UNHCR Guide: Emergency Standards & Indicators

UNHCR Guide: Emergency Standards & Indicators


The UNHCR is the branch of the United Nations that specialises in dealing with the UN’s emergency relief provision internationally. That job extends to defining its OWN minimum standards for the provision of ‘the necessities of life’ in complex and demanding refugee and humanitarian disaster scenarios. The full report runs to some 600 pages. The above link is to the ‘Handy Guide’, which is an extract from the full report and a mere 41 pages long.

It makes for some stark reading. However, we think that if the UN defines these as the MINIMUM ACCEPTABLE life conditions in extreme ‘refugee camp’ situations, then it a reasonable guide to minimum standards for everyday life around the world – in the absence of some better guide. What do YOU think? After all, how many of you would fancy spending a few months living in a UNHCR refugee camp – let alone a few years?

Yes, that’s what we thought. This document provides a useful comparison for anyone conducting Simple Assessments of Poverty Profiles, using the 7 Layer Poverty Model approach, to help define what locally-defined ‘minimum standards’ might be for some ‘layers’. This relates particularly to things like shelter and healthcare expectations. The UNHCR guidelines do not extend so much to address the Poverty Model level of ‘Engagement’, but they DO address protection and security considerations for the individual. In particular they uphold a definition of a refugee in such situations, that refers to individuals who face a “well-founded fear of persecution”, or “threat to life or security” for a given set of reasons. These standards for personal security and protection are relevant to the Poverty Model’s layer for ‘Freedom From Oppression’. Again, if these are deemed minimum acceptable standards for an emergency refugee camp, they are a reasonable basis for defining minimum acceptable standards at the ‘low’ end of our Simple Assessment scale.

Anyone interested in investigating other suitable international STANDARDS for Humanitarian Response, can also research the useful online micro-site at www.spherehandbook.org . The resource is widely regarded and has the advantage of being independent from any one organisation. All such resources are there to serve different purposes from the 7 Layer Poverty Model. They provide the backup detail that real operators need in the field. Our job is to provide an accessible ‘front end’ summary that even children can understand, that facilitates communication between all relevant Humanitarian actors and agencies around the world. Each tool has its place and we are grateful to the many experts who have put these other guides together in the service of humans and humanity. Respect.

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