Evaluating UNHCR’s Engagement in Humanitarian-Development Cooperation

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A Jordanian and Syrian worker of a food processing factory in Jordan. The company employs Syrian refugees as well as local Jordanian staff. Source: Bea Arscott/​DFID

Traditionally, humanitarian actors provide relief and post-emergency recovery while development actors work with governments to achieve the longer-term improvement of socio-economic conditions. That divide is increasingly being called into question, among others by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR has recently strengthened its commitment to enhancing cooperation with development actors, for example by agreeing to the UN’s New Way of Workingat the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, as well as in the context of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the Global Compact on Refugees.

    The expectation is that better cooperation will strengthen the inclusion of displaced people in national systems, improve national systems through more support from development actors, increase development actors’ engagement in human rights and protection, and free up capacity to focus on emergency situations. However, there are also concerns: some fear that more humanitarian-development cooperation could lead to lower standards in service delivery or result in compromises on the humanitarian principles. 

    Commissioned by UNHCR’s Evaluation Service, GPPi and the International Security and Development Center (ISDC) are accompanying the agency over the critical period of mid-2018 to late 2022 to evaluate its engagement in humanitarian-development cooperation. In the first three years, the evaluation took stock of UNHCR’s current level of cooperation with development actors, assessed the effects of this cooperation, and supported UNHCR in refining its strategy as well as its operational approach to humanitarian-development cooperation. The evaluation focused on four country operations: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan, and Niger. 

    In an extension of the project through 2022, the evaluation team is accompanying UNHCR through the follow-up and implementation of the evaluation recommendations from the first three years, and seeks to generate new learnings on successful cases of refugee inclusion.

    Evaluation Type

    A developmental, longitudinal strategy and impact evaluation.

    Key Questions: 2018 – 2021
    1. What is the status of humanitarian-development cooperation in the case-study countries?
    2. Which factors facilitate or hinder enhanced cooperation in the case-study countries? 
    3. How relevant and effective are recent measures taken by UNHCR to enhance cooperation?
    4. What effects does the cooperation have on UNHCR, development actors, and the host government in the case-study countries?
    5. What effects does the cooperation have on affected people in the case-study countries?
    Key Questions: 2022
    1. How consistently is UNHCR implementing the formal response to the strategic recommendations of the 2018 – 2021 evaluation? 
    2. How effective do different stakeholders perceive UNHCR’s planned actions to be and what, if any, gaps in planned actions have emerged?
    3. What have been the tangible and measurable effects of humanitarian-development cooperation on the lives of refugees and other persons of concern, particularly in relation to the inclusion agenda? 
    4. What good practices and lessons emerge in relation to UNHCR’s inclusion agenda? What gaps and opportunities for collective action remain?