Overview and approach
2018 marks the eighth year of the Syria crisis and Lebanon remains host to approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees and asylum seekers – in addition to nearly 20,000 from other countries, e.g. Iraq and Sudan. The evaluation of UNHCR’s interventions to respond to, mitigate and prevent SGBV affecting the refugee population in Lebanon during 2016–18 aims to document results, lessons, challenges and practices in UNHCR SGBV approaches. This will inform future strategies and decision-making in Lebanon and generate lessons for other comparable contexts. The evaluation addresses five key questions of relevance, coverage, coherence, effectiveness and lessons of the UNHCR SGBV approach in Lebanon.
The evaluation process, carried over July-October 2018 was undertaken by a three person team who gathered data for two weeks in Lebanon in August 2018 and carried out further desk analysis. The key methods used included: document review; quantitative analysis of secondary data; 105 key informant interviews – including with UNHCR staff, members of the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) and UNHCR partners; 33 focus group discussions with community members and other key stakeholder groups; two surveys of SGBV task force members and of UNHCR staff with SGBV responsibilities; mapping process on distribution of services; and analysis of financial, human resource and programme data. The evaluation directly involved 285 participants. Assessments of performance were made in relation to judgement criteria for each evaluation question developed as part of the evaluation matrix. Recommendations and lessons were developed inconsultation with UNHCR through an in-country workshop to discuss emerging findings with UNHCR staff and and meeting with senior management team.
Findings and conclusions
UNHCR Lebanon Country Office has adapted its SGBV response interventions appropriately to the Lebanon context. Lebanon presents a number of distinct characteristics which are unusual for UNHCR operational contexts. These include the predominantly urban or peri-urban, non-camp and dispersed distribution of refugees across the country, the national legal framework and associated restrictions it places on refugees, the protracted nature of the crisis and response, and the limited availability of SGBV response capacity before the Syria response. The evaluation found that UNHCR Lebanon has excellent processes to monitor the context and SGBV trends and UNHCR uses monitoring data well in programme planning, notably the annual Participatory Assessment, but also commissioned research and processes at field office level to explore local trends.
There is strong evidence of adaptations being made to UNHCR interventions to support the appropriateness and accessibility of SGBV services in this context. Examples include: the development of mobile services and safe spaces to increase access to services for the dispersed population; employing multiple communication channels to promote awareness of SGBV and response services, building on analysis of refugee communication channel preferences in Lebanon; extending the outreach volunteer (OV) structured approach for general and specialised volunteers to reach refugees; and seeking opportunities to build on local capacity in acommunity development **centres including social development centres affiliated with MoSAs well as work with national NGOs. In addition, UNHCR Lebanon has adapted activities to respond to some emerging SGBV trends identified by monitoring data e.g. through new activities that respond to data showing an increase in intimate partner violence (IPV) and child/early marriage, as well as data that shows adolescent girls, people with disability, men and boys, and members of the LGBTI community, have more limited access to services.
However, there are some sustained barriers to access which have not changed significantly with the strategies employed so far – frontline staff cite cultural factors, stigma to disclose SGBV and reluctance to approach official services all impact on the take-up levels of SGBV response services. Factors that constrain the relevance of the SGBV response design include the limited scale and reach of local capacity, including in civil society, and the need for a greater understanding of the drivers behind some of the sustained barriers to access for refugee groups in Lebnon, and for specialised services.
The relevance of UNHCR Lebanon's SGBV has been supported by factors including: the early recognition in the operation of the importance of SGBV risks and specific characteristics of the context which require a a customised – and in places innovative – response design; the strong commitment of the UNHCR Lebanonleadership to SGBV response; and the delegation of decision-making to the relevant country and field offices, enabling customisation of programmes to the particular local context.
The evaluation found strong evidence of progress towards a coherent or mainstreamed approach to SGBV response, and increasingly in mitigation and prevention too. There are examples of SGBV mainstreaming in many of the UNHCR operations in health, shelter, basic assistance and WASH. UNHCR Lebanon is implementing a key initiative to promote a mainstreamed approach to SGBV response and there have been key initiatives at sector level too, e.g. to evaluate the implementation of IASC guidelines and the subsequent promotion of the sectors' plans for putting these into action. Mainstreaming builds on the multi-sector SGBV response model, but also extends it both in terms of the diversity of the sectors involved – e.g. involving the livelihoods sector – and the extent of the role of sectors working towards mitigation and prevention. The scale of sector contributions and results are difficult to quantify, particularly in relation to mitigation and prevention, but the available data suggests it is potentially significant.
Progress towards a coherent, cross-sector approach to SGBV response, mitigation and prevention has been aided by the presence of dedicated and proactive SGBV personnel within UNHCR, and a distinct sub-sector at inter-agency level which has supported its development. Also, it has been aided by the willingness of other sectors to address SGBV risks and by joint work between the SGBV-focused staff and other sectors. For example, UNHCR SGBV and assistance teams are working together on research on the SGBV-related outcomes of assistance, and there has been cooperation across the protection sector involving child protection, legal and SGBV actors in the development of guidance on child/early marriage.
However, the vision, strategy and practical steps to take the mainstreaming approach further are not yet articulated clearly in UHCR – though work is now underway on it. A key challenge is that sectors are not held to account within UNHCR or inter-agency mechanisms. In addition, the visibility of sector inputs and results of mainstreamed SGBV interventions in UNHCR and the sector is low, particularly in relation to mitigation and prevention.
UNHCR Lebanon has achieved good coverage of some key SGBV response services in Lebanon. This is illustrated by the levels of coverage namely that 95% of refugees are within five kilometers of a safe space, and these spaces meet minimum standards adopted by the sector in Lebanon. Effective strategies to achieve good coverage levels have been UNHCR's prioritisation for access points to SGBV response services by establishing safe spaces and expanding access through the development of mobile services. UNHCR's budget allocated to SGBV programmes has been held at relatively constant levels despite the challenging wider funding environment. Staffing levels have also been maintained but positions are overstretched, covering multiple responsibilities.
Coverage levels achieved have beenaided by excellent cooperation in the sector and strong coordination co-led by UNHCR. The responsiveness of the sector has been aided by UNHCR’s use of inter-agency mechanisms to promote awareness of gaps in the sector and encourage take-up of opportunities to expand coverage. Also important has been UNHCR’s own commitment to maintain its levels of resource allocation for SGBV response programmes.
A key concern is maintaining the access for refugees to SGBV response services in Lebanon as long as they are in-country as resources now come under strain in the protracted crisis. Also, despite the positive coverage trends, challenges remain with access, including to specialised services, e.g. for safe shelter, mental health care or for certain groups such as people with special needs. Furthermore, the range of services available to refugees varies significantly depending on where they live.
UNHCR has made significant contributions to the provision of SGBV response services for refugees in Lebanon through a focus of resources on case management and provision of community-based activities. These include psycho-social support services (PSS), specialised outreach volunteers on SGBV and child protection, also a structured promotion of specific neglected issues – notably attention to men and boys – in SGBV response mitigation and prevention by UNHCR and in the sector. Also, effective capacity building approaches using mentoring and UNHCR’s peer-to-peer support, accessible to all SGBV actors in Lebanon, not only UNHCR partners has been effective. In addition, and of particular note, is the UNHCR investment in inter-agency coordination which has supported the development of a consistent sector approach to SGBV that works towards shared standards and the use of common tools, developed both jointly and by individual members of the sector.
The effectiveness of UNHCR SGBV interventions has been aided by sustained investment that takes advantage of the protracted nature of the response to evolve and adapt responses to the changing context, as well as its effective coordination and collaboration in the sector, and innovation, e.g. in the development of services for men and boys.
Solutions with lasting effect for refugees are challenged by funding limitations across the sector’s Lebanon Country Response Plan and also diminishing external opportunities e.g. for resettlement. Approaches to prevention of SGBV are less well developed in UNHCR Lebanon and across the sector, and there is a lack of evidence on what strategies are effective, and indeed what short-term results or changes (within 2–5 years) might be feasible to identify after effective preventive interventions. Prevention is a strategic aim of UNHCR Lebanon's current SGBV strategy and work is underway to develop the approach in UNHCR – and also at sector level where there is a new focus on communication for social change. Prevention strategies for refugees in Lebanon is a key space where UNHCR Lebanon, and potentially globally, can contribute learning.
Furthermore, more developed global standards, and/or a theory of change, for UNHCR SGBV interventions could support UNHCR decision-making regarding operations, and support in a protracted crisis context. In addition, maintaining monitoring processes which focus on UNHCR’s contribution to results and impact, as well as more opportunities for learning across UNHCR field offices, that began in the development of SGBV strategy, will support the effectiveness of interventions and lesson learning.