United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War. The Mandate of the High Commissioner is providing international protection and seeking permanent solutions for the problem of refugees, stateless persons, asylum-seekers and returnees. UNHCR has also been authorized by the General Assembly to work with internally displaced people in particular contexts. Together with partners and communities, we work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State. We also strive to achieve durable solutions for concerned populations whether by ensuring safe conditions are in place for voluntary return to the home country, securing lasting solutions for integrating locally in the countries of asylum, or resettling to a third-country.

We are witnessing the highest levels of displacement in human history. As of June 2018, there were 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the globe, of which 40 million are internally displaced, 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18, and 3.1 million asylum seekers. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights.

As of 31 May 2018, we work in 128 countries, employing 11,517 staff members, of whom around 87 per cent are based in the field. For 68 years, UNHCR has provided critical emergency assistance during times of displacement in the form of clean water, sanitation and healthcare, as well as shelter, education and livelihoods. We also arrange transport and assistance packages for people who return home, and income-generating projects for those who resettle.

We are funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, with 87 per cent coming from governments and the European Union; three per cent from other inter-governmental organizations and pooled funding mechanisms, while a further nine per cent is from the private sector, including foundations, corporations and the public. Additionally, we receive a limited subsidy (one per cent) from the UN budget for administrative costs, and accept in-kind contributions, including items such as tents, medicines and trucks.

Our annual budget reached a new annual high of US$ 7.7 billion in 2017. For up to date information about UNHCR’s financial needs visit our Global Focus website.




Evaluation Function Snapshot Independence Agenda Setting & Evaluation Planning Quality Assurance Use of Evaluation Joint Evaluation

Evaluation Function

The Evaluation Strategy builds on the 2016 Evaluation Policy, which introduced a dedicated and independent Evaluation Service, reporting to the High Commissioner. This strategy is aligned with UNEG’s norms and standards for evaluation, Code of Conduct for evaluation in the UN system and the UN Ethical Guidelines for evaluations. It applies the UN Evaluation Group definition of evaluation as a tool that should provide credible, useful, evidence-based information, enabling the timely incorporation of findings, recommendations and lessons into the decision-making processes of organizations and stakeholders.

Some key shifts introduced through the 2016 Evaluation policy are:

  • all evaluations are now placed in the public domain,
  • they require a management response, which is also made public, and
  • are conducted by contracting external consultants to carry out the evaluations, based on the principles of independence, impartiality, credibility and utility.

It further sets out that evaluation is distinct from other oversight functions - such as audit and inspection - in that the purposes of evaluation are not purely compliance-driven and are focused on both accountability and learning.

Implementation of the UNHCR’s 2016 Evaluation Policy takes into account the changing landscape in which UNHCR works and recent organizational shifts. The New York Declaration and the Global Compact for Refugees – to be put forward before the General Assembly before the end of 2018 - have promoted transformation in working with partners, especially with national governments and stakeholders. As a result, there a greater focus on demonstrating evidence of results and value for money. A strengthened evaluation function in UNHCR can contribute to a longer-term vision for accountability and learning, since evidence generated through our evaluations can be used in a proactive way to manage risks associated with innovation and complexity in UNHCR’s operating environment.

As pointed out in findings from entities including the Board of Auditors (BoA), the Independent Audit and Oversight Committee (IAOC), the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and the Office of Internal Oversight Services/Inspection and Evaluation Division (OIOS/IED), there is currently need for enhancing the use of evaluations in the organization, building stronger capacity at all levels of the organization, maximizing investment in and commitment to evaluation.



Five-year strategy (2018-2022)

Strengthening evaluation function by means of:

  1. Gradually increasing the number of centralized evaluations each year;
  2. Introducing a systematic annual consultative approach to topic generations;
  3. Launching rapid evaluations – more focused and lighter than traditional centralized  evaluations, and with involvement of UNHCR staff to build capacity;
  4. Building field proficiency in undertaking decentralized evaluations;
  5. Hiring a roving, surge capacity on an interim basis to support the field in carrying out decentralized evaluations;
  6. Substantially engaging with RBM, monitoring, data, oversight, multi-year strategic planning, and policy development efforts to link better with evaluation.

Human Resources

  • Unit Head: F
  • Evaluators: Total 6; F= 4 and M = 2
  • Support staff: Total 2 (F)
  • Decentralised evaluation staff: None. 


As reported on the 69th session of the Executive Committee, between July 2017 and June 2018, 8 evaluations were completed and 15 were initiated. All published reports (centralized and decentralized) are available here.

Areas of coverage:

  1. emergency response;
  2. protection and operational delivery, including the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and cash-based interventions;
  3. critical programming areas with medium and long-term prospects for persons of concern to UNHCR, such as livelihoods, resettlement and the humanitarian-development nexus;
  4. UNHCR’s advocacy, partnerships and inter-agency cooperation; and
  5. key organizational effectiveness and performance areas




The Head of the Evaluation Service reports directly to the High Commissioner and briefs the Executive Committee once a year on evaluation achievements and work plan.

Agenda Setting & Evaluation Planning

In line with the renewed commitment by the High Commissioner towards increased use of evidence in UNHCR’s policy, strategy and programme formulation, the 2018-2022 Evaluation Strategy has a strong focus on improving results for persons of concern by:

  • Undertaking and using evaluative evidence more systematically;
  • raising awareness and stimulating demand for more reflective and evaluative analysis;
  • building buy-in, capacity and ownership for evaluations;
  • strengthening accountability and learning;

In addition, evaluation practise leverages complementary competencies, promotes cross-fertilization between regions and generates capacity and ownership of results.

While the majority of evaluations will be conducted by external entities - in line with the Policy – rapid evaluations will be used for a small sub-set of them. For these, a hybrid team of UNHCR staff and external consultants will be used.

Our focus on building a positive evaluation practice goes hand in hand with maintaining the Evaluation Service’s structural independence, coordination and quality assurance, as well as with a  responsible use of funds.

The work plan for 2022-2023 is available in the Evaluation Service webpage.

Quality Assurance

Adherence to Evaluation Quality Assurance (EQA) ensures that the evaluation function is increasingly professional, fit for purpose and more responsive to the accountability, evidence generation, knowledge and learning needs of the Organization. EQA provisions for both centralised and decentralised evaluations and is fundamental to (a) bringing greater predictability, consistency and quality to evaluation processes; (b) producing high quality, evidence-informed and credible evaluation products; and (c) supporting the realisation of the evaluation principles of independence, impartiality, credibility and utility introduced by the policy.


Use of Evaluation

The findings of studies, centralized and decentralized evaluations, as well as are the reports of other activities, assessments and evaluative reviews are presented initially to the commissioning unit and later disseminated to the concerning parties. In accordance with our policy, excepting sensitive content foreseen in UNHCR’s Information Classification, Handling and Disclosure Policy, reports are placed on public domain.

All public content is published in the UNHCR’s Evaluation service webpage. Where appropriate, briefings are also provided to other internal and external stakeholders.

Joint Evaluation

UNHCR’s Evaluation Service participates in several inter-agency and external evaluation bodies. It is an active member of the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation Steering Group and participated in the evaluation practice exchange and annual general meeting of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) in May 2018. The Service is also the co-convener, together with the World Food Programme, of the UNEG Humanitarian Evaluation Interest Group, and co-leader with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization of a mapping exercise to examine evaluations on the humanitarian-development nexus in the past 8 to 10 years, offering reflections on the extent to which they generated evidence, delivered collective outcomes and overcame the humanitarian-development divide.

In addition, the Evaluation Service served as UNHCR’s focal point in the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP), participating in its annual meeting and liaising with the network on relevant issues.

During 2017/2018 the Inspection and Evaluation Division of OIOS conducted the 2018 triennial review of UNHCR’s 2015 evaluation of programming on durable solutions. The Evaluation Service helped coordinate this review, acting as the focal point for internal and external stakeholders making relevant arrangements. OIOS formally presented the triennial review at the June 2018 session of the Committee for Programme and Coordination in New York, which expressed support for UNHCR’s leadership and the work that it has undertaken. OIOS had, until 2017, conducted programme evaluations of UNHCR on a yearly basis. As of 2018, OIOS has informed UNHCR of its decision to conduct UNHCR programme evaluations once every two years in recognition of the stronger planned evaluation capacity within UNHCR.

The Evaluation Service provides technical guidance and quality oversight on evaluations led by donors or partners working with UNHCR’s divisions. The evaluations of the youth education programme and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project, as well as the impact evaluation of grants on forced displacement from the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development and the World Bank are examples of such support. In addition, the Evaluation Service helped strengthen the design and analysis of the joint programme operating model review of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS that was completed in June 2018.

The Evaluation Service has provided full support and input to UNHCR’s assessment, carried out by the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) during the 2017-2018 assessment cycle.

UNEG Members

Assel Paju


Bia Albernaz


David Rider Smith

Senior Evaluation Coordinator, UNHCR

Debora Di Dio

Senior Evaluation Manager, UNHCR

Fiona Gatere


Joel Kinahan


Lori Bell

Head of Evaluation, UNHCR

Marcel Maastrig

Senior Evaluation Officer, UNHCR

Nabila Hameed

Senior Evaluation Officer, UNHCR

Fact Sheet