Report on PARinAC
1. At its forty-fifth session, the Executive Committee requested the High Commissioner to keep the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection and the Sub-Committee on Administrative and Financial Matters, as appropriate, informed about progress made in the UNHCR-NGO Partnership in Action (PARinAC) process (A/AC.96/839, para.35 (c)). This report provides an overview of the progress in the PARinAC process at Headquarters and in the field since the June 1994 PARinAC Global Conference, held in Oslo.
2. On the initiative of the outgoing Chairman of the Executive Committee, NGO regional representatives had met with Executive Committee members just prior to the forty-fifth session and reported orally on refugee protection, internally displaced persons, emergency preparedness and response, the continuum from relief to rehabilitation to development, and partnership. This was the first direct meeting between NGOs and the Executive Committee and it provided valuable insights for the preparation and presentation of PARinAC follow-up actions.
3. The following paragraphs summarize further steps which UNHCR has taken to implement many of the recommendations contained in the PARinAC Plan of Action.
II. STRUCTURAL CHANGES
4. UNHCR has established a structure at Headquarters to respond more effectively to the need of NGOs. The NGO Coordinator is the focal point for all policy issues concerning NGOs. Headquarters has been further strengthened by the appointment of NGO focal points in the Regional Bureaux. The Director of the Division of International Protection has designated the Chief of the Promotion of Refugee Law Section as NGO focal point within the Division. NGO and UNHCR focal points have been selected in almost every country in the world where UNHCR has a presence.
5. The Division of International Protection has analysed the PARinAC recommendations which are directly related to its functions, particularly those enumerated in Parts I and II of the Plan of Action, and has taken concrete steps towards their implementation. The Division has undertaken various studies - on safety of third countries, safety zones or safe areas, and on minimum standards which Governments should apply concerning temporary protection - in accordance with the Plan of Action. Additionally, joint training sessions, mainly in Western Europe, have become a regular feature of UNHCR-NGO collaboration. NGOs participate in training sessions organized by UNHCR and vice-versa.
6. Among the projects currently being discussed with NGOs are the evaluation of an NGO presence as a complement to UNHCR's protection function in major operations and the preparation of a protection field guide for NGOs. Additionally the Director of the Division of International Protection has maintained an informal dialogue through meetings with NGOs in Geneva and Washington.
7. In pursuing cooperative information networks with NGOs, the Division of International Protection's Centre for Documentation on Refugees (CDR) has continued to work with the International Refugee Documentation Network (IRDN), a worldwide network of organizations and institutions, including NGOs, concerned with refugee or human rights issues.
8. CDR also continues to coordinate the International Refugee Electronic Network (IRENE), a series of electronic bulletin boards or conferences, which provide, inter alia, information on conferences, seminars, publications and other pertinent information on refugees, displaced persons, human rights and rights of minorities, as well as access to UNHCR Public Information materials. Early warning summaries and in-depth alerts are also being prepared on an exploratory basis. This information, which offers a concise overview of developments in countries so as to assist in monitoring potential flows of refugees and internally displaced persons, is now available to the public.
IV. EXTERNAL RELATIONS
9. As part of the Division of External Relations' efforts to provide NGOs and UNHCR with information on NGO implementing partners and their specific sectors of involvement, an updated version of the NGO Directory was published in April 1995. The directory has been widely distributed to NGOs, United Nations agencies and departments, and NGO networks. The directory also serves as an information tool providing listings of different NGO expertise in the countries/regions where they work as UNHCR partners.
10. Efforts to increase public awareness of the plight of refugees have continued through, inter alia, campaigns involving the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. The Girl Guides Peace Packs project has served as a valuable public awareness tool. UNHCR publications, press releases and bulletins are disseminated regularly to a network of over 300 NGOs throughout the world. Some 3,000 photographs from UNHCR's photo library were distributed to NGOs during the year.
V. DIVISION OF PROGRAMMES AND OPERATIONAL SUPPORT
A. Emergency Preparedness and Response Section (EPRS)
11. Those recommendations with global applicability are now either being incorporated into UNHCR's system for emergency response or are under discussion with the Regional Bureaux. EPRS identified priority areas - coordination and information-sharing during emergency operations, ongoing assessment of standby arrangements with NGOs and other agencies, continuation of emergency training workshops and inclusion of community services officers as part of emergency response teams - to ensure proper assessment and delivery of services to women, children and other vulnerable groups.
12. Reflecting the importance of contingency planning as part of emergency preparedness, EPRS is concentrating on country/region-specific planning. A workshop on emergency management, which emphasized contingency planning and focused on the Republic of Korea as a potential country of asylum, was held in Seoul in January 1995. In April the Chief of EPRS visited Ethiopia for an initial assessment of the local capacity, including that of NGOs.
13. A systematic approach to inter-agency coordination developed during recent emergencies and is now being incorporated into the Emergency Management Training Programme (EMTP) workshops. These workshops target UNHCR's implementing partners in emergency response, and participants include NGOs from the regions covered by the workshop. Twelve local NGO representatives from West Africa participated in an EMTP workshop held in Accra in April 1995. Another two regional workshops are planned for 1995, to which a similar number of representatives from local and international NGOs will be invited.
14. UNHCR recently signed a tripartite agreement with the Government of Australia and Red R Australia Engineers establishing a standby roster of some 40 engineers. Four engineers have already been deployed: two to the United Republic of Tanzania, one to Uganda and one to North Ossetia/Daghestan. UNHCR and Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children) are currently assessing the implementation of their standby agreement, which was established to provide Community Service Officers to emergency operations.
B. Programme Coordination and Budget Section (PCBS)
15. PCBS held regular consultations with a number of NGOs during the preparation of the Programme and Project Management Handbook for UNHCR Implementing Partners. The handbook, which is to be completed in the second half of 1995, is a direct response to NGO requests for information on technical, professional, financial and programming standards to be observed in the implementation of UNHCR-funded projects.
16. Discussions have also taken place with a number of NGOs concerning partnership aspects in the implementation of assistance projects. Guidelines have been issued on principles governing cooperation with implementing partners, the choice of implementing partners and administrative support costs for implementing partners. Because UNHCR views its relationship with NGOs as one of partnership, it expects its partners to contribute resources to the various assistance projects. Flexibility in the coverage of administrative costs will be determined by the level of the NGO contribution to the project.
C. Programme and Technical Support Section (PTSS)
17. PTSS has taken a series of actions towards implementating the PARinAC recommendations. A diversified roster, both in terms of technical specialities and nationalities, is maintained. This roster serves as an information tool on material and human resources available when technical assistance is required. In emergencies, technical expertise is also available from rosters under standby arrangements with Red R United Kingdom, Red R Australia and Rädda Barnen.
18. The PTSS Education Unit is revising the Guidelines for Educational Assistance to Refugees to reflect better the right of refugee children to education and the need to pursue vocational training and preparation for employment. With NGO collaboration, and in close cooperation with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), a training manual on vocational training is under preparation.
19. As part of its efforts to increase reproductive health service in refugee situations a Symposium on Reproductive Health will take place in June 1995. Preparatory meetings have involved some 25 NGOs, some of which have chaired technical working groups within the preparatory meetings. A draft field manual, to be tested by field staff in providing such services, will be distributed at the end of 1995.
20. In order to expand the concept of partnership to include development agencies in the continuum, joint ventures are underway with United Nations agencies and the World Bank. Local and international NGOs are involved in local integration (e.g. in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Ghana), and returnee programmes (as in the Lao People's Democratic Republic).
21. Since the beginning of 1994 until end March 1995, more than 400 NGOs have benefited from UNHCR training throughout the world on subjects which include refugee registration, voluntary repatriation, team work, management information systems, programme management, refugee law, security, social services, telecommunications and training of trainers.
22. In 1994 People Oriented Planning (POP) efforts to train and collaborate with indigenous women's groups have, despite budget cuts, reached 24 persons representing 23 organizations. The objective is to develop local and regional training capacity for POP and for work with gender issues related to refugee situations. By creating this capacity among NGO implementing partners and women's training organizations, the POP training programme and gender-related refugee work is being greatly expanded. Thus far in 1995, POP and training of trainers (TOT) workshops have included indigenous women's groups from West Africa and South Asia, strengthening a group of indigenous NGOs that already covered eastern and southern Africa. Several of these women are assisting UNHCR as POP trainers in workshops in Zambia, Kenya and Bangladesh during 1995.
23. Three OXFAM staff who have recently become POP trainers plan to adapt POP to their own needs, and begin training selected staff. This illustrates an exchange of expertise, since UNHCR also draws on OXFAM's expertise in gender-and-development work which can benefit UNHCR's repatriation and integration programmes. It is planned that this new POP initiative will be replicated with other NGOs. The outreach of POP to the NGOs has expanded. In 1995 representatives from the International Working Group for Refugee Women and from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies attended the TOT workshops and should begin POP training within their networks. In the near future, an ICVA representative is expected to attend POP and TOT to help replicate POP training throughout the ICVA network.
VII. REFUGEE WOMEN AND CHILDREN
24. Following extensive consultations with NGOs during the PARinAC process, UNHCR has released its Guidelines on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence Against Refugees. These respond to many recommendations raised in the PARinAC consultations, and it is hoped that they will be disseminated widely throughout the NGO community.
25. UNHCR has worked closely with NGOs in the development of regional platforms of action in preparing for the Global Conference on Women. Indeed, many of the PARinAC recommendations were incorporated into these platforms. UNHCR also participated in the International Conference on Uprooted Muslim Women held in the United Arab Emirates between 12 and 15 September 1994.
26. The PARinAC process was an important tool for drafting the Guidelines on Refugee Children, and helped create a sense of NGO ownership of the Guidelines that is reflected in efforts to put them into practice. Over 12,000 copies have been distributed and are being used by UNHCR and NGOs. Russian and German versions are also available. In Rwanda, the Guidelines are being used as a policy framework. In collaboration with UNICEF and NGOs, the Guidelines were operationalized, interpreted and adapted to the situations facing field staff in Goma, Bukavu and Ngara.
27. In January 1995, UNHCR established a Regional Support Unit for Refugee Children based in Kigali, Rwanda. The Unit provides technical assistance and programme support to UNHCR field offices and our implementing partners in Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire and the United Republic of Tanzania. It also ensures regional coordination and inter-agency collaboration to promote family and community-based responses for children. The first Information Note on Refugee Children in the Rwanda-Burundi Emergency, issued in May 1995, was widely distributed, inter alia, to NGOs.
28. Collaboration continues with the ICVA Task Force on Refugee Children and with the Sub-Group on Children in Armed Conflict of the NGO Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child. UNHCR has shared relevant PARinAC recommendations with other fora dealing with children as a means of disseminating the process.
VIII. REGIONAL BUREAUX
29. In Africa coordination mechanisms are being set up which form an important component in UNHCR's relations with NGOs. As a result of UNHCR and NGO efforts, the first regional follow-up meeting for the southern Africa region took place in Johannesburg in January 1995. Among the priority issues identified were coordination, training and capacity-building of local NGOs. These themes are echoed in other countries in Africa where, in varying degrees, the partnership with NGOs is part of an ongoing response to the needs of refugees and displaced persons.
30. The first follow-up meeting in Asia and Oceania took place in Sri Lanka in May 1995. As was the case in southern Africa, ICVA contributed to the organization and financing of the meeting between UNHCR and NGO PARinAC focal points. UNHCR and NGO focal points reviewed progress to date and exchanged views on the development of the partnership process in the region. Coordinating and training were seen as high priorities among activities already undertaken. Additionally, in countries with limited NGO presence, efforts at advocacy for their role and capacity-building were seen as important undertakings. Efforts are underway to widen the partnership to include Governments, a crucial aspect in the development of the PARinAC process in Asia.
31. As in Asia, the Americas have a long history of UNHCR/NGO relations. Collaboration with NGOs is well advanced in North America, with coordination and information-sharing high on the agenda. Advocacy with Governments for the role of NGOs forms part of UNHCR's activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Training and capacity-building also comprise part of current activities in the region. A follow-up workshop with UNHCR and NGO focal points for Central America and the Caribbean is planned for September 1995 in Guatemala.
32. There is a varied and fruitful relationship between UNHCR and NGOs in Europe. In Western Europe, coordination, advocacy and training are major components in implementing the partnership process. In Eastern Europe, capacity-building and training are major elements in UNHCR's work in support of the development of civil society. UNHCR's collaboration with NGOs in the former Yugoslavia illustrates the importance of coordination and information-sharing during war. UNHCR plays an important liaison role with government authorities to facilitate NGO activities.
33. While in some countries in South West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East region's relations with NGOs are long-standing, the PARinAC process is at a much earlier stage in others. This situation raises challenges within the context of PARinAC. The limited NGO involvement in many of the countries of the region makes it fertile ground for the development of partnership. Countries which have NGO umbrella organizations are an example to others where coordination is just beginning. In countries where UNHCR's relations with NGOs are more advanced training and joint planning are part of regular activities with NGOs.
IX. INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
34. ICVA, as a partner in the PARinAC consultation process leading to the Oslo conference, has continued its active support. The NGO Regional Focal Points, selected during the Oslo Conference, constitute the Advisory Committee to the process. ICVA's role includes facilitating capacity-building of NGOs by providing financial assistance, training of trainers for local NGOs and strengthening NGO networks through the dissemination of information and coordination. ICVA has established a PARinAC Action Fund to provide financial support to the PARinAC NGO networks. Fundraising is ongoing.
35. UNHCR has endeavoured to cover the implementation of its partnership building efforts with NGOs within existing programmes, trying wherever possible, through consultation and coordination at Headquarters and in the field, to minimize the need for additional resources. Capacity-building of local NGOs, especially to address continuum to development issues, will require additional resources. Other humanitarian actors, including international NGOs and development agencies will be needed in support. UNHCR will continue to broaden the partnership and keep the Executive Committee informed.