Global Appeal 2024

Accountability to Affected People

Focus Area

A woman resting on her bag
A woman rests at the Attention Center for Migrants and Refugees (CAPMiR), a facility offering rest and advice for migrants and refugees in El Cinchado, on the Guatemalan side of the country's border with Honduras.
© UNHCR/Nicolo Filippo Rosso
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Just like anyone else, forcibly displaced and stateless people need accurate and timely information to take informed decisions. Yet, on some occasions, they find themselves in an information vacuum, cut off from the information they need to protect themselves and their families, unable to influence decisions that affect them, and unfamiliar with the processes for raising concerns or providing feedback about the services they receive. Equally, they may receive conflicting or fraudulent information, be repeatedly asked for their opinion with no feedback, or be left waiting for a response to a complaint they raised.

UNHCR wants to address these challenges and is working on developing an ambitious five-year plan to strengthen Accountability to Affected People (AAP). UNHCR will ensure that people can use their preferred channels of communication to get information that enables them to make informed choices to support their protection and seek a durable solution to their situation. UNHCR will also ensure that they can reach its staff – using a variety of channels – to ask questions, provide feedback and flag sensitive concerns. They must feel safe when doing so, and confident that they will receive timely feedback. UNHCR needs to demonstrate to the communities it works with that their opinions matter, and people need to see how their voices have influenced its work and that of its partners.

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Global needs in 2024

UNHCR has identified four key areas where it aims to move the needle on AAP in 2024 – both within UNHCR and collectively with its partners.

Operational and regional support: UNHCR will invest in its regional and country operations’ community engagement work and their feedback and response mechanisms – ensuring robust processes are in place, including to respond to sensitive complaints of sexual exploitation and abuse and fraud. This will make UNHCR more receptive to feedback and ensure a more active response. Examples include exploring the further inclusion of refugees, IDPs and stateless persons in UNHCR’s programme development and monitoring mechanisms, and, expanding the use of multichannel contact centres, like the Regional Contact Centre in the Ukraine response, which responds to nearly 300 calls a day.

Documentation, capacity building and tools: UNHCR will ensure its staff and partners – including organizations led by displaced people – are better equipped to use a wide variety of messaging and two-way communication channels for community engagement and feedback and response. UNHCR operations will have access to an expanding AAP “toolbox” to rapidly set up or expand communication channels – including contact centres, chatbots, and one-stop-shops. For example, UNHCR will expand the use of WhatsApp, which is currently used in 16 operations. The toolbox will cater for different messaging preferences, with a focus on ensuring accessibility for women and girls, older persons, persons with disabilities and other groups at risk of marginalization.

Research and advocacy: UNHCR will be at the cutting edge of AAP innovation. This includes researching and piloting new approaches so that communication with forcibly displaced and stateless people uses the applications or media that they are used to. UNHCR will lead by example – demonstrating the importance of research, due diligence and the ethical application of technologies to partners and other UN actors. This research will build on learning to date, with a focus on digital protection and privacy, and online risks.

Protection leadership and coordination: UNHCR will build on efforts to advance collective AAP within the humanitarian community and will set up or improve mechanisms for coordinating AAP in refugee emergencies. UNHCR will integrate AAP into all parts of the refugee response and advocate that all organizations working in emergencies include AAP in refugee response planning. UNHCR already contributes to collective efforts in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force on AAP and will strengthen its role in collective regional and operational AAP coordination structures.

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Digital AAP

Forcibly displaced and stateless people increasingly use social media to communicate, and UNHCR is committed to meeting them where they are – online. In 2024, as a core component of the Digital Protection pillar of UNHCR’s Digital Transformation Strategy, the use of digital tools for engagement with communities will grow significantly. UNHCR will expand the use of existing instant messaging and chatbots, scale up its community-facing web presence and strengthen partnerships with social media platforms. UNHCR will keep adopting new digital tools to ensure it is working with preferred and trusted channels.

The “digital gateway” to UNHCR’s self-service applications will ensure that individuals are able to send and receive secure information with UNHCR. A range of services – from registration to complementary pathways – will be accessible, and users will have direct access to their own data, and control of it.

Not everyone is online, so a critical component of this digital AAP work is strengthening the connection with offline community-based protection work. UNHCR will develop linkages between those who are connected and those who are not to improve information sharing in communities.

An essential element of digital AAP is information integrity. UNHCR will ensure that processes are in place to combat misinformation and disinformation – signposting users to accurate and trusted sources.

UNHCR will use digital technology to improve feedback and response mechanisms – meaning improvements in the way data is collected, systematized, analysed, shared and responded to. Using digital methods for managing feedback will allow the development of more effective mechanisms that can be rapidly deployed by UNHCR and its partners in an emergency response.

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How UNHCR will make a difference

UNHCR’s goal of holding itself accountable to the people it works with and for can appear to be an abstract and aspirational concept. But strengthening the accountability of programming has a very real impact on communities. Consider the cases of two displaced people: Pablo, who is seeking asylum and depends on UNHCR for information about his rights and entitlements, and Joelle, who hopes to go to university:

The systematic roll-out of digital channels in 2024 will mean Pablo can:

  • Use one of his preferred channels to access verified life-saving information 24/7;
  • Share information with his family – including his grandma – in audio, video and text;
  • Understand how to apply for asylum and know where to seek support with his application;
  • Act as an information ambassador in his community to rebut misinformation and dispel rumours;
  • Connect with someone from UNHCR – in a secure safe digital space – without having to travel long distances;
  • Be directed to a secure channel for raising a complaint;
  • Be confident to use the channel, know his data rights and request to delete his data if he wishes;
  • Provide feedback and suggestions on how to improve the services he accesses.

The scaling up of a self-service digital gateway will mean Joelle can:

  • Securely prove her identity through an authentication process and access her own data;
  • Upload her education certificates to apply for an international scholarship;
  • Update her profile with a new phone number to receive updated information and timely cash distributions;
  • Book an appointment with UNHCR to discuss her case;
  • Raise a concern about a service provided in the community where she lives.

UNHCR will be publishing its Focus Area Strategic Plan in 2024, which further articulates its commitment to globally accelerate its Accountability to Affected People

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Age, Gender and Diversity

UNHCR has a longstanding commitment to apply an Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) approach across all aspects of its programmes and activities to ensure that the protection, dignity, and well-being of all forcibly displaced and stateless people are respected, and that nobody is left behind.

AGD is a fundamental principle of humanitarian work that:

  • supports the meaningful participation of people, in particular women, in decisions that affect their lives;
  • draws on their experiences and abilities;
  • addresses the unique needs and protection risks experienced by different groups;
  • and contributes to more effective, equitable, and sustainable responses.

In 2024, UNHCR will invest in tools that support the development of programmes that are inclusive of AGD, and will strengthen the systematization of data resulting from its interactions with displaced communities to inform the implementation of its plans. The organization will increase its staff’s knowledge and awareness of the AGD policy and will harness the progress achieved in fostering local partnerships with organizations representing or led by diverse groups of displaced and stateless persons.

UNHCR will also increase its use of data that is disaggregated by sex, age, disability, and other diversity characteristics when designing and implementing programmes or measuring the results of its work. UNHCR will also invest in tailored and contextually adapted training in the inclusion of persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ persons, and other groups at risk of marginalization.