UNHCR Emergency Handbook: Refugee Coordination Model (RCM)


Key points

  • Primary responsibility to protect refugees rests with states. Coordination of the refugee response is determined by capacity and approaches of host government and builds on resources of refugees and hosting communities.

  • The Refugee Coordination Model is applicable in all refugee situations (stand alone or mixed) and throughout the duration of a refugee response. The Joint UNHCR-OCHA note on Mixed Situations: Coordination in Practice builds on, and further elaborates the principles of Refugee Coordination Model for mixed situations. It does not replace the RCM.

  • Refugee response does not only include UNHCR's operations, but those of all actors involved in the response.

  • To exert leadership, one needs a plan that has been developed inclusively, and that provides strategic direction for operational actors, can easily interact with other instruments such as the SRP, and that presents a coherent picture to donors and other Member States. The main instruments for this are the Refugee Response Plan (RRP) and/or the Regional RRP. These can be both stand-alone documents, or included in a SRP as a separate refugee chapter.

  • UNHCR's refugee response includes the needs of host communities, which is central to the preservation of asylum space and to the social cohesion necessary for a protective environment for refugees and their hosts.

  • RCM does not diminish UNHCR's responsibility for refugees or its accountability to them.
    Rather the RCM presents an opportunity to work in unison with other humanitarian and development actors to improve services to persons of concern and other persons in need.

  • Certain aspects of the RCM may contract or expand when interfacing with other coordination mechanisms. Each situation is unique' there may be a combination of coordination arrangements in the country.

  • The UNHCR Representative is responsible for leading all aspects of the refugee response, and representing the 3 UNHCR led clusters (as applicable) as well as UNHCR in the HCT in mixed situations.

  • The RCM or Joint Note maintain an integral yet distinct approach. In mixed situations, refugee operations will be an integral part of the overall humanitarian response but will be distinct and stand alone for international protection and accountability purposes.

  • Coordination is a means to an end: facilitate effective and timely response. Increase efficiency- streamline number of meetings and provide/share a platform for coordinating and discussion on refugee/IDP matters by having refugee/IDP issues as fixed agenda items on sector/cluster meetings and/or hold joint meetings.

  • Provide space and visibility to all organisations working in the refugee response on web portals, sitreps, fact-sheets and other information products.

  • Establish linkages with national partners and development partners, pursing durable solutions and soliciting financial resources for refugees.

  • Leadership styles have to be democratic not autocratic- forge respectful and collaborative relationships with partners and stakeholders.