative actors and/or donors. Where possible, an estimated timeframe for the phase-out of UNHCR will be indicated.

  • Lessons Learned

Provides a description of the main lessons learned in the programme during the reporting period in terms of the following:

  • Appropriateness of objectives;
  • Composition of and knowledge about the beneficiary population and their participation in the programme;
  • Implementation strategy in terms of UNHCR's presence, the choice of partners and their involvement in the programme, building capacity, partnership, work-planning, etc.;
  • Integration of the participation in and access to protection and assistance as well as needs of women as a policy priority;
  • Integration of the rights and needs of children as a policy priority;
  • Integration of the environmental concerns as a policy priority;
  • Problems encountered, including factors beyond UNHCR's control, and efforts to resolve these;
  • Overall lessons to be applied in similar programmes.


The objective of an improved financial report format is to present a breakdown of the information currently contained in the published accounts in a format which most closely resembles the budget structure used in the Global Appeal. The format presented on the following page represents the current status in the development of this concept.

Since the presentation made to the consultations on 9 December 1998, the "Programme Overview" section has been amended to include line items "Income from Contributions" and "Total Funds Available," both of which cross referenced to figures in the published annual accounts. As requested by some delegations, the "Income from Contributions" will also be presented in the financial report broken down to indicate the amounts received from each donor as in the attached example.

Here it should be noted that the amount listed under "Contributions" is the amount pledged by the donor, and that under "Income" is the amount taken into UNHCR's accounts for the current year after the application of the financial rules. The "Income" may include amounts from contributions made in the previous year and some amounts from contributions made in the current year may not be included in the current year's income.

There remain a few technical problems regarding how some information from the accounts may best be displayed in the attached format for which solutions are still under development. The solutions to these may result in further minor changes to the format.

(Note: Tabular annexes not included in this online version. See your nearest UN Depository Library.)