UNICEF-UNHCR Strategic Collaboration Framework
Promoting inclusion for refugee children and their families.
As the leading UN organizations working for refugees and for children, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNICEF have established a Strategic Collaboration Framework to promote the inclusion of refugees in the national systems of host countries and to bring about transformational change for refugee children and their families. The Framework is a global agreement that outlines the strategic collaboration between the two organizations and includes goals in areas such as child protection, education, social protection, water and sanitation, data, and ending childhood statelessness.
In 2022, for the first time, the number of forcibly displaced people globally reached 103 million. Of those, 40 million are children. Worldwide, 32 million people are refugees, including more than 12 million refugee children. And these numbers keep growing.
Refugees are often hosted in marginalized areas, where infrastructure is threadbare, development investment is minimal and access to essential services is limited. This situation is particularly worrying for children, whose development is often hindered by these precarious conditions, leaving them at risk of poverty and social exclusion and preventing them from reaching their full potential.
All refugee children deserve a fair chance in life. They should be safe from physical harm and exploitation, be living in clean and hygienic environments, be able to learn, and be able to look forward to a future where they can have the same life opportunities as other children. They deserve not only to survive, but also to thrive.
Allowing refugees to benefit from national services and including them in national development plans is essential for both refugees and the communities hosting them, and is consistent with the pledge to “leave no one behind” in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Strategic Collaboration Framework also supports the continuation and potential strengthening of UNHCR and UNICEF collaboration in other areas, such as – but not limited to – nutrition and health.
The key population groups addressed under the Framework include refugee, returnee and asylum-seeking children; their families; and the communities that host them – and children at risk of statelessness. In some contexts, the Framework may also apply to internally displaced persons.
In addition to supporting the achievement of the SDGs, the Framework contributes to the realization of both organizations’ joint commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and aligns with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1954 and 1961 United Nations Statelessness Conventions, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the 2018 Reform of the United Nations Development System and its call to achieve efficiency and effectiveness gains; and the principles and policies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. It also builds on commitments made by both organizations at the first Global Refugee Forum in 2019.
The Framework builds on results and lessons learnt from the “Blueprint for Joint Action for Refugee Children,” a strong collaboration between UNHCR and UNICEF that was developed and implemented between 2020 and 2022. Under the Blueprint, both organizations worked together in the areas of child protection, education, and water and sanitation across 10 focus countries to transform the way both agencies programme for and advocate on behalf of refugee and host community children and their families.
In support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNHCR and UNICEF are jointly working towards achieving the following outcomes by 2030:
Inclusion in national strategies, plans and budgets (SDGs 10.2, 10.3, 16.7, 16b, 17)
All refugee, stateless and returnee children, their families and the communities that host them are included in national/subnational strategies and plans, systems and services without discrimination; their rights are respected, they have access to accountability mechanisms and are systematically and meaningfully engaged.
Education (SDG 4)
All refugee, returnee and host community children, including children and youth of early childhood education, primary and secondary school age, girls and boys, have access to relevant, accredited quality education, focusing on inclusion into national systems; and refugee and returnee youth will have expanded access to accredited vocational training at post-secondary and tertiary level, and to tertiary education opportunities.
Water and sanitation (SDG 6)
All refugee and returnee children, their families and the communities that host them have access to safe, dignified, affordable water and sanitation services all the time, everywhere.
Child protection (SDGs 5.3, 8.7 and 16.2)
All refugee, returnee and host community children are protected from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect; and have their birth registered.
End statelessness (SDG 16.9)
Childhood statelessness will have been brought to an end.
Social protection (SDGs 1.3 and 10.4)
Refugee and returnee children, their families and the communities that host them have more equitable and full access to social protection, as a result of technical support to governments, international and local organizations working across the humanitarian, development and peace sectors.
The availability, accessibility and quality of comparable, reliable, timely and age, gender and diversity-disaggregated data on the situation of refugee and returnee children, their families and the communities that host them has improved, to enable the necessary evidence base for transforming the quality of life for these populations.
UNICEF and UNHCR are now scaling up the partnership at the global level, working across all countries where both agencies are present to identify and tackle barriers to inclusion and work in partnership with governments, refugee and youth-led organizations, as well as host communities to truly leave no child behind – as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.