Global restructuring at UNHCR to affect Kenya

Saturday March 02 2019

UNHCR offices in Nairobi, Kenya. The agency is decentralising its operations for faster, more efficient responses to crises. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Employees at the Kenyan office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will this month find out whether they still have jobs in the ongoing global restructuring.

The staff have already received letters informing them of the review, but any changes will need to be approved by the Budget Committee and the final decision taken by the High Commissioner.

Documents seen by The EastAfrican show that the decisions have been made, but the UNHCR has resolved to give the staff longer than the mandatory six months before the changes take effect.

Amid the uncertainty the news has created, UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements is expected to visit Kenya in the second week of March. She is scheduled to visit the Dadaab refugee complex to assess the progress of the voluntary repatriation of Somalia refugees, which has been going on for the past two years.

The restructuring is in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) that followed the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016.

The CRRF’s objective is to ease pressure on host countries; enhance refugee self-reliance; expand access to third-country solutions and support conditions in countries of origin for safe and dignified return.


It has been rolled out in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Afghanistan and Chad.

It will be followed by the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), which was endorsed in December 2018 to provide greater support for those fleeing their homeland, and for the countries that take them in, which are often among the poorest in the world.

The GCR will allow regional offices to deal directly with donors from the private sector, faith communities and international financial institutions.

According to the documents, the decentralisation is meant to improve the speed and responsiveness of service delivery by shifting personnel and decision-making authorities closer to the field and beneficiaries, to allow for a faster and more effective response.

Regional offices will be folded into the regional bureaus in the field and will deal with regional strategies and priorities, oversight, managing performance and compliance, identification and monitoring of emerging issues and risks, and the provision of technical support and guidance to country operations.

Technical experts, with functional links to the divisions at headquarters, will be fully integrated with the regionalised bureau structures and report to the director.

The regional bureau directors will be in charge of translating global priorities into region-specific strategies and are required to engage with political and development actors within their respective regions.

UNHCR recognises the need to adjust the way it delivers on its mandate in a fast changing world, where forced displacement is becoming more visible now than it has been for decades.

The number of displaced persons and refugees is increasing globally at about 25.4 million. Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 per cent of the world’s refugee population, with over 18 million people in the care of UNHCR.

UNHCR is funded by governments and the European Union to the tune of $3.365 billion (87 per cent), private donors $400 million (10 per cent), UN Regular Budget $43 million (one per cent) and UN pooled funding and intergovernmental donors $75 million (two per cent).