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Collected Department Releases: 2018-2019 Framework for Cooperation Between the United States Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

PRM-UNHCR Framework for Cooperation for 2018-2019


May 7, 2018

  1. Introduction

This Framework for Cooperation (the “Framework”) sets forth agreement between the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the United States Department of State (hereinafter referred to as “PRM”) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (hereinafter referred as “UNHCR” or “the Organization”). PRM and UNHCR (the “Participants”) have been working in partnership through a Framework for Cooperation since the year 2000 to provide protection, humanitarian assistance, and facilitate durable solutions for UNHCR’s populations of concern in accordance with its mandate, conferred upon it through its statute[1] and by subsequent General Assembly resolutions on refugees and other persons of concern. PRM and UNHCR have a unique relationship. The United States (herein after referred as “U.S.”) government, primarily through PRM, remains UNHCR’s top donor, while UNHCR has been PRM’s largest multilateral partner. PRM and UNHCR renew their bilateral Framework for Cooperation biennially to advance shared objectives.

This Framework focuses on setting out shared goals and priorities; oversight and monitoring responsibilities (and actions); and details of communications and reporting at an institutional level. It seeks to advance humanitarian reform commitments in line with ongoing larger UN reform efforts.

It is understood that this document, in its entirety, constitutes policy commitments by PRM and UNHCR, and is therefore not legally binding.

  1. Shared Goals and Priorities

With nearly 66 million people across the globe forcibly displaced from their homes in 2017, displacement is a defining foreign policy and security challenge of our era. PRM and UNHCR will continue to work together to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Participants’ working relationship and strengthen UNHCR’s capacity for efficient and effective operational delivery, particularly given ongoing UN reform efforts. The Framework is aligned with UNHCR’s Strategic Directions 2017-2021, Global Strategic Priorities (GSPs) 2018-2019 (p. 28-33), which includes specific indicators that measure and report on UNHCR’s overall achievements on these priorities, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), and PRM’s 2017-2019 Functional Bureau Strategy and is guided by priorities of the Executive Committee and its Standing Committee. PRM will continue to support UNHCR’s efforts to protect and respond flexibly, transparently, and efficiently to the needs of its persons of concern.

UNHCR’s strong leadership in the protection of asylum seekers, refugees, IDPs, and stateless persons as well as sharing and upholding protection principles and standards for these populations is central to PRM’s support for the Organization. Protection is at the core of PRM and UNHCR’s humanitarian mission. It is especially important to integrate protection for vulnerable populations with special needs and vulnerabilities into assistance programs and reinforce these efforts. It is also important that UNHCR provide needs-based protection and assistance to its persons of concern. PRM expects UNHCR to:

  • Safeguard access to territorial protection and asylum procedures; provide protection against refoulement; support the adoption of nationality laws that prevent and/or reduce statelessness; and secure birth registration and individual documentation based on registration (Source Data: GSP yearly progress reports; Global Report).
  • Reduce protection risks faced by persons of concern, in particular, discrimination, gender-based violence, and specific risks faced by children (Source Data: GSP yearly progress reports; Global Report; Governance reports; PRM-funded special projects: Safe from the Start and Child Protection reports).
  • Ensure a holistic, efficient, and effective response in non-camp and protracted situations (Source data: Global Report; Governance reports; Country Operations Plans).
  • Strengthen UNHCR engagement across the entire continuum of forced displacement, including IDPs, which leads to an Organization that is more decisive, predictable, consistent, effective, and automatized in its engagement with IDPs as outlined in its Strategic Directions 2017-2021 and internal IDP Operational Review (Source Data: Governance reports).
  • Work toward a more uniform implementation of “one refugee” policy to ensure that refugees residing in any one country receive assistance according to their needs; that UNHCR intervenes in an equitable, needs-based way. (Source Data: Global Appeal; Global Report).

PRM and UNHCR will work together to continue to support UNHCR’s efforts to achieve minimum standards of assistance and lasting solutions for its persons of concern, taking into account necessary measures to support affected and hosting communities. Among these efforts, PRM encourages UNHCR to:

  • Reduce mortality, morbidity and malnutrition among persons of concern through multi-sectoral interventions with a particular focus on prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) and under-5 mortality rate (Source Data: GSP yearly progress reports; Global Report).
  • Strengthen its commitments to refugee women and girls and Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) through the implementation of its 2018 updated Age, Gender and Diversity Policy, which includes a global implementation and monitoring plan. (Source Data: UNHCR yearly Age, Gender and Diversity: Accountability Report).
  • Regularly collect, analyze, and use feedback obtained directly from persons of concern to directly affect the quality and relevance of UNHCR’s assistance. UNHCR will seek and consider such feedback in program design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation as well as in its budget planning and prioritization, review, and re-prioritization. Further, UNHCR will provide feedback on such decisions directly to the affected population, ensuring transparency through communication, in line with its AAP work. (Source Data: UNHCR yearly Age, Gender and Diversity: Accountability Report).
  • Strengthen relief and development coherence by continued collaboration with the World Bank, and work with other International Financial Institutions (IFIs), regional development banks, and other development actors to increase burden sharing. Such efforts will provide additional financing, and enable country of origin governments and host governments to make investments to stimulate economic growth, expand educational opportunities, and alleviate strains on infrastructure and social services. PRM will continue to work with USAID to coordinate the assistance the U.S. government provides and to streamline coordination and linkages between development and humanitarian programs (Source Data: Governance reports and interventions).
  • Expand the countries resettling refugees and support the strengthening of other established resettlement programs. PRM will continue to work with UNHCR on maintaining and strengthening the integrity of the resettlement system and that resettlement functions are sufficiently prioritized and resourced within the UNHCR budget (Source Data: Governance reports and Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement reports).

PRM and UNHCR are jointly committed to continued progress of Grand Bargain commitments in order to promote greater coherence, efficiency, transparency, and accountability in humanitarian response. The Grand Bargain aims to strengthen how humanitarian assistance efforts are designed, funded, implemented, and evaluated in order to maximize effectiveness and enhance accountability to affected populations. Given that several UNHCR and U.S. government commitments have been met or are on track to be met, PRM and UNHCR will focus on advancing the more exigent commitments in the next two years, including:

  • In collaboration with ICRC and IFRC, UNHCR will come to an agreement with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) on modifying the existing standards in order for UNHCR to meet IATI requirements, for IATI standards to change, or establish other method of transparent financial reporting by the end of 2019 (Source Data: Yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain).
  • UNHCR reduces the cost of procurement and logistics by at least 5% through the use of shared services with partner agencies with the goal of meeting or exceeding its full commitment of 10% by 2020 (Source Data: Yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain).
  • 80% of UNHCR operations report that they have undertaken joint needs assessments and joint analysis, based on UNHCR’s September 2017 Grand Bargain report; by 2019 UNHCR will conduct joint needs assessments and joint analysis in all operations where it has a significant operational presence and coordination role (Source Data: Global Focus, Yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain).
  • Meaningful participation of women and adolescent girls in all decision-making processes and structures increases to 75% of UNHCR situations that report on this indicator, based on the 66% improvement reported in UNHCR’s September 2017 Grand Bargain report (Source Data: Yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain; GSP yearly progress reports).
  • Contingent upon UNHCR putting forth and successfully carrying out strategic plans of sufficient rigor, transparency, and accountability, PRM will pilot adjustments in its own funding practices to allow greater flexibility for UNHCR to direct PRM funds to the most urgent needs in each crisis, consistent with existing statutory requirements (Source Data: PRM COP monitoring; USG yearly report on the Grand Bargain; UNHCR yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain; Governance reports on UNHCR’s change management/reform; UNHCR allocations reporting).
  • UNHCR will continue to work with WFP and UNICEF to establish harmonized and simplified procedures for partnership management and increased efficiencies (Source Data: Yearly Governance reports on the Grand Bargain).
  • By end of 2018, the USG will issue a Grand Bargain-related policy paper outlining USG priorities for implementation of Grand Bargain commitments and PRM will advocate for fulfillment of those priorities in each multilateral setting, including that other donors advance their own Grand Bargain commitments.

The world is facing an unprecedented level of forced displacement with the humanitarian system stretched to its limits. UNHCR is engaging with States and other relevant stakeholders in a new way of working through the implementation of a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) for situations involving large movements of refugees. The CRRF is being implemented in self-selected countries and regions to date, including: Central America, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Zambia. Starting in 2018, the CRRF will be applied to any future large-scale refugee displacement situation, and in 2019, the CRRF “approach” will be applied to all operations where UNHCR has a significant operational presence. These comprehensive responses are undertaken in full partnership with relevant national and local authorities, UN entities, NGO partners, the private sector, and other stakeholders. It is important to mobilize support for implementation of the CRRF. PRM expects that:

  • There is a 10% increase each year in the number of countries/situations with mechanisms in place to roll out a Comprehensive Refugee Response (CRR) that have common, articulated, and measured outcomes (Source Data: Yearly Governance reports).
  • National commitment from CRRF countries for refugee access to legal employment and/or livelihoods improves by 10% each year (Source Data: Governance reports).
  • PRM will continue to support the CRRF through engagement in the U.S. interagency, its annual contributions to UNHCR, diplomatic efforts, and bilateral support to NGO partners with the collective goal of increasing the number of countries that contribute to refugee assistance and solutions, growing the pool of private sector and civil society partners that provide aid, and increasing the coherence of humanitarian and development work (Source Data: PRM financial reporting and governance interventions).
  • By end of 2019, establish an MOU between the United States (PRM and USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment) and UNHCR on education given that the education sector is uniquely placed to advance coherence and alignment between humanitarian and development policy and practice; the education sector shows shifts and opportunities to address relief and development coherence (RDC) and is a critical part of implementing the CRRF and enhancing refugee self-reliance (Source Data: Finalized MOU).

PRM will continue to work with UNHCR on prioritization of budget allocations, transparent prioritization, fiscal discipline, and impact of the implications of unfunded or under-funded activities. PRM confirms its commitment to remain a strong supporter of UNHCR, while believing that UNHCR should expand resource mobilization efforts and strive for and demonstrate a broader-based donor support and seek more equitable burden-sharing among donors.

  • UNHCR will work to expand its donor base for voluntary contributions, including through increasing its government, private sector, and pooled funds contributions by 3% in 2018 and 2% in 2019. These targets are based on the assumption that UNHCR’s budget remains relatively stable in 2018 and 2019 (Source Data: Governance reports; Global Report).
  • PRM and UNHCR agree on clearer communication with stakeholders of priorities within UNHCR’s Annual Program Budget in order to ensure that prioritized activities are fully funded and communicate impact of underfunding (Source Data: Global Appeal; governance reports and interventions; PRM COP monitoring).
  • UNHCR will strengthen its dialogue with Member States and other stakeholders in the planning and preparation of its Country Operation Plans in its Annual Program Review, recognizing the importance of input from key actors at each stage of UNHCR programming and budget formulation, in particular, UNHCR will use planning workshops at the country level by involving representatives of beneficiaries, non-governmental organizations, host governments and host community members, and donors at country level. UNHCR will keep Member States fully apprised during the course of the year on any reductions and other significant changes to programs and budgets by providing this information no later than 10 days after such changes occur (Source Data: PRM Refugee Coordinator reporting; Global Focus).
  • Recognizing the need for early, sufficient, predictable and sustained funding support, PRM will continue to strive to provide flexible and early contributions to UNHCR, and support the “one refugee” policy. UNHCR understands that PRM support depends on funding availability and UNHCR’s demonstration of needs and results including those outlined in this Framework (Source Data: PRM financial reporting and contribution language; Governance reports on UNHCR’s change management/reform).
  • PRM will continue to provide contributions through its Reserve Pledge for Emergencies that provide UNHCR with the ability to respond to small-scale emergencies in real-time (Source Data: PRM financial reporting, UNHCR reporting on use of the Reserve Pledge).

UNHCR will redouble its efforts to raise the profile and visibility of the U.S. as a donor who provides substantial, flexible, relatively unearmarked support for the organization. Deepening public understanding and informed commitment is a part of the global humanitarian response.

  • By the end of 2018, UNHCR will ensure that its visibility guidelines are disseminated to its all of its field operations and that they are being implemented by reflecting U.S. and other major donor support in the field and in public information tools, particularly when flexible earmarking (e.g., at the regional, sub-regional, or country-level) is provided. The guidelines should include specific information on how loosely earmarked funds are allocated to country operations in order to more accurately reflect this information in fundraising tools.
  • By the end of 2018, PRM and UNHCR will agree on a visibility strategy that will provide greater recognition to the U.S. and acknowledgement of U.S. contributions.
  • UNHCR will more clearly and prominently acknowledge U.S. contributions in 75% of public information tools by the end of 2018 and 100% in 2019.
  1. Oversight and Monitoring

Conformance with conditions on U.S. contributions to International Organizations, and conducting operations consistent with UN humanitarian principles of neutrality, humanity, independence, and impartiality, remain shared priorities.

Consistent with numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, including S/RES/1269 (1999), S/RES/1368 (2001), and S/RES/1373 (2001), both DOS and the Recipient are firmly committed to the international fight against terrorism, and in particular, against the financing of terrorism. It is the policy of DOS to seek to ensure that none of its funds are used, directly or indirectly, to provide support to individuals or entities associated with terrorism. In accordance with this policy, the Recipient undertakes to use reasonable efforts to ensure that none of the DOS funds provided under this award are used to provide support to individuals or entities associated with terrorism.

In addition, UNHCR will continue to strengthen the Organization’s internal governance and oversight processes. PRM and UNHCR affirm the importance of risk management, including increasing coordination across the Organization on contextual, institutional, programmatic, fiduciary, and professional risk management. In order to prevent cases of fraud, mismanagement, and abuse, PRM and UNHCR agree that comprehensive management oversight responsibilities – as well as accountability – need to be strengthened to ensure the integrity of UNHCR’s operations. PRM will support UNHCR in its allocation of sufficient human and financial resources to fully implement measures to improve accountability, transparency, oversight, and program management, and will request regular updates on progress through its governing structures. UNHCR agrees to report on such actions to the Standing Committee. Focus areas for 2018-2019 should include, but are not limited to:

  • Strengthening coherence of oversight across different levels of responsibility: 1) field- and country-level staff, 2) regional and headquarters staff, and 3) Inspector General’s Office (IGO) and other higher-level oversight.
  • The IGO provides the High Commissioner with independent assurance and oversight of UNHCR's activities and operations. This in turn, protects the integrity and improves the efficiency of programs and operations. It also detects and investigates fraud and abuse, including through internal audits provided by the Office of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS) UNHCR Audit Service, investigations, and other oversight advisory services. It also strategically analyzes oversight mechanisms.
  • Continued expeditious and judicious implementation of internal UNHCR audits and evaluations, in particular, of the UN Board of Auditors’ recommendations.
  • Ongoing Headquarters reform initiatives through change management through improving management capacity, increased program quality and efficiency, and increased financial sustainability and accountability of the Organization.
    • Implement the findings of the independent external review conducted in June 2016 of UNHCR’s oversight functions to ensure greater coherence and coordination, using a risk-based approach.
    • Strengthen oversight, human resources system reforms, and how headquarters more effectively supports the field.

PRM and UNHCR have a zero tolerance approach towards fraud and misuse of funds and UNHCR shall endeavour to ensure that it has all necessary standards and mechanisms to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption. These include: (a) staff regulations and administrative requirements and procedures to ensure the ethical behavior of management and staff; (b) established Hotline and Whistleblower Protection program; (c) an internal investigations function that is sufficiently resourced and independent; and (d) a system for exclusion from the procurement process (temporarily or permanently) of firms or individuals determined by the organization to have engaged in fraudulent or corrupt activities. UNHCR will:

  • Address any allegations or information relating to fraud and corruption in accordance with its own accountability and oversight framework and established procedures.
  • Without undue delay inform PRM of any event which materially interferes or threatens to materially interfere with the successful implementation of its activities, including credible suspicion of or actual fraud, corruption, or any other financial irregularity or impropriety. All suspicions will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.
  • Keep PRM informed about progress and results of investigations related to such events and suspicions and any follow-up actions.
  • Continue to uphold the Code of Conduct on Protection Against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) in line with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s (IASC) six core principles and the 2003 UN Secretary General’s Bulletin. UNHCR has a corresponding implementation plan, including appropriate systems to train staff and investigative capacity to address allegations of staff misconduct, including PSEA.
  • Regularly update the Executive Committee covering inquiries and main categories of investigations, the number of such types of investigations, the average time to complete investigations, and a description of the related disciplinary action.

PRM funds broad, multi-sectoral, and multi-objective programs through contributions to international organizations (IOs) such as UNHCR. PRM contributions to these organizations not only provide critical core support but also leverage funding from other international donors to address the universe of humanitarian needs. The multilateral context of these programs requires PRM’s monitoring to be coupled with strong humanitarian diplomacy with other donors and humanitarian organizations. A key component of PRM’s leadership in coordinated humanitarian programming and diplomacy includes robust monitoring of IO partners. Through regular reporting and dialogue, including on policy and program issues identified in this Framework, PRM intends to continue to monitor closely the Organization’s work, and also aims to ensure that UNHCR is strengthening its capacity to monitor its own programs. PRM will continue to share with UNHCR the results of its monitoring and analysis, and welcomes feedback from UNHCR in response to PRM findings and recommendations. In addition to UNHCR’s own oversight mechanisms, PRM monitors UNHCR in several ways, including:

  • Active engagement at capital-level in UNHCR’s governing body, the Executive Committee and Standing Committee.
  • Consultations between PRM and UNHCR leadership.
  • Field monitoring by PRM regional refugee coordinators (RefCoords) and PRM program officers.
  • Participation in UNHCR’s Country Operations Plan exercise at the field level.
  • Regular engagement with PRM’s Washington-based Multilateral Coordination and External Affairs (MCE) Office and Geneva-based headquarters via the U.S. Mission in Geneva/Humanitarian Affairs (HA), as well as UNHCR’s office based in Washington, DC.
  • Analysis of UNHCR Global Appeals, Global Reports, Mid-year Trends Reports, Global Trends Reports, and other annual reports, located here, as well as analysis of UNHCR regional and country updates, factsheets, and donor communiques.
  • Review of UN Board of Auditors audits and internal IO audits.
  • Reporting from other partners, such as other humanitarian agencies and donor governments.
  • Third-party monitoring in settings where PRM staff do not have the ability to monitor programs directly in the field given security constraints.
  1. Communications and Reporting

In pursuit of meeting the goals and achieving the results articulated in this Framework, PRM and UNHCR remain committed to continuous information sharing and cooperation at all levels. PRM has a close working relationship with UNHCR and is in frequent contact with the organization through UNHCR Headquarters, UNHCR’s Representative Office in Washington, D.C., and in the field. UNHCR intends to work closely with PRM staff in Geneva and Washington D.C., as well as the regional PRM Refugee Coordinators and political officers covering refugee issues at U.S. Embassies to inform PRM of developments, challenges, and achievements throughout the year.

PRM and UNHCR will continue to hold semi-annual Framework discussions on policy and program issues identified in this document. Mid-year Framework discussions will take place in June, while end-of-year Framework discussions will take place in December. PRM and UNHCR will prepare a joint written internal note following the mid-year and end-of-year discussions. In the fall of 2019, the Framework for Cooperation document will be revised to cover 2020-2021.

Reflecting the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship, PRM generally relies on standardized reporting based on UNHCR’s reports via governing board meetings and annual reports referenced in Section III. Any additional reporting separate from standardized reporting is negotiated bilaterally with UNHCR through a reporting matrix, with the focus on contributing to evidence-based policies and programs. In addition, UNHCR has an extensive external reporting platform through Global Focus. Global Focus provides up-to-date information organized by populations, operations, themes, financials, and other publications. Through this platform, the public can drill down to specific key objectives baselines, targets, year-end reporting, and funding by country operations. PRM receives and thoroughly responds to extensive reporting from UNHCR.

V. Conclusion

In closing, PRM and UNHCR confirm their commitment to remain strong partners to protect and find durable solutions for the millions of refugees, stateless persons, IDPs, and other persons of concern around the world. This Framework for Cooperation is intended to remain operative until December 31, 2019.

Carol O’Connell 
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary 
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration 
United States Department of State 

April 20, 2018 

Filippo Grandi
 High Commissioner
United Nations Office of the Commissioner for Refugees

April 20, 2018

[1] Resolution 428 (V), annex.

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