Discussion paper: Multi-stakeholders in Refugee Response: a Whole-of- Society Approach?

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1 Discussion paper: Multi-stakeholders in Refugee Response: a Whole-of- Society Approach? This short discussion paper intends to present some reflections on the whole-of-society approach, that could feed into the discussion of the ICVA workshop on Understanding the Whole-of-Society Approach (30 April, Bangkok). It is not meant to be exhaustive nor authoritative but rather to incite further analyses and discussions during the workshop. Participants are also encouraged to consult the documents referenced in footnotes and through links in the text. Although the phrase whole-of-society does not appear in the New York Declaration and its Annex 1, it has been often characterized as a key pillar of the CRRF because it captures its spirit and major elements: In its call for more equitable-responsibility sharing, the CRRF recognizes that the provision of international protection and durable solutions for refugees is a global public good and that responding to displacement is a global, collective responsibility. The CRRF calls for enhanced, comprehensive, predictable and sustainable responses to large-scale refugee movements, based on the principles of international cooperation. All this links to a multi-stakeholder approach that includes national and local authorities, international organizations, international financial institutions, civil society partners (including faith-based organizations, diaspora organizations and academia), the private sector, the media and refugees themselves (NYD, para. 69; Annex 1, para. 2) To this list is often added: inter-governmental and regional organizations; development partners; host communities and community-based organizations; volunteer groups; the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. Similarly, the various drafts of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) to date do not use the phrase whole-of-society approach and refer to a multi-stakeholder approach, with strong implications for a wide range or actors and how they may interact in and contribute to comprehensive refugee responses. The whole-of-society approach was actually the theme of a dedicated panel at the November 2017 thematic discussion on the GCR. Therefore, the CRRF and the GCR are essentially about partnership and cooperation. One of the main premises is that refugee responses require collective and concerted approaches. As the High Commissioner mentioned at 2017 UNHCR-NGO Annual Consultations: Partnership is a central theme of the New York Declaration. It calls on UNHCR to work with a broader coalition of actors to deliver on more sustainable, predictable responses to refugee movements. This is also in line with the Grand Bargain which called for A Participation Revolution and more localized approaches. The whole-of-society approach also resonates with the UN s New Way of Working which offers an opportunity to reinforce inclusive partnership approaches. However, we need to ask ourselves: Should we aim at defining more precisely the meaning of this concept? What does it mean in practice? How to implement it? Can it be anchored in existing practices? 1

2 1. ELEMENTS OF THE WHOLE-OF-SOCIETY APPROACH : There is not yet a document clearly defining what the whole-of-society approach entails. However, elements can be highlighted, which are often mentioned when referring to this concept: Reinforcing a Whole-of-Government approach: This concept is well-established in migration and development debates. It looks to develop integrated government responses. For the CRRF, it means going beyond usual governmental interlocutors for UNHCR and humanitarian NGOs, in particular bringing a wide range of national and sub-national authorities on board. At the national level, it means broadening the pool of ministries actively involved in the refugee response. At the local level, it means engaging governmental actors considered to be better placed to understand realities of the refugee response, the host community, and any challenge to be addressed. Their involvement may therefore also be crucial when it comes to including refugees in local development plans. Mobilizing new/additional actors and resources: The CRRF calls for novel engagements, especially development actors, financial institutions, and the private sector to ensure more predictable and sustainable financial support and engagement. The CRRF highlights the idea that humanitarian action alone cannot resolve humanitarian crises. The GCR discussions call for additionalities and broadening the base of support (responsibility-sharing). In this perspective, it is posited that attaining the 2030 sustainable development goals and the imperative to leave no one behind necessarily entails addressing the development consequences of forced displacement. This requires us to consider refugees not in isolation, but rather as part of the communities where they find protection, to build their resilience and self-reliance. The World Bank s engagement is potentially an important element. The International Development Association s (IDA) $ 2 billion sub-window for refugees and host communities may play a transformative role for some host countries and communities. 1 Including refugees and host communities: Ensuring refugees and host communities are being consulted and engaged in the refugee response was a major take-away from the 2017 UNHCR-NGO Annual Consultations and the whole GCR process to date. To quote the High Commissioner: We must ensure that refugees are included not just as beneficiaries but as real actors. However, GCR discussions and the CRRF roll-out may yet have to truly involve refugees or their host communities. A clear engagement strategy with refugees and host communities early on in the CRRF process is essential to ensure that their needs and views are considered in any implementation plans. NGOs have argued that a particular focus should be placed on ensuring that the views of women and girls the majority of refugees are sought and taken into consideration. Including refugee and host community youth will also be key, given they are key stakeholders. To engage refugees and host communities, we can also build on experience and tested practices in refugee responses, such as 1 On the World Bank involvement in refugee response, see the recent ICVA publication: The World Bank and Refugees: An ICVA Briefing Paper, March

3 the Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP); Community-based Protection Networks (CBPNs); and the Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) Approach. Although it is not yet clear how all those new actors may be involved through a practical whole-of-society approach, one important missing dimension in all those conversations relate to old, traditional actors in refugee responses? For, what are the implications for humanitarian NGOs? 2. A HUMANITARIAN NGO PERSPECTIVE: There may be positive reactions to the whole-of-society approach from humanitarian NGOs, provided some collective thinking is developed to make it work. One premise is that it is indeed critical to harness the contributions of all partners because our diversity can make us stronger, although there is nothing preordained or predetermined about it. We may need to work, organize, coordinate and establish relevant structures, mechanisms and safeguards to build on the value-added and ensure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This means, the whole-of-society approach should: build on and strengthen existing standards and principles, in particular humanitarian principles of humanity, independence, neutrality and impartiality as well as accountability mechanisms. Particular mention should be made of the Principles of Partnership (equality, transparency, results-oriented approach, responsibility and complementarity). Adopted exactly 10 years ago, the principles are more relevant than ever. These may provide a framework for all actors including governments, development and financial institutions, the private sector and affected populations in order to engage on a more equal, constructive and transparent setting. With an ever-increasing number and diversity of actors, the Principles of Partnership remain a key point of reference for partnership inception, development, implementation and review. As such, they could be fundamental for the joint implementation of the CRRF. They can serve to inform the development of cooperation and coordination through a whole-of-society approach. o aim to bring additionality and deliver humanitarian speed with development depth : Efforts to strengthen the humanitarian-development nexus are welcomed by NGOs as it could result in more impactful programming with better leveraging and potentially even help shrink humanitarian needs. However, while more synergy and complementarity may be needed between humanitarian and development programming, this should be based on thorough analysis of the risks and benefits of including non-humanitarian actors, such as financial institutions and private sector companies, delineating how to avoid potential pitfalls and maximize benefits. For example, experience has shown that it takes considerable engagement to truly get private sector actors to work with and invest in responses that may not bring (immediate) profits. Considering potential risks of engaging new actors is important, especially with regard to accountability. 2 2 On this particular aspect, see the recent Danish Refugee Council paper: Whose responsibility? Accountability for Refuge Protection and Solutions in a Whole-of-Society Approach, December

4 o rely on relevant structures and mechanisms while avoiding bureaucratic monsters : A major challenge inherent in the whole-of-society approach is how to ensure all relevant stakeholders are engaged at the right level? This may require mapping of the key stakeholders and opportunities for engagement as well as considering the fact that all actors may not be needed at the discussion table all the time. A practical strategy is necessary, defining the level of engagement and proper consultative processes. Prioritising which actors to engage first could help make such engagement more manageable while comprehensive. Forms of association could be developed to ensure broad inclusiveness. Moreover, the whole-of-society approach should not result in excessive and duplicative coordination mechanisms and structures and must be adapted to specific country/regional contexts. This requires careful, creative thinking. o be based on improved information dissemination about the CRRF so as to raise awareness about it in the field. As an NGO representative said at the 2017 Annual Consultations: How can we have a whole-of-society approach when most of society doesn t know about the CRRF. Local actors, including refugees and host communities, cannot be meaningfully engaged and consulted without proper, targeted communication. The CRRF policy language particularly needs to be translated into more operational terms. 3. WHAT CAN NGOs BRING TO A WHOLE-OF-SOCIETY APPROACH? From the very beginning, NGOs have played an important and often defining role in the practical application of the CRRF and in the discussions on the GCR. A broad range of participation by civil society, whether through programming adjustments, assessments, coalition building, policy dialogue, advocacy efforts or other channels is critical. Based on their expertise and experience, they have much to contribute for example: Not so new way of working for NGOs: Historically, NGOs have had of mix of humanitarian, development, state-building, peace and security programming, both in emergency and in protracted refugee situations. Many of them are actually used to working with a variety of actors, including host societies, development agencies and the private sector. They are also well aware of the practical implications of the Principles of Partnership. NGOs are eager to share their experience and can highlight good practices and lessons learned that would feed into a more collective whole-ofsociety approach. NGOs and responsibility-sharing: the whole-of-society approach means that we all have a part to play in terms of burden- and responsibility-sharing. This is not just about states contributions and not just about financial contributions; multiple actors can and should be involved in responsibility-sharing. In refugee situations, national and international NGOs do their part, implementing both development and humanitarian programs. In this process, NGOs often bring their own financial and human resources, focus on gaps collectively identified, and strive to provide 4

5 innovative protection and assistance. It is therefore important not to forget or minimize NGO contributions to burden- and responsibility-sharing arrangements. Contribute to localizing the CRRF and proper information dissemination: NGOs work directly with local actors, refugees and host communities. National NGOs are in effect part of host communities. They bring critical contributions to inclusion, resilience, and self-reliance through concrete programmes and advocacy. Therefore, NGOs have strong experience and networks that make them well placed to contribute to stronger engagement of local civil societies, refugees and host communities. NGOs can also help make a difference in communicating about the CRRF, raising awareness at all levels. 4. CONCLUSION The whole-of-society approach has the potential of broadening the partnership space, bring additionalities through developing new partnerships and placing local actors, civil society and refugees at the center. This is exciting and the whole-of-society approach can and should also strengthen existing partnerships. To do so, it is important to ensure the whole-of-society approach builds on and reinforce the Principles of Partnerships and that proper structures are put in place to sustain the relationships. Quite importantly, the application of the CRRF and the work towards the Global Compact on Refugees have led to the development or propositions of some structures, which may embody the whole-of-society approach : - In roll-out countries, a CRRF Secretariat is usually established, co-chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the President s Office and UNHCR. It includes line ministries, regional and district authorities. It may also involve representation from the broader UN system and both national and international NGOs. - Civil society, refugees and affected populations have been engaged in various multistakeholder consultations in CRRF processes, particularly in Central America. 3 - At the global level: o the UNHCR CRRF Task Team constituted last year at headquarters included staff members seconded from the World Bank, ICRC, UNDP and OCHA. o the NGO-IFRC-UNHCR Reference Group was formed with broad membership of global/regional NGO networks as well as IFRC. o Maybe more importantly for the future, discussions on the Drafts for the Global Compact on Refugees have included many suggestions to constitute a number of platforms and groups, which may contribute to a whole-ofsociety approach (e.g. a Support Platform(s); asylum capacity support group; academic support network; resettlement core groups, etc.) 3 On the whole-of-society approach in the Central American CRRF process, see for example the report for the December ICVA workshop in Costa Rica: Multi-stakeholder Workshop: Towards an understanding and application of the whole-ofsociety approach. 5

6 However, more needs to be done to flesh out what the whole-of-society approach may operationally mean; bring concrete additionalities to refugee responses and avoid potential pitfalls. 6

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