Age, Gender and Diversity
Refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people must be at the centre of decision-making concerning their own protection and welfare. Policy development and programme planning have to be undertaken by involving them and building the programmes around their needs.
In order to ensure the meaningful participation and the inclusion of the problems and needs of the displaced people in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, UNHCR has elaborated an Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) strategy and, as part of it, a methodology for regular Participatory Assessments.
Every year, Multi-Functional Teams visit refugee camps, reception centres, detention facilities and private homes to listen to asylum-seekers, refugees and people with other forms of protection individually and in focus groups, according to their gender, age, cultural background and legal status. The interviewees report about their problems and needs and they are asked to propose practical solutions. The interviews allow the team to get a general picture and discern trends from the compilation of individual stories.
Multi-Functional Teams are composed of representatives of host governments, UNHCR, NGO partners and sometimes other UN agencies, both male and female staff with a variety of professional backgrounds to ensure that the information can be interpreted from different angles. The findings and recommendations of the teams are documented in detailed national reports and in a summarized regional report, entitled Being a Refugee.
Since 2005, UNHCR Offices in Central Europe have conducted participatory assessments in dozens of locations in the countries of the region every year. In Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, the annual AGD exercise started in 2005, with Bulgaria and Romania joining in 2007, followed by the Czech Republic in 2008.
The participatory assessments have helped, over time, to identify needs, shortcomings and best practices and achieve concrete improvements of the asylum systems ane integration policies. A number of issues arose that would not have been easily detected without the AGD methodology, such as the poor quality of interpretation services, the lack of playgrounds and learning materials for children, the lack of meal arrangements for Muslims during Ramadan and many other seemingly minor problems that make life difficult but sometimes cost almost nothing to resolve.
The great innovation of AGD is, in fact, that it has systematically introduced and incorporated the views and needs of the uprooted people into the plans and programmes of the national authorities, NGOs and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
The progress achieved is impressive all over Central Europe. Not only were more funds made available in national budgets and through the European Refugee Fund, but they have been used in a more targeted manner making a real difference on the ground. National and regional AGD reports, translated into eight languages, are used today as working tools by various actors and stakeholders, picked up by the media and included in textbooks for university students.