This report present the findings of an evaluation of UNHCR’s Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) prevention and response activities for Venezuelan persons of concern in North Brazil from January 2017 to December 2018. The period includes UNHCR’s SGBV response during the initial emergency phase, as well as the role of UNHCR after the federal government took charge of the response in North Brazil (the ‘federalisation’ of the response).
The evaluation covers UNHCR’s SGBV programmes and activities in the State of Roraima, the city of Manaus as well as São Paulo, a city that received Venezuelan refugees as part of the internal relocation programme by the federal government.
UNHCR has supported the Brazilian Government in providing protection to refugees for almost 2 decades; as a result, UNHCR established a close working relationship with the Brazilian authorities. UNHCR’s lead role in the response was the natural outcome of the relationship and mutual trust built. UNHCR had a dual role in the response: a (continued) role in advocating at the national, regional and local levels for access by refugees to public facilities, as well as providing direct technical support such as to the Brazilian army in the establishment of shelter sites and Reception and Registration Centers.
UNHCR was the only UN agency represented at the border at the start of the emergency and, in collaboration with local authorities and partners, provided shelter and emergency assistance to the most vulnerable population. As part of the first response, UNHCR identified and assisted refugees (women, children, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons) with heightened SGBV risks. The office also responded to the needs of SGBV survivors, facilitating referral to local health and legal services. Prior to establishing offices in Boa Vista, Pacaraima and Manaus, UNHCR established partnerships with local organisations. UNHCR initiated coordination at local level between authorities, UN agencies and local organisations.
The evaluation found that UNHCR’s actions during the initial phase of the emergency were crucial in reducing SGBV risks for vulnerable groups within the refugee population. Lifesaving measures were taken with limited resources, and without the support of staff with expertise in SGBV response in emergencies. Good practices identified in the evaluation include the office’s ability to foster a protective environment for LGBTI individuals through training of government staff, safe registration spaces and shelter allocation.
The evaluation found that humanitarian organisations, including UN agencies, were slow to respond to the emergency. Local organisations did not have the expertise, experience nor resources to put in place SGBV prevention and response programmes. UNHCR’s limited resources available for SGBV programs and activities were not sufficient to increase partnerships, or capacity building of existing partners. UNHCR did not have the necessary staff expertise to effectively roll out prevention and response activities at a scale needed in an emergency.
As a result of the limited staff and resources, UNHCR was not able to establish an effective SGBV data and information management system, severely limiting the organisation’s ability to assess SGBV risks and trends and develop targeted responses. The report will show that SGBV programs and activities were largely focused on the population in shelters. The office did not have the resources or capacity to effectively assess the needs of the population outside of the shelters.