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UNHCR operational guidance for promoting livelihoods and self-reliance for urban refugees

In 2011, the UNHCR produced operational guidance for promoting livelihoods and selfreliance in urban areas. It aims to provide guidance for UNHCR country programmes to advocate for and facilitate access to (and when necessary provide and/or support) quality livelihood services for refugees equivalent to those available to the national population.

It was developed since protection and livelihoods are interlinked for urban refugees (e.g. illegal to work or own businesses, harassment and higher rental rates, are just some of the common features of urban refugee experiences). Furthermore, support to livelihoods promotes and preserves use of skills and assets, increases the capacity of refugees to return home when safe to do so, enables contribution to the host community and government, and supports dignity and self-reliance.

The guidance is elaborated according to nine underlying key principles: access, integration, assess- ment, targeting, self-reliance, partnerships, participation, monitoring and evaluation, handing over.

It is aimed primarily at UNHCR field operations and at government counterparts, operational and implementing partners, including potential new partners that may include microfinance institutions, the private sector, foundations and academic institutions. Regional representations and decisionmakers in headquarters are also addressed

The guidelines address all urban persons of concern currently under UNHCR’s mandated and designated responsibility, including refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons and returnees. The guidelines specify where and how approaches to different groups vary. While UNHCR is not mandated to support the local population, it is generally acknowledged that they should be included in activities that are planned in areas with a high concentration of refugees.

This operational guidance is based on lessons learnt and good practices gathered across urban operations since 2008. This guidance is complemented by general guidance on livelihoods, on assessment, microfinance and advocacy for the right to work.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Livelihood Programming in UNHCR: Operational Guidelines, 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/512611392.html [accessed 16 September 2013]. Available in English and Spanish.

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UNHCR operational guidance for promoting livelihoods and self-reliance for urban refugees. Field Exchange 46: Special focus on urban food security & nutrition, September 2013. p49. www.ennonline.net/fex/46/operational

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