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Evaluation of UNHCR's Efforts on Behalf of Children and Adolescents


Evaluation of UNHCR's Efforts on Behalf of Children and Adolescents

1 October 1997


1. This review was requested by the High Commissioner in order to identify ways in which protection and programme activities on behalf of children and adolescents could be improved. In order to marshal the expertise required for the study, the evaluation was carried out by UNHCR's Inspection and Evaluation Service in partnership with the International Save the Children Alliance as well as with the support of UNHCR's Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children.

2. In carrying out the work, key reports and documents were reviewed and visits were made to a number of West and East African countries, the former Yugoslavia, Central America, Central Asia, and Sri Lanka. In addition to in-depth Interviews with UNHCR staff at Headquarters and in the field, extensive discussions were held with governments and NGO personnel in the countries visited as well as with a number of key agencies including UNICEF, DHA and UNDP in order to secure the views of essential partners.

3. The evaluation team carrying out the work included John Williamson a consultant and former UNHCR staff member with extensive involvement with children's issues, Fabrizio Hochschild and Lowell Martin of the Inspection and Evaluation Service, and Peter Hawkins and Celia Petty of Save the Children Fund. Neil Boothby, UNHCR's Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, was also closely associated with all aspects of the study. John Williamson led much of the work in the field and also had principal responsibility for preparing the final report.


4. The team would like to record its special appreciation for the unfailing co-operation and support it received from the UNHCR and SCF representatives and staff in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Guatemala, Guinea, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, New York, Pakistan, Serbia, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka.


1. The importance of more effectively addressing the needs of children and adolescents has become increasingly evident in recent years. Complex situations involving failed states and ethnic conflicts only too frequently mean that children and adolescents are targeted in armed conflict as well as involved as fighters. Faced with these difficult challenges, the international community is searching for new ways to both address protection and assistance problems as well as promote solutions.

2. The human costs are often high. Unmet nutritional requirements can permanently affect the cognitive and physical development of children and adolescents. Furthermore, inadequate security measures can result in sexual violence and trauma, while militarisation and recruitment of minors fuels both current and future armed conflicts.

3. In many instances, refugee children and adolescents are simply considered as part of a broad category of persons described as a "vulnerable group" or they are thought of as "dependants" without a great deal of attention to their special needs. The reality is that they make up over half of the displaced and war-affected populations with whom the Office is concerned. Their needs overlap with those of adults, but they also encounter distinct protection and assistance problems that are often ignored.

4. While there are a number of positive examples of UNHCR's efforts to protect and assist children and adolescents, there are also many situations where the particular risks children face have not been recognised or have been addressed on far too limited a scale. Too often, policies and programmes have evolved without adequate understanding of the internal characteristics of the populations of concern and their strategies for coping.

5. In recent conflicts, the distinction between civilians and combatants has become progressively blurred. Minors in particular have been targeted, militarised and involved in perpetuating conflict. The former Yugoslavia and the Great Lakes provide examples of situations in which the distinction between victim and aggressor has become hard to draw. Where there is no clear distinction, a greater focus on young refugees can make it clear to all parties and outside observers that there is a need for a humanitarian and neutral assistance programme.


6. A stronger and better informed protection presence is required to identify and address neglected problems among minors and to promote solutions. In emergencies, an adequate number of Protection Officers with designated responsibility for applying UNHCR's policies on minors should be deployed quickly. Full time staff are, for example, needed to identify and document separated minors, make interim care arrangements for them, and where possible, reunite them with surviving family members.

7. The number of child soldiers has increased in the last two decades, and although concern about the recruitment of minors is common among UNHCR staff, few have undertaken initiatives to prevent it. Similarly, sexual violence, exploitation and abuse of minors, especially girls, cause great concern, but preventive measures are infrequent. Preventing recruitment and exploitation will require bringing child and adolescent focused programmes to scale.

8. Recently, however, some answers have begun to emerge regarding these issues. In addition to making camps safer and intervening with authorities, preventive measures include providing constructive alternatives for adolescents, who generally have been given little attention in UNHCR's programming. A great deal also can be achieved by ensuring that food and other basic assistance are adequately and equitably distributed and that education and other activities are available.

9. Refugee children and adolescents are strongly affected by the consequences of repatriation, whether good or bad. The same is true for internally displaced minors of concern to the Office who are returned to their home areas. In assessing whether conditions permit safe voluntary return and reintegration, UNHCR should give particular attention to the implications of conditions in the country or area of origin, regarding the safety and rights of children.

10. Other inconsistently addressed protection issues include birth registration, harmful child labour, traditional practices that can be damaging and access to basic services after repatriation. The Office should also re-examine its role in evacuations from zones of armed conflict.

11. UNHCR's direct interventions are strategically important in addressing these protection issues, but alone are not enough. Governments, other international organisations, NGOs and affected populations must all be engaged in preventing and responding to these problems. To mobilise these partners, UNHCR must provide leadership and serve as an advocate in a manner that ensures the collaboration of other actors.


12. The material assistance and community services provided to children and adolescents also require greater attention. Shortcomings in education, for example, have been highlighted in a recent UNHCR evaluation. Only about a quarter of UNHCR-assisted minors, 6-17 years of age, attend school, and boys outnumber girls two to one. Education and other structured activities therefore need to be diversified to meet the needs of different groups. All minors require structured activities and education early in an emergency. Such activities promote recovery by providing day-to-day routine and predictability. Moreover, the strategic use of education, training and information campaigns to promote tolerance and conflict resolution among children and adolescents, help to facilitate durable solutions and consolidate peace.

13. While nutrition and health are generally seen as areas where the particular needs of children are adequately recognised, there is still much room for improvement. Most of the problems, however, revolve around systemic supply and food management issues. In most cases, solutions entail better assessments, increasing supplies and improving all aspects of food distribution systems. Substantial progress will require greater commitment by UNHCR, sister agencies, and donors.

14. The reproductive health needs of male and female adolescents are rarely given sufficient attention in situations of armed conflict and displacement, even though the breakdown of social controls leaves adolescents particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Programme components that target adolescents are required because few unmarried teenagers will use the same counselling, family planning and other reproductive health services as adults.

15. The number of physically disabled children is on the rise due to the increased use of landmines and anti-personnel devices. Despite UNHCR's guidelines on disabilities, efforts to promote the psychological and social integration of disabled children are infrequent. Early identification of disabilities and community-based efforts for rehabilitation pay long-term dividends by reducing vulnerability and dependency and should therefore be regularly integrated into programmes.


16. To bring required levels of technical, human and funding resources to bear on the needs of children and adolescents, UNHCR must consistently forge links with governments, other United Nations bodies, donor agencies, NGOs and communities of its concern. Within the UN family, co-ordination with UNICEF is of particular importance. Promising areas for collaboration include joint advocacy, training and standard setting.

17. Equally important are more structured relationships with selected NGO partners in order to strengthen programmes that are of particular importance to children and adolescents. Such arrangements could increase consistency and capacity in many areas including emergency response, situation analysis, structured activities, education, prevention of family separations, and family reunification. Secondment of NGO staff with expertise in child-adolescent welfare and education would also strengthen programmes.

Key programme issues

18. Incorporating situation analysis, rather than a narrower needs assessment, would provide a better basis for developing co-ordinated programmes within a strategic framework. Situation analysis differentiates characteristics of the population of concern, identifies particular needs and capacities within it and considers its relationships with the local population. It also develops an integrated view of the demographic, socio-economic and cultural context, including current and potential sources of household livelihood and traditional welfare structures.

19. Better use also could be made of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for refugee advocacy and programme development. The Convention imposes standards on governments, and its near universal ratification gives it even wider utility as a basis for advocacy than the Refugee Convention and its Protocol.

Organisational Development

20. Within UNHCR, the problems specific to minors often receive inadequate attention. Many staff are unacquainted with the relevant UNHCR's operational policies and procedures. Too frequently, the issue is seen as a concern of Community Services staff and is assigned to junior programme officers and UN volunteers who have limited influence. As a consequence, broad programme and protection issues are often inadequately addressed.

21. Senior management commitment and support to children's issue can help bring about change. Most staff members share the view that change most readily occurs within UNHCR when it comes from the top. Acknowledgement by senior managers of current gaps in the protection and assistance of minors and their consistent references to these activities as fundamental operational concerns would have a concrete impact on programmes.

22. Greater efforts are also required to recruit, retain and promote staff members with backgrounds pertinent to the protection and assistance needs of minors. Protection officers are needed with knowledge and skills relevant to such issues as military recruitment, sexual violence, family separation, harmful child labour, and birth registration. A conscious decision should be taken regarding the balance between new recruitment in this area and the introduction of focused training for existing Protection Officers on child rights and welfare issues.

23. Community Services Officers have important functions that are not always recognised and accorded a high priority by other parts of the organisation. Collaboration between protection and community services personnel is especially important, as most issues require community-based action. Community Services Officers play the cross-cutting role of mobilising community support for programme sectors as well as stimulating community-based care for the at-risk members of a population. In many situations they are also responsible for education and income generation activities.

24. Much greater recognition and attention must be given to these Community Services Officers and the important role they play. In many instances, community services personnel are not consistently deployed early enough or in adequate numbers. Problems are aggravated by the assignment of inexperienced offices or staff whose skills are more suited to a traditional social services role where attention is focused on individuals.

25. Current global programme needs easily justify doubling the number of Community Services posts. In addition, focused training will be needed, similar to that for Protection Officers, but with a more operational emphasis. More secondment arrangements with NGOs could also help strengthen UNHCR's community services capacity for child and adolescent concerns.

26. At Headquarters and in the field, better coordination is required among posts with overlapping responsibilities concerning children and adolescents including the Coordinators for Children and for Women and the Senior Community Services Officer. Clarification is also needed regarding the respective responsibilities of their counterparts in the field.

27. The primary role of the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children is to help UNHCR make changes that improve its effectiveness in protecting and assisting minors. While the post provides important technical guidance within the Office, its key purpose is to promote strategic organisational change. Its principal function should therefore be to help UNHCR plan and implement a multi-year process of improving the ways it protects and assists children and adolescents.

28. Including Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, UNHCR has issued a plethora of guidelines on many subjects for its staff and partners. Because the content of these documents is over-lapping and their combined volume (some 1,100 pages) is overwhelming, they serve only as occasionally consulted reference documents. There is a pressing need for a single set of programme development guidelines that integrates the key lessons of the various existing guidelines, including those on children and adolescents.

29. Toward this end, a concise checklist is needed encapsulating in a readable fashion key policies and action for children and adolescents. In addition, Refugee Children, which has been useful as a reference document, should be updated to address a number of topics highlighted in this evaluation. A recent UNHCR-Save the Children Alliance initiative to develop training materials on children and adolescents will complement Refugee Children and should help raise staff awareness of issues and policies.

30. Accountability for implementing UNHCR's policies on refugee children and adolescents is weak and needs improvement, both at the level of programmes and individual posts. This weakness can be addressed through incorporating performance objectives and indicators specific to children and adolescents into UNHCR's new Operations Management System (OMS) and into the Career Management System (CMS).

The Way Forward

31. There are many instances where UNHCR has taken appropriate action to address protection and assistance needs of children and adolescents. But because such action has been inconsistent and fragmented, it is imperative that the Office actively begin to reinforce and institutionalise the positive efforts that have been made. This requires deliberate, consistent guidance by UNHCR's senior management.

32. In the final analysis, the safety and well-being of children and adolescents are an important indicator of the effectiveness of protection and assistance activities. Minors are among those most immediately affected by inadequate action, and, if their needs are not properly addressed, disaffected young people, without education or future prospects, will prolong cycles of violence.

Key Recommendations

33. Over the past 14 months, UNHCR has implemented important measures to improve its effectiveness concerning children. This evaluation, however recommends that a more comprehensive and integrated approach now be adopted to bring about the changes needed.

a) With the overall goal of increasing the timeliness, scope, consistency and effectiveness of UNHCR's protection of and assistance to children and adolescents, the Senior Management Committee, with the support of the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children and such additional technical support as required, should develop and oversee implementation of an integrated, multi-year plan of action. The plan should incorporate the recommendations in this report and include specific objectives and indicators for measuring progress and impact. The High Commissioner should send the plan to all Field Offices, with a covering directive noting the strategic importance to the Office of increasing its focus on children and adolescents and informing Representatives of their particular responsibilities in the plan's implementation. The plan should include mechanisms for review of progress and evaluation.

b) The Division of International Protection, with the support of the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children and the Senior Community Services Officer, should identify and initiate operational and advocacy measures to increase the protection of children and adolescents, beginning with an initial focus on:

  • Recruitment (See paragraphs 38-42)
  • Sexual violence, exploitation and abuse (See paragraphs 43-50)
  • Birth registration and identity documents (See paragraphs 62-65)

c) In all operations, and in particular at an early stage of emergencies, structured activities for children and adolescents should be established and supported by adequate budgetary provisions. These activities should be developed, as rapidly as possible, to include a basic education programme for all minors with measures to maximise school attendance for girls and boys. UNHCR should also arrange for the development and distribution of activity kits early in emergencies. (See paragraphs 102-111)

d) Staff responsible for nutrition programmes should, at a minimum:

  • analyse the demographic make-up of camps and use this in assessing nutritional needs;
  • undertake enquiries into household food economy to determine levels of need among different categories of the population;
  • establish food distribution mechanisms that ensure access to adequate food for the most vulnerable categories of households, especially those headed by minors or women;
  • maximise opportunities for local production and, as necessary, procurement (See paragraphs 103-112).

e) For every population of its concern, UNHCR should from the outset ensure active measures are initiated for the identification, protection and care of separated children and adolescents and to achieve family reunification. Where there is displacement across borders, a regional network including specialist staff should be established. (See paragraphs 51-61)

f) UNHCR should expand its emergency standby arrangements to include NGOs with child and adolescent welfare expertise, especially in the areas of separated minors and rapid education (See paragraphs 52-59 and 96-101).

g) UNHCR should deploy adequate numbers of suitably qualified personnel at regional, country and camp levels to ensure implementation of the recommendations in this report. The following are of particular importance:

  • Protection and Community Service Officers are required in all field offices from the onset of all emergencies through to the achievement of durable solutions. They must have the knowledge and skills to address the particular threats to minors in the situation to which they are assigned (See paragraphs 144-152).
  • In large scale emergencies both education, and tracing and reunification specialists are required. (See paragraph 52-53, 96-101, 148-152).
  • Senior Regional Advisors for Children and Adolescents are required to accelerate mainstream responses to the protection and assistance needs particular to children and adolescents. (See paragraphs 140-142, 156-158)

h) The Divisions of International Protection (DIP) and Operations Support (DOS) should facilitate implementation of the UNHCR-International Save the Children Alliance Training Initiative on Children and Adolescents and ensure that relevant modules are fully integrated into Protection, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Programme, and Community Service training. With the support of the Senior Management Committee, the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children and the Training Unit should also organise for Headquarters staff of P-4 and above brief workshops on protection and assistance for children and adolescents. (See paragraphs 169-171.)

i) As part of the new Operations Management System, a technical group chaired by the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, should assist the Division of Operational Support to develop a set of planning and management tools to ensure that the Office's policies concerning children and adolescents are implemented in its programmes. (See paragraphs 172-179.)

j) UNHCR should initiate a dialogue with UNICEF to identify specific steps for implementing their MOU. Particular attention should be given to joint efforts in advocacy, standard setting and training in such areas as education and youth activities. (See paragraphs 126-136.)

k) The Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, in consultation with relevant staff members and technical experts, should prepare a checklist of no more than four pages that identifies the key policies and guidelines concerning children and adolescents that every UNHCR professional staff member is expected to understand and be able to apply. It should be distributed to all UNHCR staff members, operational partners, camp officials and refugee leaders in the principal languages of the countries and refugees concerned (See paragraphs 159-168).

l) All UNHCR representatives, protection officers, and programme officers should have ready access to copies of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and have a working knowledge of the applicability of its provisions in the contexts where they are working (See paragraph 124).

m) UNHCR should consistently use the impacts on children and adolescents as a criteria for assessing its policies and programmes. It should reflect its commitment to minors by placing their situation in the centre of executive statements, press briefings, protection updates and public information campaigns. In addition, strategic promotion of child concerns should be used to address broader political and security concerns.


34. The importance of a co-ordinated protection and assistance response is increasingly evident in the complex situations UNHCR is addressing. The safety of displaced and war-affected populations depends on timely, effective assistance which cannot be delivered without adequate protection and security. The protection-assistance link is closest for the poorest households, the least able to cope and compete, such as those headed by minors or women. A key finding of this evaluation is that UNHCR programming for refugee and displaced children and adolescents has not evolved to cope with the changed contexts in which the Office is now working.

35. Protection and assistance needs particular to minors are not consistently recognised or addressed. However, there is growing recognition that when adequate assistance does reach the most vulnerable households, it can help prevent such protection problems as recruitment by armed groups, sexual exploitation and abuse, harmful child labour and family separation. Most of these problems are specific to adolescents, who make up a significant part of UNHCR's caseload.

36. The absence of measures for adolescents was a frequently expressed concern among those with whom the evaluation team met, both within and outside UNHCR. Almost without exception, projects are designed with a focus on adults, women or households. The issue is not only one of fairness for adolescents, but of consequences. Adolescence is a formative period that shapes adulthood. If young people are not adequately protected and offered ample opportunities to learn skills required to live a productive, independent life, they are likely to contribute to the next round of conflict.

37. The impact on children and adolescents should be a fundamental standard UNHCR uses to develop and assess its policies and programmes. Before a policy is implemented on targeting food assistance, for example, its potential effects on children, the family unit and prevention of child-parent separation should be considered. After implementation, the actual impact of food assistance on these three critical areas should also be measured. The safety and well-being of minors are significant indicators of the status of a population.

Protection Issues

Child Soldiers

38. No region has a monopoly on the problem of recruitment and abduction of children and adolescents to be fighters: serious problems have been reported in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The recruitment of children and adolescents is a common concern among UNHCR personnel in the field, but little preventive action has been taken, due largely to the view that nothing much can be done beyond appealing to local authorities. While such advocacy has sometimes been effective, there are also opportunities for the innovative use of assistance to increase security.

39. A few UNHCR staff members and NGO personnel stressed the strategic importance of providing positive alternatives to joining an armed group, such as education, training, employment, sports and recreation. Provision of adequate food rations may be even more important in reducing the vulnerability and receptivity of displaced and war-affected minors to recruitment. Separated minors are especially vulnerable to recruitment, so measures for their protection, care, documentation and reunification are essential. Schools can either play constructive roles, through instruction in peace education and conflict resolution, for instance, or they can contribute to the perpetuation of conflict, as was cited in the former Yugoslavia where the selective teaching of history continues to be used to promote divisive nationalism.

40. In post-conflict situations, war-affected populations of concern to UNHCR often include former child soldiers who experience difficulties reintegrating into families and communities or participating in regular education programmes. UNHCR programmes in several countries have shown that family reunification is a principal goal and means of rehabilitating former child soldiers. Non-formal education, skills development and income-generation activities for adolescents are also fundamental tools which enable former child soldiers to reintegrate into their communities. In several countries, traditional cleansing ceremonies have been a key to community acceptance and social reintegration.

41. The Directors of DIP and DOS have recently distributed to all field offices recommendations of an international meeting on child soldiers that UNICEF organised in Cape Town. Along with the above points, key recommendations from that meeting should be incorporated into relevant UNHCR protection and programming guidelines and training materials.

42. To focus more attention on preventing recruitment, field offices should be instructed to report immediately to DIP and the respective regional Bureau any new instances of apparent recruitment efforts and any preventive measures taken (including those of an assistance nature). In consultation with the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, Headquarters should respond to all such reports with as much guidance as possible.

Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Abuse

43. Sexual violence, exploitation and abuse of girls are cited frequently in protection reports from all parts of the world. There is also growing awareness of refugee boys being involved in prostitution and being abused in residential institutions and on the street. Minors from the poorest households face the greatest risks because they have the least power and the fewest options for coping.

44. Sexual violence, exploitation and abuse all involve coercion - using a difference in power. Exploitation includes the exchange of food, work permits or other "favours" for sex. Sexual abuse involves unlawful sexual contact between adults and minors. While the three terms overlap, it is important for field personnel to maintain an awareness of the full range of issues involved and initiate appropriate preventive and rehabilitative measures. They must also recognise that if women are subjected to sexual violence, their children can be profoundly affected and require support.

45. Because children and adolescents are still developing, the psychological, social and medical consequences for them of sexual violence are profound and differ from those among adults. The ways of preventing or responding to these child-adolescent issues also differ. Research suggests, for example, that the risk of contracting HIV from a single sexual contact is greater for unwed adolescent girls than adult women. Even where programmes have been established to address sexual violence and its effects, as in the Dadaab camps in Kenya, girls have not benefited adequately because the focus has been on adult women.

46. The prostitution of children and adolescents is a crime that occurs in many situations of armed conflict and displacement. A national NGO organised young people to carry out research on prostitution and sexual exploitation among minors in Goma. They found that factors influencing adolescents to engage in prostitution or sex for favours included the proliferation of cabarets, the nature and density of the camp population, family separation, lack of adult authority, lack of basic material items and food, and the exchange of sex for protection. Among the preventive measures they recommended were suppressing cabarets, punishing participants, initiating programmes specifically concerned with youth sexuality, increasing food and firewood rations, and establishing supervised centres for young people.

47. A clear understanding of the specific risks faced by children and adolescents in a given context is an essential basis for designing and improving food distribution systems and other efforts to reduce pressures to exchange sex for food, money or favours. In several camps, recent UNHCR-supported household food economy studies have identified the various resources available in a setting, the access that different types of households have to them and why. This approach should be used much more widely not only to improve food systems but also to inform refugees of other assistance and protection measures.

48. Many of the measures needed to prevent sexual violence, exploitation and abuse are similar to those to prevent recruitment. Key measures include:

  • ensuring that food, firewood, clothing and other assistance is adequately and equitably distributed, especially to the most vulnerable households;
  • listening to children and adolescents to identify the risks and the pressures they face;
  • consulting community members concerning the placement of water points and latrines and the security of those who must leave camp to hunt for firewood or tend animals;
  • encouraging and supporting community efforts to protect children and adolescents, targeting men in public education efforts and supporting the prosecution of offenders;
  • monitoring closely the placement and care of separated minors;
  • providing sufficient and safe opportunities for all minors in education, training, recreation, sports and, as appropriate, income-generation;
  • establishing youth clubs or other safe spaces where adolescents can come to talk about their concerns, obtain information relevant to their needs, have fun and take part in constructive activities.

49. Establishing safe spaces where adolescents can talk about their concerns can also provide a window into what is happening in a camp or community. UNICEF has done work on life skills and establishing safe spaces for youth in countries of origin, and may be able to provide some technical guidance for such activities.

50. The Divisions of International Protection and Operational Support should issue a joint instruction to all field offices on using assistance measures to prevent sexual violence, exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.

Family Unity and Separated Minors

51. UNHCR guidelines and ExCom conclusions call for active efforts to preserve family unity and identify, protect and arrange community-based care for separated minors. They also require action to reunite separated minors with their parents or regular guardians. Separations occur in almost every armed conflict or large-scale displacement, and the consequences are severe for those affected. An additional issue in countries where refugee status is individually determined is the need for special procedures for separated minor asylum-seekers who may not express a fear of persecution in the same way as adults.

52. Separated children have received more attention from UNHCR in the Great Lakes than they have in other regions, but even there the Office has not been consistent in promoting measures to prevent separations and effect reunifications. For example, Community Services staff, through the Standby Agreement with Rädda Barnen, were in place during the massive influx into Ngara in 1994 and organized actions that prevented the establishment of children's institutions and promoted foster care and quick family reunions. However, in several other emergencies in this area over the following two years, Community Services Officers were often deployed late or not at all, even where large numbers of separated children had been identified. Also, in 1996, contingency planning and training of partners helped prevent separations during the return from Goma. Just before return, workers encouraged mothers to be sure their children knew their names and places of origin. UNHCR further distributed name tags and long pieces of string so mothers could tie their children to their wrists. Such measures were not implemented, however, during other large returns into western Rwanda.

53. One reason for UNHCR's inconsistency is that many of its officers lack a working knowledge of the Office's policies concerning protection and assistance of separated children and adolescents. This is problematic because programming in this area is perhaps the most counter-intuitive of all those with which the Office deals. For example, what would seem to be compassionate responses, such as setting up an orphanage with a high level of material assistance or moving separated minors away from their communities of origin to better care facilities, can hamper family reunification and create ongoing assistance needs.

54. Because minors in the poorest and most vulnerable families face the greatest risks of separation, adequate provision for food and other basic assistance is essential to preventing separations. In the Goma emergency, for example, one of the main reasons the number of separated children in institutional care rapidly rose above 15,000 was the inability of the international community to provide adequately for the food needs of the massive general population. In one camp, however, Food for the Hungry reversed the trend after they screened separated children and found that most came from vulnerable family groups that could continue providing care if they received food for their children.

55. With the exception of the Great Lakes and the former Yugoslavia, the Office has failed to promote tracing and reunification programmes. Seven years into the situation in West Africa, for example, UNHCR has yet to respond to the need for documentation, tracing and family reunification, and NGOs have begun to do so only recently. In the Great Lakes region, however, the combined efforts of UNHCR, UNICEF, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and partner NGOs led to the reunification of over 70,000 separated minors with their families.

56. A key recommendation of this evaluation is that UNHCR should ensure that effective regional networks (including staff) are established to promote family reunification whenever there are population displacements across national borders. Regional approaches are essential for effective documentation and tracing for separated minors for many of the same reasons that UNHCR is shifting to a situation approach in its field operations. A regional approach to tracing includes cross-border agreement on policies, definitions, and methods of exchanging documents as well as lessons learned. All the participants need not use the same tracing methods, but should operate within the same policy framework using complementary systems.

57. While UNHCR should coordinate closely with ICRC on tracing matters, Red Cross involvement in this area does not reduce the need for UNHCR action. There are significant differences between the policies of the two organizations that must be fully understood. With the exception of the Great Lakes region, ICRC does not normally carry out specialized tracing for separated minors. ICRC also considers "unaccompanied children" to be below the age of 15 years and without any accompanying adult. In contrast, UNHCR is required (by its own policy as well as by the Convention on the Rights of the Child) to respond to all separated minors below 18 years. For UNHCR, an unaccompanied child further includes all children who are separated from their parents or normal guardians. Moreover, ICRC is not involved with all populations of concern to UNHCR.

58. In situations where there have been accidental separations, the Office must ensure that tracing is carried out for all separated minors within its populations of concern, but the measures needed to promote family reunification depend largely on the nature and causes of separation. In some situations, improving security or material assistance may be more effective in leading to reunifications than tracing. Operation Reunite in the former Yugoslavia provided an expensive lesson in this regard. Based on the assumption that tracing was needed to effect reunifications between evacuated children and their parents, it produced few results, since most families already knew where their children were.59. In all situations, UNHCR should exercise leadership in promoting measures to preserve family unity. Key measures include improved policy dissemination and training, ensuring that trained Community Services Officers and other child specialist staff are dispatched early in every emergency and that prompt attention is given both to preventing family separation, ensuring appropriate, community-based care and reuniting separated minors.

60. To prevent inadvertent exclusion of minors in need of its protection and tracing assistance, UNHCR should use the term "separated minors" to refer to children and adolescents separated from their parents or guardians instead of "unaccompanied children." In some situations, adolescents have been excluded because they were not seen as children. Also, minors living with families other than their own (who do not appear to be "unaccompanied" to those unfamiliar with the technical definition) have been left out of documentation and tracing efforts, and the safety and adequacy of their living situations have not been monitored. In every situation, field personnel in all sectors should have a clear understanding of what is meant by "separated minors."

61. In situations where refugee status is individually determined, UNHCR should continue to promote special procedures for separated minors. In addition to age-appropriate status determination procedures, this includes promoting alternatives to detention of separated minors seeking asylum and using the "best interests" standard to identify solutions regardless of refugee status.

Birth Registration and Identity Documentation

62. Most UNHCR programmes neglect birth registration and provision of identity documents for minors. For refugee children born in a country of asylum, birth registration may be a prerequisite for obtaining a nationality, enrolling in school or protecting their inheritance rights after return, and it can be a tool for tracing. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNHCR's Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care call for birth registration.

63. From a protection standpoint, identity documents and, in the longer term, birth certificates, can be important in helping to prevent military recruitment and other forms of exploitation. Adolescents are put at unnecessary risk where they are only listed on their parents' registration form and not issued their own identity documents.

64. While the issue was not addressed in most of the countries visited by the evaluation team, in Mexico and Guatemala UNHCR and its main implementing partners had worked with government authorities to ensure that children born to refugee parents were issued birth certificates. This has given them rights as citizens and enabled many refugee and returnee families access to solutions.

65. To raise the profile of this issue and provide a clear picture of the current situation, in the 1996/97 Annual Protection Reporting Exercise, field offices should be instructed to specify whether all children born to refugees receive either official birth certificates from local authorities or substitute documents issued by UNHCR. Where such documentation is not consistently provided, the offices should report the constraints to this and the actions taken or planned to overcome them.


66. The issue of evacuation is especially problematic in conflict situations where civilians are targeted. Guidelines for evacuations, which have been incorporated into Refugee Children, were developed by UNHCR and UNICEF in 1992 for the former Yugoslavia then, with the participation of ICRC, revised for Rwanda in 1994. These guidelines explain the high risk of evacuation causing long-term family separations, as well as the principles and procedures that should be followed where it is undertaken. Based on experience in the former Yugoslavia, however, further refinement is needed regarding when and how UNHCR should become involved.

67. Even where UNHCR does not agree that an evacuation should take place, it should seek to influence arrangements to increase safety and minimize long-term problems. UNHCR opposed and took no role in the large evacuations of children from Sarajevo, for example, and little or no registration was done. Children were subsequently separated from their care givers and, in at least one case, were abducted or killed during movement. Through public information efforts, the Office should actively inform the population at large about how frequently other evacuations have led to unanticipated, long-term separations. But when evacuations do occur, UNHCR should also encourage those organizing the movements to register minors and to use such measures as identification bracelets for children.

68. The principle emphasized in the evacuation guidelines that it is best to protect and assist in place should be upheld. But where UNHCR or others are unable to provide adequate assistance and protection, the humanitarian principle of saving lives should be put before all other considerations, including the ideal of maintaining ethnically mixed areas.

69. Taking the above into account, UNHCR, in cooperation with UNICEF and ICRC, should revise the current guidelines to develop a concise document written for use in emergency conditions that provides clear operational guidance regarding evacuations.

Harmful Child Labour

70. Some field personnel expressed concern about situations where children's lives, health or participation in school are jeopardized by work they are forced to do. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, refugee children were reported to be digging for gold in dangerous, shallow tunnels. In urban areas in various parts of the world, refugee minors are found working and sometimes living on the street where they face daily threats to their health and survival.

71. UNHCR action to address such problems is not taken as frequently as it should be, but positive examples were identified. In Kabul, UNHCR helped children who had been carrying out hard labour to shift to more manageable work, ie. weaving carpets, by arranging for skills training. In Goma, UNHCR intervened to remove a large number of separated boys living with former Rwandan military personnel who were keeping them as servants or mascots. Through a UNHCR-initiated rehabilitation programme, the boys were taken from military households and organized into small groups that lived and worked together. They received training in leadership and conflict resolution skills and took part in community service projects and group discussions.

72. Action may involve better targeting of assistance to vulnerable households, arranging access to safer ways to earn income and advocacy. Such measures should be based on an understanding of the social and economic circumstances that give rise to child labour. The International Labour Organisation and UNICEF are potential partners. To increase attention to the issue and better understand its scope, UNHCR field offices, in the 1996/97 Annual Protection Reporting Exercise, should be instructed to report on the incidence of harmful child labour, its causes and measures taken to prevent or reduce it.

Repatriation and Reintegration

73. UNHCR often faces strong pressures when assessing conditions for potential voluntary repatriation and reintegration, and many observers believe that the Office has not given adequate attention to the safety and rights of children and adolescents. As a result, children and adolescents may be encouraged to return to situations of discrimination and questionable safety.

74. Refugee children and adolescents are strongly affected by the consequences of repatriation, whether good or bad, and the same is true for internally displaced minors of concern to the Office and their return to home areas. On the one hand is the possibility for minors of a durable solution and a more normal way of life that is very important to their development. On the other, if conditions of safety and respect for basic human rights are not met, there is the potential for more violence, military recruitment or discrimination, blocking access to school, basic services or employment.

75. In assessing whether conditions permit safe, voluntary return and reintegration, UNHCR should give particular attention to the implications of conditions in the country (or area) of origin for the safety and rights of children and adolescents. UNHCR's assessment of the potential for safe, voluntary return and reintegration should be transparent, and the implications for minors should be fully outlined to the affected population, concerned governments, partner agencies and organizations whose support will be needed for reintegration.

76. Where education is being phased out in the context of voluntary repatriation, arrangements should be made for students to finish their current school term and take examinations, and for continuity in the country of origin. Through advocacy and collaboration with the government and organizations in the country of origin, as well as its own resources, UNHCR should make every effort to ensure that returning minors will have access to education and basic services.

Assistance Issues

77. UNHCR programmes consistently, if not always adequately, address the needs of children and adolescents for water, food, shelter and basic health services. However, needs that are less tangible, but which have immediate and long-term consequences, receive much less adequate attention.

78. The health and well-being of children and adolescents depend upon a combination of material, emotional and social support as well as opportunities to learn. These developmental needs are not generally recognized in UNHCR programmes. Formal education is given attention, but at a seriously inadequate level, as indicated in UNHCR's recent evaluation of education. The psychological needs of children and adolescents are typically only given attention in the wake of atrocities that reach the level of the global media, and then are sometimes inappropriately addressed. The essential support and learning that takes place within families is taken for granted, but the needs of separated children for family reunification are often not addressed.

79. Contrary to conventional programming wisdom, non-material needs are just as important as material ones; requirements in both areas are closely inter-related. For example, the degree to which children and adolescents benefit from material assistance depends very much on whether their social and emotional needs are being met. Minors who live without adequate parental care, social support and opportunities to learn traditional as well as basic literacy and numeracy skills will not be able to grow and develop to their full capacities, even if their material needs are met.

80. Less tangible needs receive inadequate attention in current UNHCR programmes largely because of the focus on immediate needs - the institutionalization of emergency response. As the Office adopts a more strategic approach to promoting solutions for refugees, it must give more serious attention to these longer term, developmental needs of children and adolescents because their futures will be shaped in part by how well these needs are met.

Social and Psychological Needs

81. The social and psychological needs of children and adolescents are not the responsibility of a particular sector, but all projects should take them into account. Projects should incorporate measures to help strengthen and restore family relationships and establish a safe, normal and dependable environment for minors. UNHCR can, for example, consistently act to prevent family separations, ensure that separated minors receive appropriate, community-based care and give priority attention to reuniting families. Structured activities and education should be greatly expanded to reach all minors, especially adolescents. Providing play areas can be extremely beneficial for children. Support can be provided for indigenous healing ceremonies, which can promote recovery from individual distress and facilitate social re-integration.

82. Several field workers observed that adolescents are often the age group most psychologically affected by war. They are old enough to understand the dangers of war but have not developed the maturity to cope with the stress, are less receptive to family support than younger children and experience life in extremes. Youth clubs with such activities as painting, drama, discussion, income-generating activities, sports and recreation have been used to reduce distress and promote recovery among adolescents.

83. For some small percentage of psychologically wounded children and adolescents, family support, structure and activities may not be enough, and they may need additional, culturally appropriate help to recover. For example, trained mobile teams were sent to the reception centres for Serb communities driven from the Krijina in Croatia. They set up "children's corners" where children could come out of the mass and play, and those who were particularly distressed could be given more attention.

84. Five member organisations of the International Save the Children Alliance recently integrated into a short paper what they have learned about mainstream approaches to social and psychological needs. To help familiarize UNHCR staff with steps to consider in regular programming, copies of "Promoting Psychosocial Well-Being Among Children Affected by Armed Conflict and Displacement" should be distributed to all field offices with a covering IOM/FOM.

Structured Activities and Education

85. From the earliest possible stage of an emergency, UNHCR should ensure that daily structured activities are organized for the large majority of children and adolescents. As soon as a food distribution system is in place, a community-based programme of structured activities should be initiated as an integral part of the emergency response. As rapidly as possible, it should expand to include the large majority of children and adolescents. It should be tailored to the needs, concerns and resources of the population and include such elements as:

  • structured play and safe spaces for free play;
  • separate sports activities for boys and girls;
  • literacy and numeracy instruction;
  • key health, sanitation and nutrition messages;
  • mine awareness or other safety information;
  • drawing and painting;
  • traditional songs, dance, theatre and story telling;
  • lessons in traditional knowledge and skills;
  • community service activities; and
  • training in such conflict resolution skills as communication, negotiation and decision-making.

86. Activities for adolescents should generally be carried out separately from those for younger children, but part of the programme for adolescents might involve their leading activities for younger children, teaching health messages with a child-to-child approach or tutoring individual children. As rapidly as possible, certainly within six months, the community should be supported to develop structured activities into a more formal education programme (including basic literacy and numeracy, skills training and pre-school) suited to the immediate and long-term needs of the population.

87. Structured activities are the first line of response for promoting the recovery and well-being of children and adolescents who have suffered losses, displacement and often horrific experiences. Structure in daily life conveys a sense of dependability and normalcy in a chaotic and threatening world that, from a child's perspective, has gone out of control. For example, residents of Sarajevo felt strongly that education had to continue throughout the war. Classes were shifted to basements and other secure places. They provided opportunities for students to feel safe and think about something other than the fighting.

88. Structured activities can be a stabilizing element for a community as well as for its children. Relief workers have noted that recreation for minors can have a calming effect on adults and help renew the tattered social fabric of war-affected and displaced communities.

89. Rapid initiation of structured activities is feasible in an emergency. How quickly it can be done largely depends on the particular circumstances. Within two weeks of the influx into Ngara, Tanzania, for example, Community Services Officers had helped the population initiate structured recreation, and a school system was functioning within five months. In Sri Lanka, as soon as displaced populations secured shelter, they set up schools in temporary structures and under trees. Structured activities should be diversified on a continuing basis and evolve as rapidly as possible into an education programme, including relevant skills training for adolescents.

90. Despite its importance, only a quarter of the UNHCR-assisted refugees of 6-17 years of age are attending school, and boys outnumber girls two to one. Only a small fraction of adolescents are in school, but it is impossible to determine the actual proportion because UNHCR reporting combines all minors 5-17 years into a single age group. As recommended in the recent UNHCR education evaluation, determined efforts are needed to achieve, to the extent possible, universal access to education for all children and adolescents of concern to UNHCR.

91. There is no single solution for increasing participation in education, except to ensure programmes are community-based. In each situation, UNHCR must determine which factors hamper school attendance and take the necessary action. A major constraint in developing education programmes is the shortage of community services personnel, who in most situations are responsible for education in addition to their other duties in community mobilization and support for the most vulnerable individuals. Another constraint in some situations is the lack of trained personnel from partner agencies who can work with communities to develop an education programme. In large scale situations, an Education Officer is needed to work with a partner organization to establish and develop an effective education system. Such personnel are not consistently assigned, however.

92. Inadequate capacity in education programmes is another significant barrier. Budgetary priorities in education should be teacher training, adequate supplies and materials and a reasonable student-teacher ratio, rather than building standard classrooms. Classes can be held in the shade of trees or tarpaulins (at least in some seasons) or in a simple structures built from locally available materials. For example, in Sri Lanka, schools have been built by the displaced communities themselves. In Guinea, refugee communities build classroom walls, dig a well and latrine and organize a school committee, then a partner agency puts on a roof, provides school materials and trains teachers and pays them a stipend. Also, apprenticeships have been used in several countries to extend training opportunities to adolescent refugees, and opportunities for secondary education were expanded in Malawi by using radio to reach refugee students who were dispersed over a wide area.93. Work is one of the most significant constraints to school attendance, particularly for girls. In most situations, minors help to produce income or food and to carry out essential domestic tasks. Structured activities and school schedules must be tailored to the times that potential students can spare, which often differ for boys and girls. Some students may be able to attend full day classes, while others can only take part in shorter sessions during hours when they are free from daily tasks.

94. Costs can also be a constraint, even where school fees are not required. Refugee students, particularly those attending local schools, may have to provide for educational materials, uniforms, books or other items. Income-generating opportunities for women may free their children to participate in school. Following repatriation, the need for school uniforms can be a barrier to school enrolment, and provision for them should be made in the repatriation plan.

95. An irrelevant or overly academic curriculum can also reduce school participation. Parents sometimes decide that the subjects taught have little applicability in their children's lives, present or future. Curricula should include practical skills. Training in practical life skills is important for improving the relevance of education for adolescents.

96. UNICEF has approximately 140 education officers in its field offices world-wide. UNHCR field offices and their implementing partners may be able to obtain technical guidance through UNICEF.

97. Basic education is a fundamental right, and UNHCR should not, as it did in Goma, block the establishment of schools because of its concerns about the backgrounds of camp leaders. Rather the Office should play an active role in the planning and development of an education programme from the earliest stage in an emergency and ensure that it plays a positive role in building a climate for solutions. Neither should cutting education be used as a push factor to encourage return to the country of origin. Students should be allowed to finish their school term before returning or provisions made for continuation after return.

98. Education should help build solutions. It can help restore the social fabric of communities and build a sense of hope for the future. UNHCR recently established a trust fund that will support the development of school materials for peace education and conflict resolution. Where voluntary repatriation is the likely solution for refugees, the curriculum should be based on that of the country of origin, and it should convey knowledge and skills relevant to that country. Schools can also be used to promote social re-integration after repatriation. In a number of countries, the curriculum in the asylum country has matched that in the country of origin. In Guatemala and Mozambique, refugee teachers were given special training to enable them to enter the national system.

99. While there are innovative, cost-effective examples of community-based education in situations of conflict and displacement, no NGO has yet established the capacity to help communities to meet their children's needs for structured activities and education in emergencies. Education, like health, water and sanitation services, is to some extent provided in every situation of mass influx, but, unlike these other sectors, there is no consistency in the organizations involved and the lessons learned are lost.

100. In every emergency UNHCR should ensure that structured activities are initiated at least by the stage a food distribution system has begun to operate. In consultation with UNICEF and UNESCO, and with the involvement of the Senior Education Officer and the Senior Coordinator for Refugee Children, UNHCR should develop standing agreements with one or more NGOs with expertise in non-formal and formal education to support the development of community-based structured activity programmes from an early stage in emergencies. The role of such an NGO would not necessarily be to manage ongoing education programmes, but to develop the capacity of the community and an NGO present locally to do so.

101. To facilitate the rapid development of structured activities in emergencies UNHCR should establish a mechanism (possibly through another organization) to assemble and deliver activity kits for use in the early stage of emergencies. Each should address the age range of pre-school through to adolescence and be tailored to the culture of the affected population.

Food and Nutrition

102. A great deal is at stake with food assistance for children and adolescents. Infants and young children have little nutritional leeway; if their nutritional needs are not met, they can suffer irreparable harm or die. Even a moderately malnourished child faces twice the risk of death of one who is adequately nourished, and the risk is twelve times greater for a severely malnourished child. Undernourished students do poorly in school or simply drop out. Failure to distribute food rations adequately and equitably increases the likelihood of girls exchanging sex for food or favours and of boys joining armed groups.

103. Action in emergencies should extend beyond treating malnourished children to targeted prevention. Selective feeding programmes are not a sufficient response, because they do not reach all those who need them and rehabilitated children return to the same conditions that caused the initial problem. But simple measures can make a difference. For example, community workers can provide water and nutritional supplements to lactating women, to enable them to continue breast feeding. Emergency assessments should determine how mothers are feeding children of weaning age and what they may require, such as blended food and the means to grind distributed grain.

104. While the need for food assistance among refugee populations is universally recognized and there are international systems in place to provide it, serious problems continue to arise. For example, in the Kakuma camp in Kenya, unusual problems with anaemia were raised during the team's visit. The camp doctor said half of the deaths in the camp were attributable, either directly or indirectly, to anaemia and that it was common among males as well as females. A subsequent survey found extremely high levels of anaemia among children and young people as well as disturbing incidences of wasting.

105. There did not appear to be any single cause of these problems; many aspects of the food system were not working adequately. These included resource and pipeline problems, disputes over the actual number of camp residents, removal of blended food from the ration, consistent failures to deliver the full food basket, an inadequate food ration for the disproportionate number of adolescent boys and young men in the camp and failure to implement a decision to start school feeding. At the time of the visit none of the parties involved (the World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR, NGOs and donors) considered itself responsible for dealing with the food system as a whole to make it work.

106. Efforts to improve food systems must take into account the constraints WFP and UNHCR face. From 1992 to 1996 there has, for example, been a global reduction in food aid provided by donors from 15.4 million metric tons to 7.6 million metric tons and this during a period with many large scale-emergencies. This increases the need to maximize any opportunities for affected populations to produce food and generate income, as well as to procure food locally for distribution.

107. Some of the problems with food systems result from inadequate understanding of capacities, vulnerabilities and differences within a population. Without this information, targeting food to those with genuine needs is based to some degree on speculation. The household food economy studies that UNHCR and WFP have commissioned in some camps address these shortcomings and appear to be a realistic way to improve the targeting of food distribution to different categories of households.

108. Targeted food assistance is typically introduced in long-term operations where beneficiaries can provide for at least some of their own food needs. The weakness of targeted food distribution in Côte d'Ivoire, for example, was the broad decision that households categorized as vulnerable should receive about three quarters of a full ration and other would receive nothing. It would be better to have at least two levels of food assistance or systems of supplementation to match assistance more closely with actual household food needs.

109. Nutritional monitoring, a responsibility of UNHCR specified in its MOU with WFP, is sometimes inadequate. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, it was not possible to say what the impact had been on children of shifting from a general to a targeted distribution of food. Although isolated surveys had been done, they did not provide a basis for identifying any immediate nutritional impacts of the change on children. Good programming requires that senior managers of UNHCR and WFP have the capacity to judge the impact of their decisions on those segments of assisted populations most affected by them.

110. Staff responsible for nutrition programmes should, at least:

  • analyse the demographic make-up of camps and use this in assessing nutritional needs;
  • undertake enquiries into household food economy to determine levels of need among different categories of the population;
  • ensure that food distribution mechanisms provide adequate food for the most vulnerable households (especially those headed by minors or women);
  • maximize opportunities for local production and, as necessary, procurement.

111. Problems with food are largely systemic rather than due to a lack of knowledge about good practice. To find ways to address weaknesses in food assistance systems and to improve practices in food systems to identify solutions, UNHCR and WFP should establish an interagency working group including representatives of donors and organizations with technical expertise in nutritional, household food economy and demographic assessment. They should consider improvements needed from the earliest stage in emergencies through targeted feeding and repatriation. Household food economy studies should be used consistently as background for UNHCR-WFP food assessment missions.

Adolescent Reproductive Health

112. While programmes typically address basic health needs of infants and young children, the reproductive health needs of adolescents have been neglected. Situations of armed conflict, social disruption and displacement greatly increase risks of sexual violence and exploitation, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and high-risk early pregnancies for adolescents. Living in a context where social controls regarding sexual activity have weakened or broken down, many adolescents are separated from extended family members who would normally provide information and guidance about sexuality, monitor their behaviour and protect them. Girls who are not in school are particularly isolated from information and reproductive health services.

113. UNHCR helped to produce a Manual on Reproductive Health in Refugee Situations and has appointed a Reproductive Health Officer, but there is little activity in the field targeting these needs among adolescents. Young people need access to the means to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection, and to avoid unwanted pregnancies, but unmarried adolescents are unlikely to use the same family planning services as adults.

114. To develop effective reproductive health activities for young people, health service providers need to understand prevailing norms, practices and attitudes related to sex; patterns of adult authority and influence regarding adolescents; and how adolescents see their own reproductive health needs. Youth as well as community leaders should be involved in designing services, which should link with education, community services and any other activities that reach adolescents.

115. To demonstrate how the reproductive health needs of adolescents can be addressed effectively the Division of Operational Support, with the guidance of its Reproductive Health Officer, should initiate at least three pilot initiatives to address the reproductive health needs of adolescents. These should be assessed within a year and the lessons learned disseminated to all field offices.

Disability Issues

116. UNHCR has issued sound guidelines on disability issues, but they are applied only infrequently in its programmes. Children and adolescents with disabilities are especially vulnerable, and their survival and development are at even greater risk than those of other minors. But early identification of impairments can prevent their becoming more severe, and community-based rehabilitation efforts can pay long-term dividends by reducing vulnerability and dependency.

117. Action on disabilities is needed in all programmes. Every population includes people with disabilities and the risks of becoming disabled are especially great in the context of violence and displacement. Even though they are present in all populations, children and adolescents with disabilities are often, quite literally, invisible because they tend to be kept at home by their families.

118. The main problems of minors with disabilities often lie more in the attitudes of those around them rather than their impairments. But through community out-reach and public education, children and adolescents with disabilities can be integrated socially, as has been shown in the refugee programme in Jhapa, Nepal. Over 700 minors have entered mainstream schools, deaf children are signing to communicating and low-cost rehabilitation aids are being produced by the refugees. The strength of the programme and the key to its sustainability has been the active involvement in all stages of disabled minors and their parents.

119. UNHCR should make a commitment to promote the mainstream integration of disabled children and adolescents through inclusive education and community-based rehabilitation efforts. The Division of Operational Support should request its Programme and Technical Support Section to review all programmes for populations of 10,000 or more refugees and report to the Senior Management Committee on the extent to which specific action has been taken to promote the social integration and rehabilitation of disabled children and adolescents, recommending steps that can be taken to increase such efforts.

Cross-cutting Issues

Situation Analysis

120. UNHCR programming has often been fragmented and reactive, rather than a coordinated response to the needs of the population in a particular context. This has been acutely apparent for children and adolescents. The tendency has been to respond piecemeal by funding proposals that potential partners put forward in the health, food and education sectors, and sometimes to address particularly distressed or separated children.

121. Situation analysis provides a basis for developing a strategy with selected partners within a strategic framework. It involves taking a broader look than simply assessing needs. Situation analysis differentiates characteristics of the population of concern, identifies particular needs and capacities within it and considers its relationship with the local population. It also develops an integrated view of the demographic, socio-economic and cultural context, including current and potential sources of household livelihood and traditional welfare structures. Emergency response is not contingent on a full situation analysis, but the information gathering that begins at that stage would contribute to it. 122. A specific handicap in raising the profile of adolescents in UNHCR programming is that they are statistically invisible. The age groups currently used by all UNHCR offices are 0-4, 5-17, 18-59 and 60+ years of age. The Division of Operational Support should instruct all field offices to adjust their information-gathering and reporting to incorporate age groups of 5-11 and 12-17 years of age.

123. To provide a basis for more strategic approaches to the protection and assistance needs of minors, UNHCR should draw on relevant expertise in situation analysis within the United Nations system and among NGOs and incorporate this approach into its Operations Management System.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

124. The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a tool that UNHCR should use more consistently for advocacy and in programme development. It imposes standards on governments and can be used for advocacy in conjunction with the Refugee Convention and its Protocol. The near universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child gives it even wider geographic applicability than international refugee instruments. All UNHCR representatives, protection officers, and programme officers should have ready access to copies of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and have a working knowledge of the applicability of its provisions in the contexts where they are working.

Problematic Terms

125. Some of the terms that UNHCR uses have become jargon that can oversimplify a situation and lead to inappropriate action. "Unaccompanied children", for example, can be understood in various ways and should be dropped altogether (see paragraph 60). Other terms are potentially useful, but greater care should be taken in how they are used:

  • "Children" is often intended to include adolescents, but is commonly understood to refer only to pre-adolescents, contributing to the invisibility of adolescents in programmes.
  • "Family" is often used when "household" is what is meant, obscuring the significance and potential role of the extended family.
  • "Community" must be used with caution in situations of displacement where there has been significant social disruption. UNHCR staff must use care when considering the extent to which a population actually constitutes a community (or communities) and its potential for support or threats to the safety, care and development of minors.
  • Reference to the needs of "women and children" is included in many UNHCR documents. While these groups have needs in common, there are also many differences that are obscured when the vast majority of UNHCR's caseload are essentially referred to as a single "vulnerable group".
  • "Vulnerable groups" glosses over the different types of risks faced by groups within a population. Categories of individuals may be vulnerable to malnutrition, sexual assault or abuse, military recruitment, unwanted pregnancy, disability or many other factors. Lumping such differences together under a single heading obscures the various kinds of action required.


126. To carry out its mandate effectively UNHCR must consistently link with governments, other United Nations bodies, international organizations, donor agencies, NGOs and communities of its concern.


127. Since half of UNHCR's total caseload are children and adolescents, co-ordination with UNICEF would appear to be especially important. The MOU between the two bodies has led to a number of situation-specific agreements; however, several UNHCR and UNICEF staff have expressed the opinion that these agreements have not led to a noticeable increase in operational co-operation or impact. A major part of the difficulty appears to lie in fundamental differences in the ways in which each organisation operates.

128. Senior UNICEF officials indicated that it would help if UNHCR had a clearer understanding of the constraints UNICEF faces in seeking to respond to emergency situations. UNICEF country programmes operate within a five-year programming process that includes a joint agreement with the government concerned, indicating how funds will be spent. Once committed, these funds cannot easily be re-programmed to respond to new situations or problems.

129. The UNICEF Board, to maintain the organization's primary focus on its development role, also has put a ceiling on the percentage of its budget that can be used for emergencies. UNICEF's global emergency budget is less than one-tenth of UNHCR's, and additional funds for emergency response must be raised through an appeal. Voluntary funds UNICEF raises are essentially committed to development activities.

130. The time-frames the two bodies operate within are another area of difference. UNICEF's approach to emergencies tends to be more developmental and has a long-term focus, whereas UNHCR is inclined to focus on immediate protection and assistance objectives. With its longer view, UNICEF's country programmes are based on a situation analysis that takes a broad look at vulnerability and its causes and gives a priority to building the capacity of government and local NGOs. UNHCR's programming could clearly benefit from this broader development-oriented perspective. Nonetheless, fulfilment of the Office's protection mandate for children and adolescents often requires a more operational field presence and a larger field staff than UNICEF is normally able to provide.

131. Recognising these differences, advocacy, training, and standard setting are three areas where collaboration could take place without major funding constraints. UNICEF has a good deal of experience using the Convention on the Rights of the Child as an advocacy tool; joint advocacy campaigns would be more powerful than that of either organization on its own. UNICEF may be able to provide some measure of technical expertise in child health and nutrition, education and child welfare without major funding constraints. Birth registration and prevention of recruitment of minors in internally displaced situations are also potentially good issues for joint advocacy by the two bodies.

132. Interagency training on children's issues involving UNHCR, UNICEF, government and NGO personnel is another area for potential collaboration. Reciprocal invitations for staff members to participate in relevant training events could also help develop better understanding and links between the two bodies. UNHCR and the International Save the Children Alliance have invited UNICEF to participate in developing training materials concerning children and adolescents.

133. There are potentially many areas where UNHCR and UNICEF can collaborate on standard setting. For example, as recommended in paragraph 70 of this report, joint work is needed on improved evacuation guidelines. Also, both organizations are in the process of revising their respective emergency handbooks. The original versions have been very influential, and it is important that the standards presented in the new versions are consistent.

134. A positive example of collaboration between UNICEF and UNHCR are emergency kits for separated children available for use in emergencies. Personnel of the two bodies developed them together, with support from other organizations. In addition to registration books, cameras and film, each kit includes a jointly developed Priority Action Handbook. Discussions have also been underway between UNHCR and UNICEF with a view to testing collaboration on assessment and training in selected field locations.

135. Opportunities also arise in the field for substantive collaboration in programming, particularly in the context of voluntary repatriation. UNICEF's involvement in planning should begin well before repatriation starts. Problems have arisen when UNHCR, without UNICEF involvement, has developed infrastructure using quick impact projects, then turned to UNICEF to ensure the continuity of activities.

136. Three measures are proposed to energize the MOU between UNHCR and UNICEF. The High Commissioner should instruct her Representatives in at least three countries to explore locally with UNICEF possibilities for collaboration in advocacy, training and/or programmes. Secondly, UNHCR's Public Information Section, in consultation with the Senior Coordinator for Refugee Children, should explore with UNICEF the possibility of a joint global advocacy campaign against the recruitment of child soldiers. Finally, UNHCR in conjunction with UNICEF should evaluate implementation of the joint MOU.


137. Equally important, UNHCR needs to develop predictable relationships with NGO partners in such areas as situation analysis, structured activities and education, preventing family separations and reuniting separated children. The Office has, for example, a standing agreement with the Swedish and Norwegian Save the Children Agencies to second to UNHCR Community Services Officers to work in emergencies. This arrangement has resulted in substantial benefits to children and adolescents in the form of community-based care and services. It could be expanded further to include prevention-oriented assessments and plans of action, training of field staff and repatriation-reintegration operations.

138. Such arrangements not only bring vital technical expertise into programmes, they do so in a consistent way that improves UNHCR's operational capacity and brings additional resources to bear on needs and problems. Another approach that UNHCR should explore is the exchange of selected staff members to enable the Office and key partner NGOs to better understand how each operates.

139. The NGO Co-ordinator and the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children should identify specific areas where UNHCR's protection and assistance of children and adolescents could be strengthened by more structured NGO involvement, expanded standby arrangements, secondments or other areas of collaboration, and initiate discussions with relevant NGOs.


140. The shortcomings identified in UNHCR's programmes can be addressed through strategic changes in its internal management systems. During the evaluation, when asked why appropriate action to benefit minors was or was not taken, the most frequent response was "it depended on the personalities involved." This section identifies ways UNHCR's senior management can increase the frequency of effective action by staff members.

Mainstream Awareness

141. Awareness among staff members of issues particular to children and adolescents and relevant UNHCR policies varies considerably. Within the organisation, children are often regarded as a technical concern, marginal to mainstream priorities. They are seen as the responsibility of community services, JPO and UNV personnel, whose status and influence in the organisational pecking order is relatively low. Many staff members are not aware that children and adolescents make up over half of UNHCR's beneficiary population, and few of those who are aware have given serious attention to the operational implications of this demographic profile.

142. While children and adolescents do have particular needs, the majority of these could be accommodated through well-planned, mainstream UNHCR protection and assistance activities. Such programming must be based on an adequate understanding of the context and the particular needs and capacities of minors and their families within it.


143. Acknowledgement by senior management of current gaps, and their consistent expression of commitment to improving the protection and assistance of children and adolescents would put relevant issues on agendas at all levels. Many staff members believe that when change occurs within UNHCR, it usually comes from the top. An example that several staff cited was the key role that the Deputy High Commissioner has played in changing the Office's approach to gender issues. There is a general perception within the organisation that the particular problems of children and adolescents are essentially marginal issues, and that attention is only given in response to pressure from donors or when the political or media interest of these issues is high. Changing this view will require commitment on the part of senior managers.



144. There is often a mis-match between the knowledge and skills of Protection Officers and the action needed to prevent key protection problems among minors - military recruitment; sexual violence, exploitation and abuse; family unity and separated children; and child labour. Protection measures should be based on an understanding of the socio-economic, cultural and political context and the threats within it, the factors causing particular households to be vulnerable and how to target assistance strategically. In the context of ongoing armed conflict and weak, failed and repressive states, a background in international law may be less useful to a Protection Officer than expertise in such areas as social sciences, security, inter-agency collaboration, community mobilisation and child welfare.

145. Child and adolescent issues should be given attention in the recruitment of Protection Officers, assigning individuals to posts and training. Active collaboration between protection and community services personnel is also needed. Through recruitment, posting and training, UNHCR should strengthen the capacity of its Protection Officers to respond to key protection problems among children and adolescents. The Divisions of International Protection and Operational Support should actively promote collaboration between protection and community services personnel in all operations.

Community Services

146. The shift that UNHCR has made in recent years from "social services" to "community services," is more significant than has yet been widely recognised within the Organisation. Rather than giving primary attention to individual cases, community services personnel have a cross-cutting role of mobilising community participation and resources that support all sectors. They also have responsibility to stimulate community-based protection and care for the most vulnerable members of a population, and in many programmes are responsible for education as well. They have crucial roles to play in assessments and strategy development at all stages of programmes.

147. Community services functions are important, not only because they help meet urgent needs, but also because the way such needs are met has implications for durable solutions. The international community can protect and care for children and other individuals at risk only for a limited time. Community services personnel, from the start, seek solutions through which families and communities protect and care for those who are at risk. For example, it is much more expensive and less effective and sustainable for outside organisations to provide ongoing group care for separated minors than it is to find community-based solutions.

148. Several factors limit the impact of community services personnel within UNHCR programmes. They have not been assigned in every situation and, where present, little funding is budgeted to support their efforts. Globally, there are 87 community services personnel comprising 24 international officers, 15 national officers, 4 JPOs and 44 general services staff members. Current global programme needs easily justify doubling the number of community services posts. A ratio of one community services staff member for every 50,000 refugees would be a useful point of reference for staffing decisions.

149. Another limiting factor is that community services personnel are sometimes diverted from their intended tasks by superiors who do not understand the importance of community services functions. Also, effective community-based work is difficult, and some personnel have made the transition from social to community services with skills more suited to their earlier role of dealing with individual cases. They would benefit from in-service training, with a substantial focus on children and adolescents.

150. While there is general recognition at Headquarters that Community Services Officers should be deployed at the beginning of all emergencies, this is still dependent on a request from the field. In a recent large scale emergency, the field blocked the early deployment of several Community Service Officers, which resulted in inadequate responses to the needs of large groups of separated minors and criticism of UNHCR.

151. The importance of a strong UNHCR community services presence through all stages of an operation has been recognised more in principle than in practice. While available in emergencies through the Rädda Barnen standby agreement, it has often been difficult to establish enough posts for all ongoing programmes. Creating additional posts is the first step needed. Arranging additional secondments is a supplementary approach for the Office to consider in larger operations, preferably with at least one international Community Services Officer to supervise seconded personnel.

152. To strengthen and expand community services functions in its operations, UNHCR should substantially increase the number of such posts. The Division of Operational Support should ensure that Community Service Officers are included in all emergency response teams and that this function is included in ongoing staffing arrangements. In addition, the Senior Community Services Officer, together with relevant units at Headquarters, should identify ways to establish more interdisciplinary training within UNHCR, joint training with other organisations and secondments of qualified personnel. They should also determine whether in any current programmes there are existing community services posts which could be freed for re-deployment by turning over management of this function to an NGO.


153. The main reason UNHCR needs the position of Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children is that the Office's action to protect and assist refugee children and adolescents is inadequate. More than a technical position, it was established and continues to be needed to promote organisational change. The post is a means, however, not the solution.

154. The principal responsibility of the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children should be to help guide the Office through a planned, multi-year process of improving the ways the Organisation protects and assists children and adolescents. In addition, the post has technical responsibilities to provide guidance within the Office concerning children and adolescents and to be UNHCR's spokesperson concerning minors when dealing with other organisations. For the foreseeable future, its current placement under the Director of Operational Support is the most appropriate option in the present structure of the Office.

155. Although essential, given current operational shortcomings, the post of Senior Co-ordinator for Children does not fit cleanly into the present organisational structure. Because it exists to address inadequacies in the structure and operations of the Office, its responsibilities necessarily cut across all aspects of the Office's activities. This almost guarantees some degree of friction, because organisations do not change willingly. Even so, there is a need to clarify the division of responsibilities among the posts of Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Women and Senior Community Services Officer. Lack of co-ordination has caused confusion, duplication and, at times, undermined efforts for children and adolescents.

156. Clarification is also required regarding the division of responsibilities in the field among Community Services Officers, Protection Officers and Senior Regional Advisors for Women. The planned creation of four posts for Senior Regional Advisors for Children and Adolescents makes this a priority. The best solution appears to be maintaining a division of labour based of policy, technical and advocacy guidance by Regional Advisors aimed primarily at ensuring mainstreaming, while Community Services and Protection Officers focus on operational issues.

157. The primary role of the Senior Advisors for Children and Adolescents should be to promote the strategic re-orientation of UNHCR programming to ensure the protection and appropriate assistance of minors. They should assist field offices in the development and implementation of policy and decision-making processes and with impact assessment. To be effective, these advisors must be included in all major country and regional policy discussions, planning meetings and training programmes.

158. The possibility has been raised of combining the duties of Advisors for Women and Advisors for Children into consolidated posts in the field. There is some degree of functional overlap between such posts and combining their responsibilities would allow for broader geographic coverage. Recognising there are areas of mutual concern, there are also significant differences, and the combined range of issues is too broad for a single staff member to cover adequately. If these posts are effective in helping the Office to develop useful, mainstream models for addressing minors' and gender issues, they will have a broad geographic impact in the longer term.


159. Staff members in the field have been overwhelmed by an indigestible plethora of guidelines. Excluding standard human rights documents and UNHCR programming and protection manuals, there are at least 12 sets (1,100 pages) of overlapping guidelines that have a direct bearing on children's issues. These include documents on refugee children, unaccompanied minors, evacuation, sexual violence, disabilities, community-based approaches to assistance, community services and the rights of women and girls. The total volume is so great that staff members use them only as reference documents for guidance on occasional problems. Each was intended, however, to present policies and integrated sets of activities to map out how UNHCR and its partners should operate in relation to the issue addressed.

160. There is a pressing need for a single set of programme development guidelines, that integrates the key lessons of the existing guidelines. The revision of the UNHCR emergency handbook is aimed in part at achieving this, and priority should be given to completing it soon. It is not clear, however, whether it can or should address programming at all stages, from emergencies to durable solutions.

161. Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, is UNHCR's principal policy document concerning children and adolescents. It is generally acknowledged by staff members to be useful as a reference tool, but its lengthy abstract presentation of issues means it is seldom read except by specialists.

162. While Refugee Children provides useful guidance on a range of topics, there are some weaknesses. Several issues that minors and field staff are facing should be addressed more adequately. Also, generalists sometimes find the guidelines difficult to apply in specific situations because they are written in an abstract style to make them globally applicable. Problems also exist with regard to their dissemination. Few of the partner organisations in the field were aware of the document, which is intended to provide guidance for their programmes. Language is another problem. While versions exist in French, English, Serb-Croat and Bulgarian, there are none in Spanish.

163. Topics that should be added or addressed more adequately include:

  • the protection and assistance needs of adolescents;
  • ways to prevent recruitment of minors by military or armed groups;
  • measures to protect minors from sexual violence, exploitation and abuse
  • harmful child labour;
  • low-cost means of providing structured activities and education on a large scale from an early stage in emergencies;
  • regional networks for tracing and what they should do to benefit separated minors;
  • ways to promote the access of returnee children and adolescents to education and training;
  • measures to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among minors;
  • ways to identify and support local efforts to prevent female genital mutilation.

164. Adding brief case examples from different regions to a revised set of guidelines would show how principles have been translated to meaningful action and would reduce their abstraction. Revised guidelines should be distributed at least in French, English and Spanish versions and, if at all possible, in Arabic.

165. Any improved guidelines, however, will still have a relatively limited readership and continue to be used primarily for reference, rather than as a planning tool. To increase awareness within the staff and provide a better framework to apply in developing operations, a separate, very brief document is required to encapsulate in a readable fashion key elements of UNHCR's guidelines - what every staff member should know about refugee children and adolescents. It should be translated into the principal languages of refugees and implementing partners and distributed to all UNHCR staff members and partners. The checklist should refer to pages in the current version of Refugee Children where additional information is available, then later be reissued when the guidelines are revised.

166. It should be made clear, however, that a checklist is not a set of instructions to be applied rigidly. There are points when specialist expertise is needed to look broadly at a situation and help determine which principles should be given precedence and how they should be applied. For example, UNHCR's emphasis on foster placement as the preferable form of care for separated children is valid but, in some cases, poor or inappropriate application of this principle has resulted in minors being sexually abused or exploited by their foster families.

167. The Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, in consultation with relevant staff members and technical experts, should prepare a checklist of no more than four pages that identifies the key policies and guidelines concerning children and adolescents that every UNHCR professional staff member is expected to understand and be able to apply. It should be distributed to all UNHCR staff members, operational partners, camp officials and refugee leaders in the principal languages of the countries and refugees concerned.

168. Using this approach for all current guidelines, the Division of Operational Support, with guidance from the Division of International Protection, should develop a concise set of integrated guidelines to cover all aspects of programme development and implementation. The Senior Co-ordinator should also initiate a process of review and revision of UNHCR's current guidelines on refugee children.


169. The Office has made little use of training to increase awareness among staff members of the protection and assistance issues affecting minors and how to apply the Office's policies. There is no formal training focused on children and adolescents. A number of community service workshops have addressed children's issues, and protection and emergency management training make some references to child-related issues. UNHCR's training for People Oriented Planning (POP) includes two brief and seldom used child-related options.

170. To address this gap, UNHCR and the International Save the Children Alliance have initiated the ARC (Action for the Rights of Children) Project which includes development of a complete training package for UNHCR and NGO staff on refugee children and adolescents. UNICEF has been invited to take part as well. The initiative also includes pilot projects, and support for school- and community-based conflict resolution and peace education. Efforts are also underway to examine how existing UNHCR training could incorporate more attention to issues affecting minors.

171. For an initial push to increase awareness of key issues and policies, the Senior Management Committee should ask the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children and the Training Unit to organise a "blitz" training programme on the protection of and assistance to children and adolescents for all staff members of the P-4 level and above at Headquarters. Based on experience gained from this, similar training should be organised in the field. Material to be developed through the ARC initiative can be used for these initiatives. In addition, standard protection, community service and emergency trainings should incorporate greater attention to issues particularly relevant to children and adolescents.

Accountability and Reporting

172. There is an old saying among managers that "what gets measured, gets done." Accountability for implementing UNHCR's policies on refugee children and adolescents is weak and needs improvement, both at the programme level and with regard to individual posts. Even though reporting instructions require field offices to provide "detailed narrative and statistical information on the impact of programmed activities on women and children as concerns operation implementation," reference to issues affecting children is rare in both protection and programme reporting.

173. The Operations Management System (OMS) currently being developed will be a practical way of increasing attention to child and adolescent needs. The OMS foresees programme planners using an electronic "toolbox" that will highlight priority areas and include sample objectives and checklists based on UNHCR policies and guidelines. The OMS will also include performance indicators and a self-evaluation process. The child-specific performance objectives included in a recent Standing Committee paper (EC/47/SC/CRP.19 of 9 April 1997) should be made more specific and incorporated into OMS as objectives. Corresponding performance indicators should also be developed and added.

174. Actual implementation of UNHCR's policies on children and adolescents is largely in the hands of UNHCR's operational partners in the field, but few are even aware of the existence of, much less familiar with, the guidance it provides. This is a fundamental gap that must be addressed if policies are to have any impact on minors.

175. UNHCR's new Career Management System (CMS) should also be used to increase the accountability of individual posts for addressing key issues relevant to children and adolescents. This system specifies competencies and objectives for each post as the basis for appointment and evaluation. The CMS catalogue of competencies currently includes references to the ability to apply UNHCR guidelines, but with the over-abundance of such documents, these are too vague to make a real difference. The framework of standard competencies and objectives should be revised, using the checklist proposed above (See paragraph 163), to include items more specific to the protection and assistance of children and adolescents.

176. For every post whose functions have a direct impact on the safety or well-being of children and adolescents (which would include most professional posts), its competencies and objectives should include items directly relevant to minors. In this way, objectives specific to minors would be included in professional position descriptions for senior managers, protection and programme officers, as well as for technical posts expressly relevant to children and adolescents. These would be the benchmarks for monitoring and evaluating the performance of individual staff members and would provide concrete incentives for them to attend to currently neglected issues.

177. In context of OMS, a technical group, chaired by the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children, should assist the Division of Operational Support to develop a set of project objectives and indicators and other management tools to ensure that the Office's policies concerning children and adolescents are implemented in its programmes.

178. Compliance with Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care should be included as an obligatory clause in all sub-agreements with implementing partners where children make up over ten per cent of the beneficiaries of the relevant project. At least one copy of the full document, along with copies of the summary checklist, should be provided to each operational partner.

179. Performance objectives and competencies directly relevant to the protection and assistance of children and adolescents should be included in the next revision of the CMS instructions. Protection competencies should include the ability to identify measures within different cultural and socio-economic contexts to increase the security of refugees and to protect their rights.

A Plan for Organisational Development

180. In recent years UNHCR has taken a number of steps to improve its effectiveness concerning children, and more are recommended in this report. A piecemeal approach, however, will not result in substantial improvements. The measures recommended in this report should be integrated into a planned, co-ordinated effort under the responsibility of the Senior Management Committee.

181. With the overall goal of increasing the timeliness, scope, consistency and effectiveness of UNHCR's protection of and assistance to children and adolescents, the Senior Management Committee, with the support of the Senior Co-ordinator for Refugee Children and such additional technical support as required, should develop and oversee implementation of an integrated plan of at least four years' duration. It should incorporate the recommendations in this report and include specific objectives and indicators for measuring progress and impact. The High Commissioner should send the plan to all field offices, with a covering IOM/FOM noting the strategic importance to the Office of increasing its focus on children and adolescents and informing Representatives of their particular responsibilities in the plan's implementation. The plan should also include mechanisms for reviewing and evaluation progress.