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Kosovo evaluation: UNHCR preparedness and response examined

Briefing notes

Kosovo evaluation: UNHCR preparedness and response examined

11 February 2000

Copies of the new Kosovo Evaluation are in the press room and it's also posted in its entirety on UNHCR's Website. There's a summary of conclusions and recommendations at the front of the book and UNHCR's brief response can be found in Appendix D at the back.

UNHCR commissioned the independent evaluation during the emergency last spring when some very valid concerns were raised about our initial response to the crisis. Critics alleged at the time that UNHCR was overwhelmed by the huge refugee influx - a contention that we did not dispute. Our goal now is to find out why and to ensure that we do better next time.

The evaluation examines only the initial 11-week period from late March until mid-June, when the bombing campaign ended and everyone began going home. As you'll see, the evaluation is critical in some crucial areas - particularly in examining our preparedness and response capacity. In response, UNHCR acknowledges it has to strengthen its strategic planning and leadership capacity and speed up its response in emergencies - or what's called 'surge capacity.'

In addition to singling out our own performance, we also asked the evaluators to take a broader perspective and examine the whole context under which we and others were working. That's because the Kosovo emergency was one of the most complex, politically-charged and high-profile operations in UNHCR's entire 50-year history. As the study notes: The size and speed of the outflow were extraordinary. It was also a very complex political and military environment involving the national interests of major powers and strong regional organizations. As a result, displacement became an important element in the overall diplomacy of war and many factors affecting UNHCR's performance were not under our control. But many things were, and we've already started taking steps to strengthen our emergency response.

In fact, the conclusions and recommendations made by this evaluation match many of our own internal criticisms and discussions which have emerged in a separate examination exercise that we began last spring and are continuing.

We're now completing new guidelines to improve our future performance in emergencies. These guidelines will serve as the basis for immediate reforms and cover a number of areas, including enhancing staff recruitment and emergency deployment; Intensive emergency training; strengthening risk assessment and contingency planning efforts in emergency-prone regions; revising emergency procedures, including streamlined chains of command; and strengthening reserves of emergency supplies.