PARinAC 2000 – and Beyond
by RRN Staff December 2012

From its inception at the Global Conference in Oslo in June 1994, PARinAC – Partnership in Action – has set the tone and agenda for NGO– UNHCR relations. Its defining characteristic is that it has always been as much about the process of cooperation as about the building up of partnership structures; it is not an end in itself but rather a methodology for NGO– UNHCR relations. As a result of increased NGO–UNHCR cooperation there has been a more coherent and comprehensive approach to working with refugees and IDPs. In the autumn of 1998, UNHCR and its NGO partners proposed a review of the structures of PARinAC. How has it developed since 1994? How much has effective partnership been incorporated into the work of UNHCR and NGOs? What has made it work well but what could make it work better? and so on. Following are some of the key recommendations.

PARinAC ‘in Practice’

In terms of how PARinAC works ‘in practice’ it is felt that there are still shortcomings when it comes to preparedness and response – as the Kosovo crisis has shown. Lessons learnt from one emergency are not passed on to the next. To rectify this it is recommended that a number of NGO coordinators be trained in a joint effort by NGOs, UNHCR and OCHA. They should be on standby for major emergencies.

Coordination is recognised in the report as one of the most difficult tasks of any field operation. Many models exist – lead agency, NGO fora, consortia etc – but whatever model is chosen some of the same difficulties (such as lack of funding and lack of common goals) still remain. The report therefore recommends that:

  • UNHCR and NGOs need to mandate and authorise an entity to have a strong coordinating role for NGO activities in refugee or IDP situations in which they are involved.
  • Donors need to be encouraged to see the importance of coordination and release funds accordingly
  • Workshops in emergency preparedness need to be organised to develop a more cooperative culture, particularly in relation to including national NGOs from the beginning.

Three other issues that are of note here are local capacity building, regional PARinAC meetings, and questions around the relief/development process. An important aspect of PARinAC has been its awareness of the importance of inclusion and of the potential and responsibility of national and local NGOs. Local capacity building still faces problems so any benefits must be enhanced. The report recommends that creativity and learning from good practice should be applied to this area. In addition, priorities of capacity building should be set by NGOs.

In terms of PARinAC’s presence in the field, experience has shown that it is necessary to convene regional PARinAC meetings in order for the NGO–UNHCR partnership to maintain its focus and momentum. The focus of future meetings will be on needs and actions at the local level, as well as the formulation of work plans particular to a region. Regional PARinAC meetings will be held in all seven regions, and each will strengthen public awareness and funding for the refugee cause.

Finally, as all refugee situations need a follow-up of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation it should be seen as a PARinAC priority to bring some of the other actors and organisation on board as soon as possible. Local PARinAC processes should seek to include other UNagencies on the intergovernmental side and more developmental organisations on the NGO side in order to ensure smooth transition between all when the situation changes from relief to rehabilitation to development.

Other Issues

The report also addresses a number of institutional issues, such as PARinAC and NGO coordination at a global level, and PARinAC’s interaction with EXCOM. Administrative issues such as the new interactive PARinAC website, and reporting arrangements for PARinAC’s progress are also considered. In addition, there is an important section which looks at IDPs.

For a full report contact the NGO Unit, UNHCR, PO Box 2500, 1211 Geneva 2 Depot, Geneva, Switzerland. Tel: +41 (22) 739 8290 Fax: +41 (22) 739 7302 Email: <hqng00@unhcr.ch>