In 2008, the High Commissioner for Refugees (HC) launched a Special Initiative on Protracted Refugee Situations (PRS) to promote durable solutions and improvements in the life of these refugees. The HC’s initiative focused on five situations in different parts of the world, four of which have been selected for evaluation: the Croatian refugees in Serbia; the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; the Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan; and the Burundian refugees in Tanzania. The four evaluations aim to assess how effectively UNHCR has exercised its mandate and the catalytic role performed in engaging other players in seeking durable solutions, as well as the progress UNHCR has made in improving the quality of life for the refugees. The evaluations also aim to identify examples of good practice, innovative approaches and lessons learned.
In addition to the stated aims above, the Evaluation of the Tanzania PRS assesses: i) the relevance and appropriateness of the strategies to refugees themselves, to host communities, and to national and local governments; ii) the effectiveness of the strategies pursued for Burundian refugees in Tanzania as well as the role of UNHCR in supporting these; iii) UNHCR engagement through the UN Delivering as One (DaO) reform process to which Tanzania is a pilot country; and finally iv) links between short-term humanitarian activities and the medium- and longer-term development activities.
The Evaluation is a joint effort of the Danish Government (the Evaluation Department in Danida) and UNHCR (the Policy Department and Evaluation Service). The Evaluation was conducted between May and October 2010 with fieldwork carried out in Tanzania between 4th and 17th June 2010.
The report starts with a descriptive account of the operational context and an analysis of the comprehensive solutions strategy, TANCOSS, and its three pillars. This is followed by an assessment of the role of UNHCR and the role of the High Commissioner’s Special Initiative on PRS in the planning and implementation of the strategy. The analyses are then assessed against selected key OECD/DAC evaluation criteria followed by some lessons to be learned from the Tanzanian PRS.
The protracted refugee situation in Tanzania concerns the 160,000 Burundian refugees who arrived in 1972 and who had increased to approximately 220,000 by 2007. The Government of Tanzania had welcomed them as guests of the country, and gave them plots of land in three settlement areas in the Tabora and Rukwa Regions. These circumstances gave the refugees an opportunity to re-establish their rural livelihoods and live in a non-camp environment. Over the years they achieved economic self-sufficiency and became socially accepted in the host communities to whom they were ethnically and linguistically affiliated. Through education they also adopted a Tanzanian way of life.
In 2006, the Government raised the issue of their future and requested UNHCR, which had not been present in the settlements since 1985, to re-engage.
The circumstances of the 1972 group are not comparable to the situation of later waves of refugees. The approximately 340,000 Burundians, who fled to Tanzania in 1993, have lived in camps throughout their stay.
The Tanzania comprehensive solutions strategy (TANCOSS)
TANCOSS, which specifically covered the 1972 group of Burundian refugees, was developed at the end of 2007 on the basis of a census, a registration exercise and a socioeconomic study conducted in the settlements. Institutionally, the strategy was conceived in the setting of the tripartite cooperation between the Governments of Tanzania and Burundi and UNHCR. In 2007, as part of the planning process, the refugees were asked about their future wishes and intentions. Approximately 20% wished to repatriate and 80% to be naturalised as Tanzanian citizens. With regard to the naturalisation option there was a clause in the survey questions explaining that those who opted for naturalisation would have to agree to spread out, relocate and be integrated in communities elsewhere in Tanzania, as the Government intended to close the settlements. On this background, TANCOSS was formulated with three Pillars:
- Voluntary repatriation and reintegration in Burundi (Pillar 1);
- Naturalisation (Pillar 2);
- Full integration of the newly naturalised citizens (Pillar 3).
Implementation was planned to take place between January 2008 and December 2009 but has since been extended up to 2014.
Motivation for the strategy
The broader motivation behind TANCOSS can be found in the Tanzanian Government policies aiming at becoming a refugee free zone, coupled with the advancing peace process in Burundi after 2000.
The motivation for the exceptional offer of naturalisation is linked to Government policies at the time of the refugees’ arrival as well as to the experience gained with regard to co-existence, the refugees’ economic contribution and the ethnic affiliation of the refugees with the host population. Commitment of high-level decision makers in the Government also played an instrumental role in offering naturalisation. Another motivating factor was the Tanzanian leadership’s analysis of the larger political and security context in the Great Lakes region, where a return of all the refugees could potentially lead to security problems in Burundi and result in another wave of refugees coming back into Tanzania.
With regard to Pillar 3, the Government was of the view that a solution should be sought to avoid a Burundian enclave and that the group should be integrated in Tanzanian communities. Some interviews suggested that the Government was planning to use the land, being scarce state land, for commercial agricultural purposes.
The implementation of the repatriation to Burundi, part of Pillar 1, was relatively smooth and issues arising, such as underestimation of allowances and the cash grant, were swiftly solved. However, with regard to reintegration in Burundi, the second part of Pillar 1, the achievements seem to fall short of expectations. In general, Burundian refugees appear to have had difficulties in reintegration and the 1972 group has faced particular problems, because of their length of absence. They had lost their right to land, whilst family and cultural ties had weakened. The complications of settling these returnees appear to have been underestimated by UNHCR.
Naturalisation (Pillar 2) was the preferred option by most of the refugees, and was indeed an extraordinary step taken by a government towards solving a protracted refugee situation. Initially, the naturalisation process was planned as a “fast track” procedure involving mass naturalisation by decree. In the course of implementation the Government changed this to an “expedite” procedure, which follows the country’s general processes for individual naturalisation but with some steps being modernised and expedited. The modernisation (digitalisation) of procedures included a major capacity building exercise of officials and change of work processes in the immigration department.
The naturalisation process came to a halt in April 2010, when the Government announced the granting of citizenship on the one hand and on the other hand made it clear that citizen certificates would not be issued until the newly naturalised Tanzanians (NNTs) have been relocated (Pillar 3). Pillar 2 is therefore likely to be completed at an unknown point in time. This decision has created frustration among the NNTs.
A strategy document for Pillar 3 was finally launched at the end of June 2010. The document lists the areas to receive the NNTs, divides the total group into three segments according to their needs for assistance and protection and outlines a considerable support package. The strategy is, however, vague on the criteria defining the size of groups and who goes where and when and at which point in time and how the NNTs will receive their citizen certificates.
The Evaluation is of the view that relocation and in particular the local integration part of Pillar 3 could become the most difficult part of the comprehensive solutions strategy to implement. The achievement of local integration depends both on a dignified relocation and suitable settlement conditions for the families as well as the proper reception by local governments and social acceptance by host communities. In a worst case scenario the strategy’s credibility, relevance and appropriateness could be questioned if the unresolved issues are not solved at the start of implementation and done so with adherence to the rights of the refugees.
The role of the High Commissioner’s Special Initiative
The HC’s Special Initiative was launched in the first quarter of 2008, i.e. a few months after TANCOSS. TANCOSS is likely to have been implemented without the contribution of the Special Initiative, but the initiative, nevertheless, played a facilitating role in the initial stages of strategy implementation. High-level missions by the High Commissioner and Assistant High Commissioner helped to build a bridge of trust and support to the Government of Tanzania, and the Tanzanian Prime Minister’s participation in the Dialogue Meeting on PRS held in Geneva in December 2008 is a case in point of this cooperation.
Internal coordination in UNHCR
Different stakeholders were of the view that internal coordination in UNHCR had worked relatively well throughout implementation, at least along vertical lines: field, country office, and headquarters. Nevertheless, the Evaluation would suggest that the apparent reintegration problems in Burundi could have been lessened, had UNHCR coordination between Burundi and Tanzania offices been stronger. The UNHCR country offices seem to work more in support of each country’s national interest, rather than fully assessing the situation in a regional perspective.
The central role of partnerships, especially cooperation with non-humanitarian partners is highlighted in the HC’s Special Initiative on PRS which states that development related activities are central to viable management of protracted refugee situations, and that there is a need to engage with less traditional actors (i.e. humanitarian actors) in the search for solutions. This has been accomplished in the case of TANCOSS and UNHCR played an instrumental and catalytic role in engaging the different stakeholders and moving TANCOSS forward. Manager and ’energiser’ of the different partnerships was the label put on the role of UNHCR.
The Role of UN Delivering as One
UNHCR is committed to work through the UN Delivering as One (UN DaO) to which Tanzania is a pilot country. Pillar 3 of the strategy will be implemented under these auspices and is included in the United Nations Development Assistance Plan. In this way it will be brought into the planning system of Government. Experience from a joint pilot project on “Transition from Humanitarian Assistance to Sustainable Development” is not encouraging. The common approach and cooperation between the UN agencies have been difficult and implementation has been seriously delayed, both because of bureaucratic hurdles and internal difficulties among the UN organizations, as well as constraints in the government system. The teething problems of the pilot initiative will not necessarily continue in the implementation of Pillar 3, but there is some hesitation expressed in the strategy and within UNHCR of having UN Delivering as One taking the lead on Pillar 3.
Relevance and appropriateness
The DAC criterion of relevance asks for an assessment of the validity of the objectives for the consistency of the internal logic of a programme (in this case the strategy) including the logic of the intended impacts and benefits. Appropriateness (a criterion especially added in evaluation of humanitarian assistance) refers to the tailoring of humanitarian activities for example to local needs and increased ownership.
The unique historical context has been the main determinant in the offer of a durable solution for the Burundians. The design of the strategy has at a general level been in accordance with UNHCR’s mandate under its statute to pursue protection, assistance and solutions for refugees and in the broader geopolitical context, the peace process in Burundi had advanced to the extent that the repatriation to Burundi was relevant.
The repatriation from the settlements appears to have been conducted in an appropriate manner and practical problems have been solved rather swiftly. However, the appropriateness support provided to the reintegration process in Burundi is of concern given the underestimation of the special conditions and needs of the 1972 group.
The naturalisation (Pillar 2) was a relevant gesture from Tanzania, given the affiliation of the refugees to the country and the wish by 80% of the settlement population to become Tanzanian citizens. The implementation of the naturalisation process has been both relevant and appropriate because the naturalisation process was handled as an individual process thus minimizing potential legal problems downstream, instead of by decree, treating the refugees as a collective group. The implementation was also appropriate because it included modernisation (digitalisation) and capacity building of the immigration authorities.
In relation to Pillar 3 the relevance of forcing relocation of NNTs should be questioned, who for a large part, prior to the strategy, appeared to be well integrated with viable livelihoods, housing and interaction with Tanzanian society. Furthermore, the linking of naturalisation (Pillar 2) and relocation (the initial step of Pillar 3) raises concern from a rights perspective. It is noted that although it has been well known throughout the implementation of TANCOSS that relocation was a condition for citizenship it was only after April 2010, when the citizenship certificates were withheld that civil society and some observers raised the rights issue more widely.
The strategy for Pillar 3, published in June 2010, takes on a broad partnership approach and envisages the implementation to be in the hands of the Government and UN DaO with UNHCR playing a role in monitoring the protection needs. These aspects of the strategy are relevant, but the timing and conditions for the issuance of citizen certificates are unclear in the strategy document, which unless made clear in the upcoming plan of operation could question the appropriateness of the strategy.
The Evaluation has found that the engagement of UNHCR including the HC’s special initiative have been well coordinated with the efforts of the Government of Tanzania to develop and implement TANCOSS. It is however suggested that if UNHCR had taken a regional approach instead of a “two country office approach”, there would have been a more appropriate and realistic assessment of the absorption capacity in Burundi at hand.
NGOs have been working with UNHCR in implementation. In the case of repatriation and naturalisation these partnerships were reported by the parties involved to have worked well. However, there was also some frustration in the group of partners who felt that their knowledge and insights could be better utilised by UNHCR. It was indicated that UNHCR has a top down approach rather than a partnership approach, and does not sufficiently value the skills and knowledge of the implementing partners.
The repatriation from the settlements to Burundi was a short-term humanitarian type activity but with a profound link to longer-term development, i.e. the reintegration of the returnees. In a nutshell this is the content of the connectedness criterion. It was found that this situation has not yet materialised because of the reintegration problems, while it is recognised that following the problems for returnees, UNHCR has worked with the Burundi Government, UNDP and other organizations to mitigate the situation. Naturalisation is by nature a long-term development measure and the introduction of the expedite procedures have underlined this.
Effectiveness is understood as an assessment of whether the objectives were achieved or are likely to be achieved based on the planned outputs, as well as major factors influencing achievement or non-achievement. With regard to Pillar 1, the logistics of moving a large number of families and their belongings, was accomplished in an effective manner. However, the tasks and challenges of reintegration appear to have been underestimated both in the planning (including information available and given to the families) as well as in implementation in Burundi, having said that UNHCR has continuously reacted to problems arising and engaged in the seeking solutions.
The naturalisation process of Pillar 2 was effective and UNHCR took on the challenge of assisting the Government of Tanzania with the comprehensive expedite naturalisation process. UNHCR was instrumental in adjustments and setting up the logistics, so the process could be effectively implemented. Furthermore, UNHCR managed to play a successful role in diffusing resistance to naturalisation among local authorities and police and immigration officers, and striking a balance between mitigating xenophobia towards refugees and identifying positive spin-offs. Nevertheless, the non-issuance of citizen certificates questions the overall effectiveness and shows that effectiveness is hampered, when political issues are at play.
With regard to Pillar 3, it could be foreseen that if the NNTs have to spend considerable time in their new locations, before they “qualify” to receive their certificates, they would continue to have a semi refugee status. There could also be other factors, which could erode the potential achievement of long-term and sustainable livelihoods. Such factors include difficulties in acquiring land, poor quality of land, social exclusion and insufficient funding to fully implement what is envisaged. Such potential risks are flagged by the Evaluation but obviously it is premature to draw conclusions.
The Evaluation was told that there are economic benefits of repatriation to the receiving communities in Burundi. The returnees are described as an injection of a productive, skilled and self-sufficient agricultural and trading labour force into a depressed and resource scarce society. At the same time, the group of 1972 returnees to Burundi appears, as mentioned, to struggle themselves because of the considerable problems they face in setting up sustainable livelihoods.
In Tanzania the community representatives in the vicinity of the settlements (host communities) found that closing of the settlements could lead to a reduction in produce flowing to the local markets, a decline of social services and a reduction of tax revenues in the respective districts. Such sentiments are backed by the findings of a research project carried out at the University of Dar es Salaam in North-western Tanzania, which found that the positive impacts of refugee presence outweigh the negative impacts.
Naturalisation (Pillar 2) could both have positive and negative impacts on refugees and host communities. It was said that, once the NNTs have their certificates, their options should be equal to others, including access to education and employment opportunities.
The expectations of Pillar 3 are based on the interviews with NNTs, who did not have much information on what was going to happen. Their views were that relocation and local integration could lead to loss of family ties, traditions and culture and have negative economic consequences, if they were not able to access adequate land in the new location. For some people relocation was seen as an opportunity to move on, with UNHCR staff mentioning that young persons expected to leave farming and go to town once they have relocated and received their certificates.
Several lessons can be drawn from the Tanzanian experience. The lessons do not claim to be universal in scope but should only be seen as sources of inspiration for other UNHCR offices and governments facing similar challenges:
Strong commitment of top-level officials in the Tanzanian Government. The Government was the driving force and played a crucial role in shaping durable solutions for the protracted refugee situation. Finding durable solutions to refugee situations can only be achieved if governments are driving the process and are supportive – i.e. political will and leadership is key.
Appropriate timing. The implementation of a durable solutions strategy in Tanzania illustrates that several factors have to be in place in order to move forward. The ongoing peace process in Burundi and the political will to find durable solutions both from the Burundian and the Tanzanian Government created a window of opportunity to draw up the strategy and embark on implementation. Repatriation is only possible if there is peace and stability in the country of origin, and naturalisation is only possible if the political will is present in the host country.
Presence of a UNHCR country team with strong networking and engagement skills. This point was reiterated again and again in interviews and was found to be crucial in initiating the discussions with the Tanzanian Government and in reaching an agreement for the Burundian refugees. The staff configuration seems to have been incidental rather than strategic. In the future, UNHCR could consider applying a more systematic deployment of staff members with professional experience in acting as “catalysts” to find solutions in protracted refugee situations.
Need for a regional approach by UNHCR. A regional approach instead of a “two country office approach” with the particular perspectives of national policies could have led to a more appropriate and realistic assessment of the absorption capacity in Burundi. UNHCR’s advocacy role could also have been more balanced than was the case.
The importance of undertaking a thorough contextual analysis. It is proposed (without having analysed the Burundi operation first hand) that the reintegration difficulties in Burundi could have been better assessed and analysed beforehand, if the coordination had been stronger. The situation in Tanzania was well studied but the reintegration problems appear to have been underestimated. UNHCR’s catalytic role in the process could have been more balanced if the situation and in particular the constraints of reintegration in Burundi, had been thoroughly analysed and advocacy for a durable solution had been based on a fuller picture.
The need to carefully assess when a durable solution has actually been successfully accomplished. TANCOSS is already being communicated as a success story, although the most difficult steps are still ahead. Politicisation of the strategy and delays associated with this could jeopardise the completion of the strategy with the unfortunate end result that the expected solution is not durable. This would have disastrous consequences and turn an existing durable solution – experienced by the 1972 group of refugees having lived in the settlements in Tanzania for about 40 years, into a situation resembling internal displacement.
This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of the protracted refugee situation (PRS) for Burundians in Tanzania' as chapter 2 of 15
Version 1.0. 07-02-2011
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/10940/index.htm