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A Review of Capacity Building in Central and Eastern Europe


A Review of Capacity Building in Central and Eastern Europe

1 August 1996


1. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, UNHCR was unsure as to how it should proceed in the region. Not only was the organization's potential role unclear, there were dire predictions that the collapse of the Soviet Union would result in massive population movements. Such fears were coupled with serious concerns regarding the extent to which some countries of the region were prepared to receive refugees and displaced persons. UNHCR's uncertainty was further heightened by reservations regarding the relevance of many of the agency's traditional operational approaches in such a developed region, and even the linguistic competence of the organization's staff.

2. After considering alternatives, UNHCR chose an approach that emphasized "promotional action" including strengthening government institutions, NGOs and asylum procedures as well as and providing legal and material support. It was believed that, in time, such an approach would permit countries to handle refugee and displaced person issues in accordance with international standards with only minimal support from UNHCR. The approach also provided UNHCR with a useful presence in the region while its potential role evolved and became more evident.

3. UNHCR's initial efforts concentrated on appraising institutional needs and training the staff of governments and nascent NGOs. Gradually, however, institution-building efforts developed into a more comprehensive set of activities which, although unevenly applied from country-to-country, often included a number of common elements. These institution-building activities consisted of assessing a country's needs; raising awareness of desirable legal provisions and concepts related to asylum; suggesting institutional models; providing small-scale equipment to fledgling entities; training professionals in various domains; and informing the public. Although originally described as institution-building, the term capacity-building would seem to better reflect the type of support UNHCR actually provides.

4. Although the terms institution-building and capacity-building were new to UNHCR, in fact UNHCR has for decades guided governments and others in their work on behalf of refugees. The term institution-building is often defined as the measures that UNHCR takes to strengthen existing organizations or to create new ones which will further the cause of populations of concern to UNHCR. Even if groups such as "the judiciary" or "the legal fraternity" are taken as "institutions', the term "institution-building" tends to be limiting in that it is restricted to constituted groupings only.

5. Capacity-building has sometimes been used in UNHCR as a synonym for training. More and more, however, the term has been broadly used to describe the wide variety of measures that UNHCR takes or promotes that enable societies to deal with issues relating to populations of concern to UNHCR. In effect, the concept of UNHCR capacity-building implies that the organization is assisting the state to do its job. The term as defined includes activities such as awareness-raising for the population at large, promotion of refugee law, institution-building, the provision of office equipment and professional training.

6. Capacity-building has tended to be the main activity for the eight UNHCR offices in Central Europe. Furthermore, its importance in Central Europe as well as the Russian Federation and the Ukraine can be expected to grow. Although the UNHCR office in Armenia has placed capacity-building high on its agenda, until now it has been seen as a lesser priority in the two other countries of the Trans Caucasus.

7. The extent of UNHCR's involvement in capacity-building is reflected in the number of staff committed to this labour-intensive function. At least twenty international UNHCR staff in the region devote between half and all of their time to capacity-building activities. They are supported by fifty or more local staff who also give considerable time to the function. It can be estimated that more than half of UNHCR's expenditure in the region directly or indirectly supports capacity-building activities, the proportion being highest in the Central European countries.

8. Beneficiaries of UNHCR's activities include different sectors within the countries, primarily at the state level but also increasingly including NGOs and society at large. Beyond these beneficiaries, UNHCR partners in this effort are few although some organizations such as the European Union and USAID have programmes of their own. UNHCR has, to a limited extent, used international NGOs for the delivery of specific training activities. IOM, which has capacity-building activities of its own in the region, is already a UNHCR partner in several countries. In the future, UNHCR's partnership with IOM is expected to grow appreciably as part of the CIS Conference joint strategy to embrace shared assessments, activities and resources.


9. A review of institution-building activities (referred to as capacity-building in this report) in Central Europe and the CIS countries was requested by the Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe in order to assess the effectiveness and impact of institution-building in the region and to suggest ways in which policies and approaches in this area can be improved.

10. In carrying out the work, key documents generated over the past several years were reviewed and visits were made to a number of countries, including Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, The Russian Federation, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.. 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 eight countries visited. Information covering essentially all activities was collected and analysed during the survey, but in the interest of brevity, only information required to support the recommendations is presented.

11. This evaluation was prepared by Philip Sargisson, former UNHCR staff member, currently an independent consultant and senior advisor in the areas of organization, development, strategic planning, institution-building, staff development, training and evaluation. Mr Sargisson's clients have included UNDP, DHA, UNCTAD, IOM, UNIDO, and ILO.


12. UNHCR can derive satisfaction from the relative institutional boldness it displayed in the early 1990s when it chose to establish offices in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. Although the organization has had to overcome its lack of experience in the region, UNHCR has generally performed well and enjoys an overall reputation for being both responsive and pro-active.

13. Despite the considerable size of the region, UNHCR's activities have had an identifiable impact that is likely to become even more apparent during the years to come. UNHCR has, to some extent, contributed to the integration of Central European countries with Western Europe by helping them to perform in accordance with international standards. Not only has the organization been able to introduce concepts and approaches to the region, its emergency interventions in the Trans Caucasus and the North Caucasus have also provided UNHCR with a reputation for credibility that the organization can build upon.

14. With several years of experience in the region, there now seems little doubt that capacity-building activities constitute the most useful and cost-effective means of assisting governments in such a geographically vast and relatively developed area. Capacity-building also appears to be the best way in which UNHCR can exert significant influence over asylum laws and practices. Although less important it has also permitted UNHCR to maintain a presence that enables it to conduct activities falling within its mandate. Thus, not only is capacity-building a legitimate and essential area of UNHCR's involvement, in most countries it is the activity which should be receiving the highest priority.

15. Unfortunately, capacity-building remains an aspect of UNHCR's work in which the organization continues to be hesitant and somewhat ambivalent. As a consequence, UNHCR has never fully committed itself to defining, professionalizing and supporting such activities.

16. Although UNHCR has a considerable degree of scattered expertise in capacity-building, the organization has never really attempted to recognize, define and develop the function in a systematic manner. Despite the fact that capacity-building is becoming the backbone of UNHCR activities in the CIS and Central Europe, there is not yet a budget item that refers to it as such, nor is there an institutional recognition that capacity-building calls for sustainable effort. Furthermore, despite several decades of often successful experiences in many parts of the world, capacity-building has not yet been given a clear identity. Consequently, elements of it have often been cautiously termed 'advice to governments', 'promotion of refugee law' or 'institution-building'.

17. UNHCR has often displayed a regrettable weakness in drawing lessons from its experience, both past and current. As a consequence, a record of the organization's capacity-building experience in other regions cannot be found. Furthermore, the cross fertilization of experience within the Central European and CIS region has tended to be limited and inconsistent.

18. In the somewhat ad hoc environment that has prevailed, the inventiveness and motivation of many staff has been an important compensating factor. There are noteworthy instances where staff have experimented with novel approaches and developed capacity-building activities that demonstrate originality and creativity. Particularly noteworthy has been the contribution of local staff who despite their modest cost have demonstrated a high level of commitment and insight into capacity-building needs. In too many instances, however, staff have tended to be unsure of how the work should be approached. As a consequence, offices tend to limit themselves to the workshops and institutional formulas with which they are familiar, despite indications that more diversified approaches would produce a greater impact.

19. UNHCR needs to bring a greater commitment and professionalism to this area of its work. A first step would be to distill the organization's worldwide experience in capacity-building and begin to develop terms, methodologies, policies, guidelines and training modules. In adopting a more professional approach, UNHCR staff will also need appreciable help in upgrading their skills in this area of work.

20. The need for guidelines that would provide clear objectives and principles common to all the countries of the region is among the most pressing requirements. Although any guidelines should make allowance for the very different sub-region and country approaches required, it is nevertheless essential that strategic planning is formed around common objectives and approaches.

21. Although UNHCR would benefit from outside professional guidance, in general, progress in the capacity-building field can and should be achieved principally through internal means. Consequently, UNHCR will need to develop the professional resources to manage and guide this important activity.

22. It is clearly in UNHCR's interest to develop closer collaboration in the region with other organizations involved in capacity-building. Partnerships would permit UNHCR to widen its scope of involvement, increase the pool of expertise from which it can draw, and improve its funding potential. Perhaps the best example of the kind of initiative that should be encouraged is the strengthened partnership with IOM in the context of the CIS Conference follow-up. UNHCR is also often in a privileged position to introduce other organizations to countries whose experience of international experience institutions is still limited.

23. The potential for carrying out capacity-building activities varies among countries of the region. Capacity-building has always been welcomed by Central European countries which although they have only a relatively small number of refugees, are eager to adopt Western European models. Ukraine and Belarus share the same interests as the Central European countries, but have been faced with more significant refugee populations as well as being limited by and less experienced governments. Yet there is considerable potential for more capacity-building activities in both Ukraine and Belarus. This need, however, has not yet been meaningfully addressed.

24. In the Russian Federation, the UNHCR initial policy of non-involvement in the issue of returning ethnic Russians combined with the unpopularity of refugees has greatly hindered a capacity-building programme with considerable potential. There is, however, reason to believe that recent adjustments in UNHCR's approach will lead to at least partial realization of this potential.

25. In the Trans Caucasus countries, which have suffered from both regional and/or internecine conflict, there is a significant need for all types of UNHCR assistance. In addressing this need, UNHCR's office in Armenia has been able to capitalize effectively on the receptivity to UNHCR emergency assistance, and introduce a number of creative initiatives aimed at strengthening the Government's capacity. UNHCR offices in Azerbaijan and Georgia, on the other hand, have progressed more slowly. In general, these two offices have been more occupied with traditional refugee- and IDP-related issues than capacity-building.

26. Clearly, there is much potential for UNHCR to develop capacity-building efforts throughout the region. There is a growing recognition in the CIS and Central European countries that migration issues have to be given more attention. As a consequence, virtually all countries would like help with these broad issues, and have a desire to work with whichever agency proves to be most capable of providing the assistance needed.


(More detailed explanations and support regarding recommendations covered in Section: Areas requiring attention; pages 15-23)

A) UNHCR will need to recognise and accept capacity-building as one of its core activities and, accordingly, bring to this area an institutional focus that can lead to improved overall coherence, professionalism and effectiveness in this field.

B) UNHCR should develop capacity-building methodologies, terms and materials that can be consistently understood and applied throughout the entire organization.

C) While targeting common goals, the somewhat different circumstances in the countries of the CIS and Central Europe require UNHCR to develop separate combinations of capacity-building activities. The organization will need to ensure that the strategies to carry out the foregoing are shared and consistently applied by all concerned offices and staff.

D) UNHCR will need to put in place the means to gather and weigh its capacity-building experience worldwide as well as to strengthen cross-fertilising between the countries and sub-regions of the CIS and Central Europe, thus building improved institutional memory in this field. Increased use of on-the-spot assessments, experience-sharing workshops and teleconferences, study visits and special reporting can help to achieve this.

E) The organization will need to recognise the implications of protracted involvement which is a condition to successful capacity-building and make systemic adjustments accordingly. The issues requiring consideration will include multi-year planning horizons, longer-term support in-country, appropriate staffing arrangements and a modified funding base. A necessary, correlative measure will be to ensure that handover and phasing-out arrangements are inherent to all UNHCR capacity-building programmes and are much more rigorously put into effect by concerned staff than is currently the case.

F) UNHCR's capacity-building activities in the region need to break out of an over-reliance on traditional workshops and to draw on a wider and more systematically applied range of approaches and techniques, such as mentoring, on-the-job training, and more imaginatively conceived workshops when unavoidable.

G) Through its capacity-building activities in the CIS and Central European countries, UNHCR should consciously strive to act as a catalyst for countries to articulate their needs and to bring them into productive relationships with bilateral and multilateral organizations.

H) UNHCR staff capability to deliver capacity-building should be professionalised through skills development efforts that emphasize needs analysis, organizational development techniques as well as learning and group dynamics.

I) As a means to augmenting significantly its outreach and impact in the region, UNHCR's capacity-building activities should increasingly be planned and conducted with and through other organizations such as IOM (within the framework of the CIS Conference follow-up) as well as with bodies able to provide new expertise and funding.

J) In bringing an improved and sustained focus to capacity building, UNHCR will also need to ensure that its future efforts are backstopped with conceptual and technical support that incorporate the best professional experience available. Options here include the creation of an in-house specialist capability and/or the use of outside resources.


27. The absence of a single methodology and approach consistently applied throughout the region has provided UNHCR offices in Central Europe and CIS countries with an opportunity to experiment with a wide range of activities and approaches. Nevertheless, after several years of trial and error, UNHCR can usefully examine the initiatives that have proven to be the most successful and those that have encountered difficulties. Based on the review, UNHCR can begin harmonizing its approach throughout the organization and hopefully avoid repeating errors.

There have been underlying weaknesses

28. A somewhat ad hoc approach to the area is reflected in the confusing and often interchangeable use of the terms describing the activities, be it 'institution-building', 'capacity-building' or 'promotional activities'. The concepts appear to have seldom benefited from in-depth, internal discussion which in turn has meant unclear ultimate objectives and an apparent lack of consistency.

29. While a broad strategy for Europe was in fact developed and circulated in 1994 and which incorporated institution- and capacity-building as key items, application at the field level, though often deserving admiration, has nonetheless been sporadic and diverse. This is also to be explained by an absence of guidelines or similar documentation as well as a lack of individual briefing in what institution- and/or capacity-building actually are and how to go about them.

30. Consequently, activities have been more the result of inventiveness by an office or individual rather than forming part of a framework of interactive activities leading to planned levels of achievement, be it in-country or regionally. Not surprisingly, the notion of handing over and/or phasing-out of UNHCR's input is scarcely acknowledged by staff who have little vision of the broader picture or of the full range of approaches, methodologies and techniques they could resort to, nor at what stage the job should be considered complete.

Some activities have not worked out

31. Given the thirst for development that prevails in the region, few of UNHCR's activities have been outright failures, though an emergency management workshop offered in Kiev is quoted as having backfired due to poor adaptation to the Ukraine environment, as did an ECRE workshop for NGOs in Bucharest, for similar reasons. Of greater significance is what too many activities have failed to undertake or to achieve on account of insufficient professionalism in this field.

32. The range of adult-learning options is not familiar to most staff with the result that UNHCR has been overly dependent on workshops. A systematic approach, for example, to on-the-job training has been lacking, yet this has even greater potential for sustained and applied change than workshops. The same can be said for tutoring and mentoring relationships.

33. Workshops themselves are stepping stones on the long and often arduous capacity-building path. A number of UNHCR workshops show a lack objectives that tie in with previous activities. Many workshops pursue an obsession with pre-packaged knowledge and fail to ascertain participants' needs and provide them with an understanding of how to use that knowledge and how to behave in practice back in the workplace. Many workshops fail to produce action plans that can both guide participants after the workshop while also providing staff with valuable indicators for the next stepping stones, the follow-up activities. Though the foregoing can be considered standard workshop approaches, they are nonetheless demanding and call on skills and experience that many concerned staff do not yet possess.

34. UNHCR capacity-building activities tend to focus on subject matter, to the detriment of other areas where support is needed. For instance, government and NGO staff have only exceptionally been provided with guidance or instruction in what is generally referred to as "organizational development", i.e. how to equip their organizations or departments with decision-making mechanisms, staffing and funding systems that can underpin all else. Yet without that institutional capability to manage themselves, it is debatable whether the organizations in which UNHCR is investing other forms of capacity-building can actually fully use it. Similarly, few entities in the region are able to identify and draw up projects in ways that the outside world can respond to, yet only one project design workshop has been run in the region. (The workshop in question was convened in Moscow and is reported to have been well received.)

A number of factors contribute to these failures

35. Many of these factors are internal to UNHCR itself. The organization appears to have a somewhat non-committal, almost apologetic, attitude to its institution-building activities as evidenced by there being no identified item in its budgets. It also finances these activities over short time spans.

36. Institutional memory-building and the cross-fertilising of experience are also a problem. Thus capacity- and institution-building experience in different parts of the world does not appear to have been distilled for the benefit of the current effort in Europe (significantly, many staff in the region believe that UNHCR has never been involved in this kind of activity before). In fact, cross-fertilization of capacity-building experience between countries within the region itself is tenuous. Valuable experiments in Armenia are not known in Georgia or Azerbaijan for instance, let alone outside the Trans Caucasus while the PARinAC workshop experience gained with local NGOs in Georgia is not known to the other countries of that sub-region. Scattered terms and methodologies are the result and staff often do not have the wherewithal to deliver effectively. In short, institutional impact would be enhanced by a more forthright and professional approach.

37. Another factor is in part external to UNHCR. As a large and varied region, the CIS and Central Europe contain diverse conditions for which UNHCR must have the expertise and flexibility to respond. The needs for capacity-building in oil-rich, Moslem and war-torn Baku are quite different from those needed in sedate Budapest. The former calls for an ability to help build statehood in a wide range of areas. The latter calls for an ability to help to fine tune legislative provisions and their implementation in a relatively sophisticated environment. UNHCR's capacity-building repertoire lacks, as yet, the depth and agility to be responsive to such varied needs, let alone to bring strategic coherence to the activities on a regional basis.

Successes have been numerous

38. Despite the weaknesses described above, UNHCR's capacity-building efforts have incorporated many strengths which deserve to be noted.

39. In general, practical workshops run in-country by UNHCR national officers have been excellent value for money and have had considerable impact. Such workshops have targeted, for instance, the legal community, border guards or other groups.

40. The impact of country-level and sub-regional workshops bringing together government and NGO participants has also been considerable. Such events have allowed counterparts to communicate in ways that would almost certainly not otherwise have occurred. Although obviously more expensive on account of participant travel, where this has been done on a regional and multi-country level, as in the Caucasus and Central Europe, the impact has been greater still. Such events cast UNHCR in an invaluable bridge- and peace-building role, allowing individuals and organizations to gain trust in each other and sowing the seeds for national and regional cohesion.

41. As a rule, feedback on the improved performance and productivity of government officials back on the job after attending workshops held out of the country is favourable, with losses due to participants' job changes falling within acceptable parameters. Similar favourable feedback was gleaned regarding regional workshops for journalists.

42. Although maybe not as systematic as one would like, there are examples of working relationships in the region between UNHCR staff and country counterparts that have strongly influenced the building of local capability, such as in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Slovakia. Such working relationships, often through informal on-the-job training, have successfully passed new knowledge and skills to key individuals in both the government and the NGO sector which have then had a considerable multiplier effect. This is true both at field level (Armenia and Azerbaijan) and in the capitals.

43. Visiting non-UNHCR experts, though too rarely resorted to, have also had an impact. Where financed by donor countries, this has been a cost-effective approach for UNHCR and has had the advantage of sharing some of the message-carrying burden with others. The real-life experience, for instance, of the UK immigration officials who shared their perceptions in Kiev to the Ukrainians in February 1996 was of considerable assistance.

44. Although called on in a few cases only, the use of UNHCR General Service staff for the tutoring of NGOs or government departments in office and accounting procedures is an interesting initiative that is worth developing further.

45. In Central Europe in particular, there can be no doubt that UNHCR, despite the underlying unpopularity of its refugee message, has made inroads and succeeded in grabbing the attention of part of the legal community and enabled the interested minority to intervene more meaningfully in the debate on related issues.

46. The UNHCR strategy in Armenia deserves special mention. In this country, a particularly far-reaching approach to capacity-building has produced a combination of activities that has sought to develop communities, stimulate economic sectors, build civil society and human rights awareness as well as actively generate an NGO sector (see country profile on Armenia).

47. Clearly in Armenia, as in other countries where UNHCR has cumulated the DHA, ResRep and/or ResCoord functions, the office has had an opportunity to go deeper into capacity-building. Indeed, the effectiveness of capacity-building is enhanced by multi-disciplinary and multi-organization approaches, especially those that incorporate development-oriented considerations.

Various factors have contributed to the UNHCR successes

48. A major ingredient has been the interest of countries to emulate the systems of Western Europe. UNHCR has often been seen as the bearer of part of that knowledge and savoir faire.

49. In the Trans Caucasus, the high esteem which UNHCR enjoys as a result of its ability to respond energetically to the emergencies in Armenia and Azerbaijan, has opened the door for capacity-building activities.

50. Clearly the fact of a dedicated UNHCR presence in 14 countries has been a condition to being able to carry out such activities, as has been UNHCR's ability to devote substantial funding to the activities.

51. Underlying UNHCR's interest in capacity-building for Europe and its capability to deliver at all is a notable change that has taken place in the culture of the organization over the last ten years or so. UNHCR has built within itself a training culture consisting of an ability to identify and distill what it knows, to analyze staff development needs and to consciously build its own capability as needed. Capacity-building efforts in Europe is a logical extension of that capability for outside audiences. The honing of its internal capacity-building indirectly and directly benefits others in this field.

52. Several human resource initiatives have also been useful. The appointment in 1990 of a Legal Training Officer for Europe (based in Geneva and with dedicated funds) helped to bring a sense of purpose and direction to at least the legal aspects of the job. Likewise, the appointment in-country of National Officers has had a major impact. Many of these local staff have been well chosen and are of high calibre, and yet cost the organization little. They are effective within their environment, know the issues well and communicate fluidly.

While some approaches remain debatable

53. Integration of refugees, particularly through accommodation projects, is seen by many as the condition to arresting their continued movement westwards. UNHCR offices differ in their commitment to seeking the political approval and the concrete projects that will permit refugees to remain in their country of asylum. A lack of decisiveness, detectable in this area, has an impact on subject matter and approach to UNHCR capacity-building activities.

54. Public Information Officers have been appointed in the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Vienna and other offices of the region with a view to raising public awareness. The aim is laudable and can serve well the overall goals of capacity-building but some argue that public information activities have stirred up xenophobia rather than calmed it. Others say that in this region, public information activities are "shots in the dark" in very complex environments and in which public opinion is still hard to gauge and even more difficult to predict. Yet others say that public relations rather than information is the real priority.

55. There is without doubt a real capacity-building challenge to be met in influencing and informing the public. As much as in the training field, however, PI needs to be based on well agreed and understood objectives and strategies. Public information officers must have highly professional backgrounds in their trade. Good public information and/or public relations results stem from the merging of those shared objectives and strategy with the specialized knowledge of the media. That synergy may not be sufficiently present now.

56. UNHCR staff in the region express frequent frustration relative to the job changes that not infrequently affect government staff in whom a training investment has been made. Clearly, careful selection of staff for training events is important and this should take into account the prospects for the participant to continue in the refugee field. Experience shows, however, that over the long term, many such persons who appear to have been host to refugee work do in fact reappear in a related capacity to exert favourable influence.

57. There have been instances in which NGOs have been trained but not been given tasks or funds with which to apply their new capability. For instance, a technically successful programme of NGO training in Georgia in 1995/96 gave NGOs knowledge and skills but also raised expectations. Such events should be contingent upon a broader strategy that sets aside sectors of activity and funds, albeit in small quantities, to allow recently trained, nascent NGOs to initiate activities in the UNHCR field.

58. The UNHCR registration system introduced to the region has had a mixed reception. Since 1993 UNHCR has been developing and installing in the region a registration system known as CEERICS (Central and Eastern European Registration of Individual Cases System). The system was viewed at its inception as an institution-building measure designed for governments.

59. A survey carried out in February/March 1996 reveals that CEERICS has had a somewhat chequered career to date. The same impression was also gleaned during this overall review on capacity-building. The need for a registration system is clear, and especially one that can bring comparable approaches and information bases to the region's users. But for a wide variety of reasons, CEERICS has been used to date in only a small number of countries and then only with difficulty. Reasons have had to do with divergent views on its purpose, technical difficulties, inadequate expertise on site, slow turnaround on requests for modifications, or simply due to legislative or administrative developments in-country.

60. The internal survey recommends that "UNHCR not engage in any new CEERICS agreements, but rather focus on support to countries where both UNHCR and the Government are committed to making CEERICS work in 1996." It also recommends that "the requirements for individual cases registration within UNHCR offices should be assessed and the usefulness of CEERICS in this regard should be determined." Both points of view seem wise, and to which one might add two comments. Firstly, beyond the technical success or failure of the system to date, CEERICS has been valuable educationally in that it has helped raise both the issues of registration and the means of addressing them, which might otherwise not have happened so concretely. Secondly, more than one country suggested a regional workshop of CEERICS users, at the managerial and senior technical levels, to assess the system and reach joint conclusions regarding the future of the product or its successor product. The proposal may well be worth the expense.

61. Beyond computers and software connected with CEERICS, UNHCR has provided office equipment and vehicles in support of capacity-building efforts. Some have argued that a committed organization in Europe should not need this form of help, which could well be seen as official bribery. Others point out that part of the heritage of the Soviet system is a chronic lack of material resources of the simplest kind and that, without them, no capacity-building could be put into effect. On balance, the provision of equipment can be judged to have been positive, given that it has been of modest proportions and has generally been put to good use. It has also helped to generate goodwill in situations where the lack of equipment could be used as an excuse to defer action.

What is the capacity-building job?

62. A profile emerges as to the nature of the UNHCR capacity-building job and the main tasks that need to be accomplished. The international officer in such a position needs to perform the following tasks:

  • analysis and accurate assessment of the country's development needs in UNHCR's area of interest. (An ability to consider this within a broad review of human rights and migration issues would seem essential.);
  • placing the assessment within the regional strategic context;
  • designing a country capacity-building strategy and making adjustments thereto;
  • providing substantive know how in various fields and locating resources (documentation and/or persons) that can complement it;
  • establishing and maintaining in-country and in-region networks;
  • providing and sustaining strong mentoring relationships;
  • providing ongoing on-the-job training;
  • organising and running training; and
  • managing local staff resources to full complementary advantage

63. The question arises as to whether these tasks are basically different from those faced by international staff in other postings. On balance it would seem not, though some areas of emphasis may be. A profile also emerges as to the desirable traits of the international staff member posted to this kind of function. Characteristics and qualifications might best combine those one would expect to find in a well-rounded UNHCR generalist (probably with a legal profile) with those more specific to capacity-building, namely demonstrated interest and ability in people development issues, group dynamics and organizational development


UNHCR needs to bring focus to the field of capacity-building

64. Capacity-building is already an important UNHCR objective in the region and is destined to become ever more so. The raison d'être of UNHCR's presence in Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Trans Caucasus is to help countries that have recently emerged from Soviet rule to deal with refugee and related internally displaced in knowledgeable and effective ways which are compatible with international legislation and practices.

65. Much of the northern part of Central Europe should be ready to do that with considerable independence within a few years. In these countries, the predominant UNHCR activity is to assist them to acquire the proficiency and the means to do this.

66. In the southern countries of Central Europe as well as in Belarus, Ukraine and most of the Russian Federation, the process will be slower. In these countries, capacity-building is important but other UNHCR inputs are also called for, including assistance programmes and interim measures on behalf of individual cases as yet unable to receive protection from the state either because the countries are not yet party to the legal instruments or/and they lack the means or the will to behave in accordance with international practices.

67. In the countries of the Trans Caucasus as well as in the Northern Caucasus area of the Russian Federation, political and social instability together with major economic problems may render capacity-building more difficult but no less necessary. Such activities there are invaluable investments even if the countries' ability to exercise full independence in the UNHCR field will only come at a considerably later date.

68. Capacity-building thus emerges as the cornerstone of UNHCR's activities in the region. It follows that UNHCR must place a primary focus on delivering capacity-building with the highest levels of institutional ability it can muster. That must include the distilling of its experience throughout the world. It must include in-depth internal discussion on the subject, the concepts involved and the desired long-term objectives. It must include an approach to UNHCR member governments that presents the issues in question and proposes policies. It must include budgets that clearly identify capacity-building as such and that provide the activity with multi-year vision and capability. Capacity-building must emerge from the institutional sidelines, where it still is, to be given the impetus that can provide UNHCR with the intellectual, financial and technical capability to do the job to the best of its ability. Capacity-building needs to be at the core of UNHCR programming. Many of the suggestions that follow flow from this view.

In Europe and beyond, strategy must be global and shared and applied by all

69. Strategies for capacity-building in the region need to be reformulated so as to be comprehensive. They need to define objectives, including long-term ones, that apply equally to all parts of the region and to which all staff posted in all parts of the region can subscribe. The strategies, which must make substantial allowances for sub-regional and country differences, must construct frameworks of approach that ensure that activities interact to provide regional consistency of purpose and build final positions or products that help countries to relate to each other with similar approaches and institutions. The strategies must describe in some detail how objectives will be reached, with what activities and indicators of success or failure. Ensuring the strategies are applied consistently in the region should constitute a primary Bureau responsibility.

Terms and methodologies must be developed and distilled

70. It is increasingly inappropriate that what, in effect, has become a prime UNHCR activity is conducted without the underpinning of relevant research and documentation. It is important and urgent that the organization draws up guidelines and/or modules that incorporate information and references to provide UNHCR practitioners with the tools to do the capacity-building job as comprehensively and efficiently as possible. Such tools should ensure levels of consistency within the organization leading to improved compatibility of systems between countries.

71. Such guidelines and/or modules should incorporate definitions of relevant terms, descriptions of when and how to assess country capacity-building requirements, the various models of learning that apply, when and how to use them as well as pitfalls to watch for and avoid. UNHCR would also do well to develop materials that can provide staff with the means to help institutions develop their managerial capabilities.

Although working to shared goals, different approaches will be required for each sub-region or country

72. With a fuller palette of models and skills at their disposal once guidelines and more specialized training have been provided, UNHCR staff will be in a position to design their activities with greater accuracy. The ultimate goals and objectives for the Trans Caucasus or for the Russian Federation, for instance, will be the same as for Central Europe, namely to create a level of public awareness, professional competence and institutional strength that will allow the country to deal with refugees and related issues. Yet the methods used in each case will be adapted to the particular environment. The methods in question as well as the pacing of the approach should be reflected in the strategy itself to a considerable level of detail in order to ensure compatibility between countries and to guarantee a high chance of implementation.

73. It is recommended that at the earliest opportunity, individual case work be phased-out of the UNHCR offices that are still handling this with a view to achieving maximum concentration and the meeting of capacity-building objectives.

Improved institutional memory and cross fertilizing of experience must be achieved

74. Albeit under differing circumstances and using different terms, UNHCR has been involved for several decades in the capacity-building of governments and implementing partners around the world. Whether in Africa, Latin America or Asia, examples abound of formal or informal UNHCR efforts to influence the design of government structure, to share perceptions with regard to procedures and best practices, as well as to help set up new operational partners. Therein lies an essential UNHCR contribution over the years and a vital segment of its experience. It is proposed that experience be distilled and made available for the UNHCR efforts in Europe as well as for the rest of the organization.

75. To ensure new ideas and conclusive experiments are available to the other countries of the European region, UNHCR will need to put in place systems that ensure that ongoing analysis and sharing take place. Such systems may include comparative analyses of reports and documents sent to HQs by the field, as well as field visits by a practised expert. The results of this work should be disseminated to all practitioners. A highly beneficial approach is likely to be regular meetings of involved staff from different countries to allow them to 'compare notes'. An in-house or outside professional should also be present at such meetings to capture the ideas and build them into institutional literature.

76. This issue also raises a structural implication. An argument in favour of regional or sub-regional offices is the ease with which such cross-fertilising can take place at the field level.

77. It is also suggested that, in the immediate future and as a means of spreading successful approaches, officers who have gained substantial experience recently in Central Europe be made available to UNHCR offices in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus on extended missions.

78. Lastly Regional Bureaux will need to ensure that they effectively listen to and learn from each other. There is evidence that a vision of capacity-building, spearheaded and experimented by SWANAME primarily in Tajikistan, many not be familiar in all its detail to RBE.

Successful capacity-building must be seen as a long-term activity

79. UNHCR must bring attitudes of patience, consistency and monitoring to the job of capacity-building as well as adjusted approaches. The UNHCR culture is on the whole better adjusted to the requirements of large-scale action than to the development-like needs of capacity-building. The planning horizon for capacity-building will need to be at least three years and, better still five years to allow concepts to become firmly anchored and to ensure learning objectives can be realistically met. Projects will consequently need to be mapped over multi-year periods.

UNHCR can be a catalyst for inter-institutional dialogue

80. In certain locations of Central and Eastern Europe, UNHCR is one of the only few international organizations present. As such, and given the often privileged nature of the contacts that it possesses in-country and the nature of the information at its disposal, it is well placed to bring together country authorities and other organizations such as the World Bank and UNDP, as well as the international NGO community, especially when they visit the country. Capacity-building activities, and workshops in particular, provide an opportunity for the defining of needs and the joint search for remedial action.

81. On a broader scale it could be argued that the CIS Conference process has in itself been an excellent capacity-building exercise that has furthermore brought about inter-institutional dialogue.

UNHCR should hone its phasing-out skills

82. If the ultimate purpose of the capacity-building effort is to allow countries to perform with autonomy, UNHCR must design and rigorously implement its programmes accordingly. Failure to hand over activities in timely fashion and to step back, undermine the attaining of the basic objectives of capacity-building as partners lose the motivation to take responsibility.

83. The sub-regional and country strategies must define fields of activity, for instance, and in particular in parts of Central Europe today, from which UNHCR should retract by a given date, possibly choosing to continue watching from the sidelines until completely satisfied that performance is up to expectations. The regional strategy needs furthermore to foresee complete or partial UNHCR withdrawal from such countries within a given time-frame, with the countries being party in advance to that decision and helped to reach proficiency by the deadline.

84. In a number of instances UNHCR staff, in understandable fear for their jobs and despite their best professional intentions, may in subtle ways work against phasing-out. This is an area for senior management awareness, sensitivity and firmness.

Capacity-building methods need to be more imaginative and structured

85. While there is considerable evidence of inventiveness through the region as a whole, the standard capacity-building menu still tends to be reliant on workshops which, are not always professionally conducted and often focus unduly on the assimilation by participants of pre-packaged knowledge.

86. It is proposed that the organization assemble, distill, package and present to concerned staff its best experience with all of the models, approaches, methodologies and techniques with which practitioners in the field may work. A capacity-building programme should thus be an attainment of synergy between consistent components such as on-the-job coaching, different kinds of workshop offerings, conference attendance, a study tour, the visit of an outside expert, the provision of office materials, and the nurturing of individuals through carefully conducted mentoring or tutoring processes. Workshops themselves, where used, should be designed and led in ways that tie them in with the other components of the capacity-building process and utilise their full potential.

87. It is also suggested, beyond the subject-matter training that UNHCR provides, primarily in the protection field, that due attention also be given to 'organizational development', namely the management measures and skills that build the institution into a viable entity and concept often understood in the French-speaking world as 'l'administration publique'. If not delivered by UNHCR itself, then the organization would be well advised to work with organizations and/or individuals attuned to UNHCR's objectives and work methods, who might do this on its behalf and in complementarity with its other capacity-building activities.

UNHCR needs to work with and through others

88. For a variety of reasons it is very much in UNHCR's interest to undertake major portions of the capacity-building programmes in partnership with other organizations. The task is far too vast for any single entity, and partnership permits a greater coverage of the needs. Partnership allows the experience and expertise of other organizations to be brought to bear and therefore provides complementarity. Partnership also facilitates joint planning that divides up the job more effectively and avoids duplication and gaps. In times of dwindling resources, partnership improves the chances of being able to fund capacity-building programmes. With its increasing influence in the capacity-building field and its considerable field presence, UNHCR will eventually enjoy a strong position in most partnerships, thus in effect extending its influence further.

89. On a region-wide level, the primary partner for UNHCR is IOM, with which the basis for cooperation in Europe in the field of capacity-building and beyond is now established within the parameters of the CIS Conference. Through its Management Development Programme UNDP is a potential partner. DHA and UNDP jointly manage the Disaster Management Training Programme which has a significant contribution to make. The European Union also promotes and funds capacity-building projects in the region under the names PHARE and TACIS. It is suggested that a concerted negotiation effort with all of the foregoing, and others, could lead to enriched programmes, improved funding prospects and greater UNHCR outreach.

90. At the local level, indigenous NGOs can be found, assisted or even created whose task can be to train and nurture the creation of local NGOs. A good example of this is to be found in Armenia. Such specialized international NGOs will be far more effective at this task than UNHCR itself, and certainly much more cost effective.

91. An area of concern is that of coordination with bilateral bodies which offer capacity-building without coordination with UNHCR. Extreme examples of this have been workshops held in Moscow to FMS and others by Canadian and Finnish bilateral agencies leading to obvious overlapping and wasted resources. The CIS Conference follow-up process offers the opportunity to identify needs and resources as well as to solve coordination issue.

92. In countries in which UNHCR is implementing assistance programmes working through international NGOs, the contracts with those international NGOs can be made to incorporate significant local NGO capacity-building components. Virtually all international NGOs have the capability to train others but often need to be prevailed upon by UNHCR to do so. Azerbaijan and Georgia are good examples of where this should currently be negotiated.

Staff capability to deliver capacity-building will need developing

93. Certain personnel management initiatives could now be taken a step further. UNHCR has moved towards a regional delivery system that rests on the complementarity of the international officer and the national officer. That model is both effective and economical and should be pursued, the national officer bringing local cultural and linguistic knowledge, the international bringing experience from other parts of the world and the advantage of greater objectivity towards everyday problems. Given the high levels of education and the low salaries that prevail in the region, coupled with the obvious success of National Officer employment to date, UNHCR could do well to employ more National Officers thereby saving on international posts. Such a move could provide substantial savings without adversely affecting performance.

94. Some have made the case that the selection and appointment of international staff for duty stations in which capacity-building is the prime UNHCR activity should fall outside the rotation system, or at least be placed on a slower track. That point of view does not appear well-founded. Breadth of experience and neutrality are precisely the ingredients that are required to counterbalance the strengths of National Officer staff. The regular application of the rotation system provides just that. That being said, it is to be noted that for reasons of hardship, the duty tour of international staff in the countries of the Trans Caucasus countries is currently of limited duration (normally two years) and may be just a little too short from the capacity-building perspective. However, in this sub-region, the potential for appointing national officers who would help provide continuity may not have been fully realised.

95. It is clear that staff with certain attributes will be preferred over others, in particular those with a demonstrated interest and experience in capacity-building and training, those with a solid grounding in substantive protection, social and/or organizational development questions.

96. It will be vital, on the other hand, to provide all international staff, whatever their backgrounds, with extensive training in the contents of the guidelines and modules recommended earlier. They must also be brought up-to-date through thorough training-of-trainers processes on the latest presentation and group dynamics techniques. They must also be given in-depth briefing covering the strategy for the region and their country in particular as well as the cultural peculiarities they will be encountering.

97. National Officer staff will need induction and refresher training to be offered in Geneva or regionally to fine tune their broader knowledge of UNHCR work and objectives, and to ensure they possess the skills in which UNHCR as an institution has become proficient.

98. Beyond the supervision received from their seniors in the office, all UNHCR staff in the region in key capacity-building roles would benefit from on-the-job mentoring early in their tenure (say some time between 3-6 months into the job). Various options could be envisaged for this.

UNHCR's capacity-building efforts will benefit from professional support

99. The effort to bring UNHCR's overall capacity-building activities to a higher level of quality and consistency will need to be underpinned by professional help. What is needed overall is to provide a quality focus on capacity-building in much the same way as protection, site planning or social issues require a specialist input. Specific tasks that come to mind include: spearheading the effort to draw up the recommended guidelines/modules; advising offices and staff in respect of capacity-building strategies, programmes and delivery techniques; helping to design staff training; and, being a primary vehicle for the cross-fertilizing and recording of experience in different countries.

100. A major component of this professional capability would need to be institutionally based. For Europe the function is in part assumed at present by the RBE Legal Training Officer in Geneva and by the Regional Legal Training Officer in Vienna. The issues go beyond the current terms of reference of these posts, however, to embrace capacity-building in a much broader sense. Strong backgrounds in organizational development and/or training background as well as considerable practical experience also need to be brought to the issue.

101. Various in-house models could be considered, which would be either of organization-wide application or merely focused on Europe. On the one hand, the job descriptions of the present legal training posts could be amended to include the new responsibilities, but the posts would then need to be upgraded or an additional new post of Regional Capacity-Building Officer could be created in RBE or in the field; or a post of UNHCR Capacity-Building Officer could be created in either the technical support or training sections.

102. UNHCR would also be well advised to use, with flexibility, outside professional support in the capacity-building field, probably in the form of consultant services. Such support should provide the organization with a neutral view of how it is forming, can help to initiate a reform process and can share with the organization the body of experience gained by others.

Funding for capacity-building needs a new approach

103. In 1990/91, Western Europe was driven by a very real fear of massive influx of populations from the ex-Soviet sphere. With the realization that this would not come to pass, at least not in the near future, funding sources have shown decreasing interest in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Yet UNHCR's capacity-building activities are significant contributions to preventing or at least mitigating the effects of what could still come to pass.

104. On a broad plane, it can be anticipated that the funding potential for UNHCR's capacity-building programme in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe would be significantly improved by the more forthright approach proposed for the issue overall. With that would come analytical presentations of the objectives and strategies of those activities, demonstrated collaboration with others in the same field, and clearly identified budgets over realistic multi-year time-frames. All of this would testify to the seriousness of UNHCR's capacity-building commitment in the region. The organization would probably be well advised to proceed similarly for other parts of the world.

105. Clearly the follow-up process to the CIS Conference in collaboration with IOM, provides a privileged avenue for the pursuit of capacity-building funding for the Central and European countries.

106. In Central Europe specifically, the rule of thumb that funding of UNHCR activities should be roughly proportionate to the refugee presence hardly applies since the number of refugees is insignificant. This raises new issues. On the one hand, UNHCR must make the case with donors that capacity-building is a genuine preventive activity and is worth the money that goes into it in these countries. On the other hand, the need is clearly strong to seek out and enter into meaningful partnerships with organizations that do have a vested interest in prevention in Europe and will not be deterred by the current low refugee figures. In the Central European context it would thus appear particularly urgent to negotiate a new understanding at the highest levels of the European Union. Existing European programmes such as PHARE and TACIS, which need UNHCR's expertise and contacts, should be helping UNHCR in a meaningful way to sustain its activities. An association with the Social Development Fund of the Council of Europe could also be worthwhile.

107. In Ukraine and Belarus, the reasoning would be similar to that applying to the countries of Central Europe, with the difference that the refugee populations there are bigger and more difficult to deal with on account of the lesser development of the relevant institutions. On the other hand, Ukraine and Belarus being further from the donor countries in question, there will likely be less interest in providing financial assistance through capacity-building, although these countries' needs are actually greater. Again the EU should be approached with a view to securing much higher levels of cooperation with TACIS.

108. The Russian Federation has an appreciable number of refugees plus an estimated population of 3 million ethnic Russian returnees. Funding has to be seen here within the broader context of ongoing IMF, World Bank and bilateral negotiations with the Russian Government.


AUSTRIA (Also covering Poland, Czech and Slovakia)

109. A small, long-standing UNHCR office in Vienna has been turned into an office with a regional as well as traditional Austria-specific purview. The Liaison Offices in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic report to the office in Vienna. The latter also provides resource persons and/or backstopping to other UNHCR offices in Central Europe as and where required or requested. In the main, RO Vienna staff are divided into those with regional tasks and those with Austria-only tasks.

110. The office sees capacity-building in its various forms as a primary activity. In Austria itself this includes a strong focus on the NGO sector. UNHCR is also active in-country on the Public Information field. Given its history, geography and institutional structure, Austria is attuned to the Central European countries, is something of an EU outpost for the region and takes a close interest in UNHCR activities in the countries of the region, and is prone to candid expression of its views in this regard.

111. In the interests of harmony of approach, learning lessons between countries and disseminating those lessons, it appears both conceptually and managerially correct to be providing outposted regional capability. The approach is certainly cost-effective too since in most cases the existence of specialized regional staff should reduce staff needs correspondingly at the national level and at HQs.

112. Regional efforts have focused on legal promotion/advice and on training. The latter has been predominantly geared towards supporting the building up of legal institutions and procedures, has worked with short planning horizons and has been essentially knowledge-based in its approach. There is a realization in the RO that a more varied subject base is called for which should be projected over a medium- to long-term timespan. Workshops will need to be increasingly oriented towards problem solving. The approach itself will above all need to form part of an integrated strategy of interactive components that takes into account other forms of capacity-building undertaken by different staff of the Regional Office and of the concerned UNHCR offices.

113. The potential impact of a more comprehensive approach is far-reaching. On the one hand, it should be done very professionally and will certainly benefit from timely inputs from experienced training-design and -delivery experts. On the other hand, it should also be geographically extensive if it is to achieve its full potential for integrated systems between the countries, yet be creative and practical. However, the ability to realise the full benefits of a regional resource may be currently handicapped by the ambiguity that prevails with regard to the RO's role towards the UNHCR offices of the region, in particular with those offices over which it has no direct supervisory role.


114. Slovakia, like most of the other states in the region, is far from enamoured with refugees or migrant issues for that matter, yet is one of the region's shining examples of a country that has put considerable effort into trying to 'do things right', at least from the UNHCR perspective. The Convention and Protocol are signed, implementing legislation is in place, and Aliens and Refugee Laws are well advanced. This favourable state of affairs obviously has much to do with the country's geographical location, its small size and its avowed interest in aligning itself with Western approaches. But it also has to do with an effective UNHCR input from which lessons can be learned.

115. Though established relatively recently, the UNHCR Liaison Office in Bratislava is credited by the Government with being 'a small office with big influence'. Consisting of two internationals and two National Officers who are housed in premises paid for by the Slovak Government, the UNHCR office has had significant input into raising the awareness of Slovak officials, in guiding them relative to the institutions and procedures that would serve them best, in helping them put those in place, and in providing them with the professional training they needed to implement their new undertaking. Concurrently the office has provided educational activities to broad audiences of students, journalists, and members of the legal profession with a view to building a society with an improved understanding of refugee issues. The office has also provided targeted training in various parts of the country in anticipation of problems that would arise as implementation of legal procedures came on line.

116. A significant measure has been, in a poor NGO environment, the strengthening of existing, or the setting up of new, NGOs to handle specific aspects of attention to refugees, e.g. counselling and legal defence. These NGOs have needed considerable nurturing, notably with regard to their administrative and project management capability, and are performing well. Of significance is the example of civil society building that they represent in a region that needs more examples of this kind.

117. The question now needs to be asked in the Slovak context as to how far UNHCR should go in both its capacity-building efforts and in maintaining its presence. Although some senior members of the Government state that as far they themselves are concerned UNHCR's input is no longer required, there is evidence that at specialized levels at least they benefit from UNHCR expertise. Nonetheless, State personnel out in the field are not necessarily as proficient as staff in Bratislava, and UNHCR has a continued role to play, in monitoring the Government's activities generally. Clearly also, the promising work begun with NGOs should be pursued, given the vulnerability of this sector. To what depths should such work go, especially in a country in which refugees are currently to be counted in the hundreds? All things considered, UNHCR might legitimately consider reducing its international presence in Slovakia soon, covering the country from its regional office in Vienna and through a capable National Officer antenna in Bratislava.


118. Hungary was the first of the Central European nations to accede to the Convention in 1989. However it still has not signed the Protocol and the UNHCR Branch Office is conducting the determination procedure under the Mandate for non-European asylum-seekers. Recognised refugees, who number of few hundred only, are referred to the Red Cross and Interchurch aid. Hungary has also until recently been hosting former Yugoslavs who are now returning.

119. The Government and others in-country, who had little previous experience of dealing with international organizations, have clearly been disoriented by an apparent inconsistency of UNHCR approach and style over the years since the opening of the BO. This institutional weakness probably partly explains some disappointments that UNHCR has experienced in Hungary.

120. The office in Budapest sees refugee integration as key to containing the usual drift westwards. To do that, new jobs need to be created, the 'job-market pie' must be expanded if refugees are not to be perceived as taking jobs from Hungarians, and awareness-raising becomes a priority. But at $1.9 million per year the UNHCR programme appears expensive. Staff and office costs of $60,000 per month also seem high considering the size of the caseload on the one hand and on the other hand the size and development level of the country itself. Expectations of an early breakthrough relating to the Protocol and on the refugee-integration front fuel a current 'wait-and-see' approach.

121. Capacity-building is an important aspect of the BO's work. Various kinds of cost-effective workshop are run in Budapest and in the provinces. The office also stages monthly high-level discussion groups on the BO premises on subjects relevant to migration and refugee issues and of general interest to international and intellectual circles in Budapest. The model is original and clearly has been influential. Government officials recognise that they continue to learn through the meetings that they hold with UNHCR as well as by attending the interview process for mandate refugee status that the BO conducts. Workshops that have brought together government, NGO and international personnel score particularly high marks. BO staff worry about the turnover of government staff and the apparent loss that this implies when the officials in question have received UNHCR training. In Hungary, as much or more than in other countries of the region, UNHCR staff, especially local, need to be reminded that handing-over and eventual phasing-out must be UNHCR's purpose.

122. Of late, the office has set up an NGO to provide an 'informal umbrella coordination role'. The effort is a contribution towards the stimulation of the NGO sector and increasing its influence in refugee issues. The NGO in question conducts research into migration issues in addition to offering legal services. Therein lies a further multiplier opportunity for capacity-building.


123. Ukraine may not be part of the immediate buffer zone of interest to Western Europe but it actually has to deal with refugee and related issues on a magnitude that is considerably greater than those confronted by the countries of Central Europe. But UNHCR set up a full-time presence in Ukraine in 1994 only. With the benefit of hindsight, this may seem regrettable.

124. Ukraine has not acceded to the Convention and Protocol. Refugee legislation existed prior to UNHCR's arrival but is generally still not implemented. Over 5,000 asylum-seekers have been recognised by the UNHCR office since 1994, some of whom are financially assisted by UNHCR but often harassed by local police. Ukraine also harbours a large number of citizens of various origins (including Armenian and Chechnian) fleeing war or poverty and whom it absorbs without reference to UNHCR.

125. Ukraine is particularly fertile ground for a significant capacity-building effort that should take inspiration from the experience acquired by UNHCR elsewhere, and in particular in Central Europe. Though not without strong elements of conservatism that have carried over from Soviet days, Ukraine's backwardness with regard to the questions of concern to UNHCR is more the result of widespread unawareness than bad will. Many government officials plead for information, training and any other form of help that can help bring legislation, institutions and practice closer to those of Western Europe. Concurrently there are young NGOs and informal associations that have the background, information sources and attitudes that UNHCR needs and that, with the organization's help, would be natural allies in the quest to inform and influence constructively from the inside of Ukrainian society.

126. It is of great importance and urgency that UNHCR set up networks of capacity-building in Ukraine. They can be expected to have a considerable multiplier effect. A substantial part of the office's energy is currently being sapped by individual casework which, though meritorious in many ways, should be quickly passed to others. Awareness-building events of a general nature, broad based conferences and seminars in the legal field, targeted training for government and municipal authorities, special events for the NGO sector and press briefings are examples of activities that would soon lead to considerable progress. This must be the young office's absolute priority. It should not hesitate to assume a high profile in the country.

127. To achieve the foregoing, it is recommended that UNHCR staff with recent or current experience of capacity-building in Central Europe undertake extended missions to Ukraine to share approaches with senior staff in Kiev. It is also recommended that the Kiev office carefully recruit local, high-calibre staff at the National Officer level, both in protection and programme, to help meet these objectives quickly.


128. Of all the countries of the former Soviet Union, the migration and refugee situation of the Russian Federation is probably the most complex. Although it acceded to the Convention and Protocol in 1993 the Russian Federation is not implementing that commitment and the many thousands of refugees in the Russian Federation. It is estimated that some 3 million ethnic citizens of the Russian Federation have returned from the countries forming part of the former Soviet Union, often referred to as the 'near abroad'. Some observers estimate that 7-8 million of the remaining 22 million or so ethnic the Russian Federation in the near abroad may well return during the years to come as 'involuntarily forced migrants' or in some other capacity that will anyway require external help of some kind as well as a receiving country equipped to deal effectively with such numbers.

129. The UNHCR office in Moscow is sizeable and relatively well equipped. Its representative wears the Resident Coordinator as well as the DHA hats. Yet, despite this high profile, UNHCR and the Federal Migration Service (FMS), the principle counterpart, have experienced difficulty in matching points of view. The Russian Federation is preoccupied with its economic and other issues and assistance to refugees is not a priority. UNHCR's early reluctance to view refugee questions in tandem with the ethnic Russian issue was not appreciated in Moscow The Russian Federation authorities also wanted substantial financial support. The practical protection of refugees is difficult to achieve and programme activities are relatively limited. In the North Caucasus, on the other hand, a significant UNHCR involvement has borne fruit and is helping indirectly to improve the level of understanding with the Government in Moscow.

130. Beyond the very real requirements for new approaches in general that prevail in the Russian Federation and for which capacity-building is greatly needed, the latter is also a means for UNHCR to assist the Government to ponder its policies and gradually adjust its practices. The approach will call for patience and consistency but should ultimately be of considerable help. The FMS Department of Immigration Control, for instance, would benefit from expert advice on questions related to status determination, with the creation of a central information centre, and with the drafting of FMS regulations and internal instructions. Further provision of equipment would be useful as would be training in a number of specialized areas notably for officials of FMS at the Points of Immigration Control, Regional Migration Centres, reception centres as well as in other state agencies such as the Border Guards, the Ministry of Interior and the Federal Employment Agency. All of the foregoing need capacity-building primarily of a practical kind and also to delve into broader issues of organization, human rights and civil society. The thin NGO base willing to work with UNHCR also requires substantial support.

131. Needs greatly outstrip UNHCR capabilities. In the Russian Federation, more than anywhere, synergistic use of resources is needed in collaboration with other entities in the capacity-building area if efforts are to exercise leverage. At present TACIS, the Canadian and Finnish Governments, IOM and others are all involved in different activities of this sort. Only IOM and UNHCR, however, have plans to coordinate their inputs. Yet there is a need all round, with the multilaterals, bilaterals as well as the Russian Federation authorities themselves, to jointly establish objectives and resolutely work towards them over an extended number of years. To succeed at this could make a considerable difference. The CIS Conference follow-up provides in particular an opportunity not to be missed.


132. With the Abkhazian and South Ossetian situations still unresolved and some 300,000 IDPs scattered around the country to whom UNHCR extends assistance, Georgia is in continued political, social and economic disarray though militarily calm. The desire to rebuild Georgian statehood is present but commitment is sporadic and institutions are weak. The need for capacity- and institution-building could hardly be clearer.

133. Georgia has attracted many international organizations interested in helping the country with its capacity-building requirements. OSCE for instance, through study tours, conferences and seminars, focuses on 'the rule of law' and the building of Georgian civil society. The strongest lead in country has been taken by IOM which has spearheaded a comprehensive Capacity-Building Programme in Migration Management to which UNHCR contributes. The programme concept and strategy, with its comprehensive approach and that brings structure to the interactive nature of a variety of components in capacity-building for migration, is a model for what could be done more widely within the CIS. An interagency initiative provided the resources and expertise to set up the Georgian Coordination Bureau for International Humanitarian Aid which is also a good example of successful institution-building. UNHCR is contributing financially to this now-functioning body. UNHCR has helped establish and guide the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation which is its main counterpart.

134. Recognising the somewhat sterile nature of its assistance programme to IDPs (mainly delivered through international NGOs) amid the continued poor prospects of Abkhazian return, UNHCR has somewhat belatedly begun to place an emphasis on capacity-building. A series of workshops in the protection field has been recently started, well received and will doubtless pay dividends. Worthy efforts have also been made to nurture and train local NGOs through the PARinAC process in management and programme skills. A CIS-adapted version of People Oriented Planning has also been run in-country. More such efforts will be necessary in a country that thirsts for know how and guidance. However UNHCR must plan, structure and deliver these capacity-building activities as part of a well-thought-through strategy with clear objectives, synergy between activities and follow-through mechanisms. Some of the experience gained in Central Europe should be made available to UNHCR in Georgia to help it exercise this vision and intellectual leadership.

135. It is recommended that UNHCR renegotiate its agreements with its international NGO partners to include partnership arrangements with nascent local NGOs. Such partnerships should include initial, on-the-job training and other forms of capacitation. The arrangement should provide time-frames whereby the local NGOs in question progressively take over sectors of the programmes (see also the country profile on Azerbaijan).

136. An interesting government proposal worth examining is that of an international training centre for the Caucasus to be established in Tbilisi. The centre, for which the Government would be willing to provide premises, would be open to government and NGO participants and would provide capacitation to underpin a whole range of refugee, migration and related areas. UNHCR and IOM support would be welcome.


137. UNHCR has in Azerbaijan the opportunity to help the country build its capacity in a variety of ways. This opportunity is in large measure ascribed to considerable visibility enjoyed by UNHCR as a consequence of the running of an emergency programme that is generally viewed as having been responsive and dynamic. Azerbaijan has signed the Convention and Protocol and has implementing legislation in place. There is also a functioning refugee-determination procedure. A significant milestone in bringing this about was a UNHCR-sponsored, conference on refugee law, migration and human rights at the end of 1994 which, with presidential participation, helped to draw national attention to legal and protection issues.

138. At the assistance level, UNHCR works with a somewhat tangled government structure and which clearly needs ongoing help. There is evidence though that the participation of government officials in UNHCR regional workshops has been very useful in helping the government to conceptualize and professionalize its role. Additionally some strong mentoring relationships established between UNHCR staff (Programme as well as Field officers) and government officials has also had considerable impact. Further in-country workshops, notably those with a strong organizational development orientation, could help further. UNHCR would do well to continue its policy of supporting the IOM programme which has started to formally address this area.

139. Direct assistance to the million refugees and IDPs from the war with Armenia is channelled through a network of international NGOs. These NGOs have delivered assistance efficiently but have done little, other than through the employment of their own local staff and their influence on contractors and suppliers, to build an NGO sector that would remain after their departure and be able to perform with at least acceptable proficiency. It is clear that few international NGOs will take the initiative to do this, in the belief that they may thus be hastening their own departure. However, as the main provider of funds, UNHCR is in a position to make the capacitation of indigenous NGOs, and including, if need be, their initial creation, a contractual condition of service for international NGOs in country. There is no doubt that all the international NGOs have the capability to do this competently. As for Georgia therefore, it is recommended that UNHCR renegotiate this issue with the international NGOs in Azerbaijan, suggesting small-scale partnerships as the means to start. UNHCR can further set an example by identifying and establishing direct relationships of its own with local NGOs, as it has already done with the NGO Hayat.

140. With the maturing of the situation in Azerbaijan, the time has come, in line with the rest of the region, to shift the emphasis of its activities more resolutely in the direction of capacity-building. This is where the greatest contribution can be made in the long run.


141. Armenia is party to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. UNHCR activities in Armenia contain a particularly full range of capacity-building examples and illustrate well how a proactive and creative UNHCR approach can make a significant contribution to helping a country regain confidence and stability.

142. Following the war with Azerbaijan, its neighbour, several hundred thousand ethnic Armenians came to Armenia, a country which, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, was already in dire economic straits. In responding to Armenia's request for assistance, since December '92 UNHCR has constructed a web of interrelated activities designed to strengthen Armenian society in a number of ways while simultaneously addressing its population displacement and integration issue. To further its objectives, UNHCR in Armenia has used to advantage the small size of the country, the compelling nature of the emergency situation that it faced, the strong national identity of Armenia and the fact that the concerned populations were all of the same cultural belonging, as well as the existence outside the country of the Armenian diaspora with its political and financial influence. The UNHCR representative also has made use of his position of DHA representative and sometime Acting Resident Coordinator.

143. Instead of channelling through international NGOs care and maintenance assistance to the scattered population, UNHCR chose to do this through the community structure, while purposefully seeking to develop and strengthen it. Income-generation programmes are currently being identified and implemented in similar fashion. A large-scale UNHCR shelter programme is implemented on a nationwide tendering basis which helps to breathe life into the economy by using local resources and providing employment. Concurrently, local NGOs have been trained and contracted for specific small-scale tasks, which in time it is planned should lead to more extensive tasks as their capabilities are confirmed.

144. UNHCR Armenia, in partnership with other organizations in country, also lends active support to a training centre for local NGOs from which 20-30 capacitated and equipped NGOs are expected to emerge within a year, several of which can be expected to become UNHCR implementing partners. UNHCR has also been instrumental in the creation of the Armenian Centre for Democracy and Human Rights which could become an influential tool for the development of civic society. The office has also helped IOM to establish its Migration Management project. Training on the job, mentoring roles, and workshops have underpinned all of the foregoing initiatives

145. The key to influencing and delivering on so many fronts has been the office's outreach, achieved by recruiting significant numbers of local staff who have cost the office very little but who work hard and well, and by instigating at field level the setting up of a network of government Refugee Officers who act as responsible counterparts. Many of these persons, through osmosis, example and as a result of direct training, can be expected to contribute significantly to the continued capacity-building of the country, long after UNHCR's departure. There are many lessons to learn from UNHCR's achievements in Armenia which should be factored more generally into the organization's capacity-building approaches.