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UNHCR’s engagement with integrated UN missions: Report of a lessons learned workshop.


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About this resource

Resource type:Lessons papers
Keywords:Accountability and Participation, Capacity development, Conflict, violence & peace, National & regional actors, Participation, Training
Agency:UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Author(s):Tennant, V.
Date published:August 2009

This report summarises the discussions at a workshop held in Geneva on 20 and 21
November 2008. The aim was to capture key lessons from headquarters and field
experience in engaging with integrated UN missions, with the aim of defining key
objectives to be pursued in UNHCR’s engagement within an integrated UN presence
in country operations where UN peacekeeping or political missions are deployed,
and informing future policy and operational guidance.
Discussions were structured around a draft policy guidance note, which sought to
identify eight key policy goals which might be pursued by UNHCR. This covered
issues such as the relationship between the integrated approach and UNHCR’s
mandate for refugee protection and solutions, and its role in relation to internal
displacement; the implications of integration for humanitarian action; the integrated
mission planning process (IMPP); security management; security of beneficiaries;
return and reintegration; rule of law and reconciliation; mission services and assets;
and staff secondments. The key components of the draft policy guidance were
broadly endorsed by participants, however it was felt that some proposed goals
should be nuanced or expanded.
The starting point for the discussions was that integration is now a key element of
the operational landscape, and that UNHCR should engage decisively in this
process. Significant recent developments include June 2008 Policy Committee
decision, which confirmed integration as the ‘guiding principle’ underpinning UN
engagement in operations where peacekeeping or political missions are deployed.
Participants saw the integrated approach as offering significant opportunities for
enhanced delivery of the ‘solutions’ component of UNHCR’s mandate, and linking
this to broader conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. Other opportunities
were identified in the potential role of integrated missions in contributing to the
protection of civilians, including through support to return and reintegration and in
enhancing the security of IDP and refugee camps.

Participants nonetheless highlighted the potential risks of integration in situations
where confict is still ongoing or a peace consolidation process has not yet taken root.
In such situations too close an alignment between humanitarian agencies and UN
political or peacekeeping actors may undermine the perceived neutrality and
impartiality of humanitarian action and pose a threat to humanitarian space. In such
situations structural integration (locating the Humanitarian Coordinator function
within the mission) should be avoided, and the form of integration adopted (if at all)
should be minimal.
Participants emphasised the need for substantive senior management commitment to
strategic engagement with integrated missions at all stages of their development and
deployment. It was suggested that as well as developing a clear policy and strategy
on engagement within an integrated UN presence, a clear strategy should also be
developed for each situation in which integration was tabled, to be jointly pursued
by UNHCR staff at country level, in New York, and at Headquarters. Participants
also encouraged UNHCR to invest efforts in fostering open and informed attitudes by UNHCR staff to the integrated approach, through education, training and
appropriate career development opportunities, including strategic secondments.


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