2014/Zambia, Tanzania and Cameroon/Humanitarian Engagement Promoting Local Integration of Refugees

Below is the Executive Summary. Click here for the full report (PDF).



The purpose of this evaluation is to identify best practices in promoting local integration of refugee populations through humanitarian diplomacy and programming supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and one of its primary partners, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The evaluation consisted of (1) a global desk review and historical analysis of local integration policies and practices, and (2) three field-based evaluations in Cameroon, Tanzania, and Zambia.

The desk review and site visits focused on three key questions:

1. To what extent has the programming and engagement of PRM and UNHCR promoted local integration?

2. What programmatic and diplomatic interventions, as identified by PRM and UNHCR, were most and least successful?

3. What should PRM and its partners be doing to support the self-reliance of refugee populations for whom voluntary return and resettlement are not feasible?

This one-year evaluation was conducted by two-person teams for the desk review and each of the country visits. The desk review included a review of hundreds of published and unpublished documents, including reports, articles, newspaper stories, websites, and databases. They represent perspectives of UNHCR and donor organizations, implementing partners, think-tanks, scholars, and journalists.

The country visits were three weeks each, for a total of 51 days in the three countries. The team conducted a series of interviews, made observations, and reviewed additional documentation. The interviews included key informants in the host government, U.S. government, other donor governments, UNHCR, other multinational organizations, and implementing partners. Site visits were made to all five relevant settlements in Tanzania and Zambia and a few villages with spontaneously settled refugees, and to a representative sample of host villages in Cameroon. In all, the evaluation team interviewed 694 refugees from settlements and in host villages, 306 nationals from the host villages, and 180 officials from host governments, governments of origin, UNHCR and other international organizations, partner governments, and implementing partners.

Findings and Conclusions

Refugees in Cameroon, Tanzania, and Zambia have experienced considerable success in local integration, especially when compared to most of the countries in the desk review portion of this evaluation.

In all three countries, economic integration has been reached as defined by refugees achieving self-reliance and a standard of living similar to the host community. The successes have been the result of a combination of factors: host governments providing fertile land, UNHCR and partner governments providing agricultural inputs and livelihood support, host communities’ openness to the refugees, and the refugees’ willingness to integrate with their host community. Unfortunately, the standard of living is low and the vast majority of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Burundi, and Angola continue to live in extreme poverty in the poorest regions of their host countries. It is not known how much better off the refugees would be if they were given access to wage-earning employment, more educational opportunities, full freedom of movement with greater access to markets, or legal recognition, given the also relatively limited economic status of the host communities. The refugees’ economic progress, like the nationals’ progress, is limited by insufficient access to water, sanitation facilities, health care, education and training, credit, roads, transportation, and communication systems.

The level of social integration is also high. Refugees are accepted into the host communities and the refugees feel safe and at home, live in similar housing, participate in personal and national celebrations, and develop relationships with nationals including intermarriage. This has mostly been a natural process because the refugees in these three cases share much in common with the nationals: language, religion, tribe, cultural, and history. The lack of freedom of movement in Tanzania and Zambia has somewhat limited the extent to which social integration has been achieved, but not significantly. In Cameroon, where refugees live in host villages, the opportunities for social integration are much greater.

Providing refugees rights, entitlements, and a pathway to citizenship makes legal integration a more challenging process. At this point in time, there is no indication that legal integration of CAR refugees will take place in Cameroon. Zambia is progressing nicely with its local integration strategy and will be successful in integrating 10,000 Angolans if all potential barriers are addressed. (Please see: Field Evaluation of Local Integration of Former Refugees in Zambia Field Visit Report, April 15, 2014 for more information on the potential barriers.) Of the three countries visited, Tanzania is the furthest along in terms of legal integration. The GOT has naturalized 162,156 Burundians and, as of October 17, 2014, has resumed providing certificates of citizenship. The GOT will also start the naturalization process for the children that have been born since the local integration program was put on hold in 2011, thus bringing the total to around 200,000 people benefiting. This is, by far, the largest group that has been offered naturalization by a country of first asylum.

The most critical factors in economic, social, and legal integration are controlled by the host government and host villages. The factors can be supported through diplomatic interventions by UNHCR, PRM, and other partner governments as specified in the recommendations below. Also specified in the recommendations below are opportunities for UNHCR, PRM, and partner governments to support local integration programs through supporting relevant programs.


Based on the findings and conclusions from the desk study and subsequent field visits to Zambia, Tanzania, and Cameroon, the evaluation team recommends the following actions that will increase the likelihood of successful local integration:

Host Governments

1. Adhere to the Refugee Convention of 1951. Host governments that have signed the Convention (144 countries to date) and are interested in supporting local integration should pay special attention to the following Articles of the Convention:

“17. Wage-Earning Employment - The Contracting State shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the most favourable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as regards the right to engage in wage earning employment.

22. Public Education – The Contracting State shall accord to refugees the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to elementary education. The Contracting States shall accord to refugees treatment as favourable as possible, and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances, with respect to education other than elementary education and, in particular, as regards access to studies, the recognition of foreign school certificates, diplomas and degrees, the remission of fees and charges and the award of scholarships.

26. Freedom of Movement – Each Contracting State shall accord to refugees lawfully in its territory the right to choose their place of residence to move freely within its territory, subject to any regulations applicable to aliens generally in the same circumstances.

27. Identity Papers – The Contracting State shall issue identity papers to any refugee in their territory who does not possess a valid travel document.

34. Naturalization – The Contracting State shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.”

2. Make birth certificates more accessible to refugees (and nationals). Based on the countries included in this evaluation, doing so may require revising the current national system so that birth certificates are accessible at the community level, eliminating the need for refugees (and nationals) to travel significant distances to obtain a birth certificate. Effective information campaigns are necessary to help refugees (and nationals) to learn the process for obtaining the certificate in a timely manner so that they are free of charge and to understand the importance of securing birth certificates for their children.

3. Carefully consider the disadvantages of restricting refugees to camps or settlements especially given the recognition that the vast majority of refugee situations are protracted. Disadvantages include:

• The implications of creating an enclave via camps or settlements, especially in terms of social integration; this could be mitigated if nationals are allowed and encouraged to live within the settlements or if settlements are in close proximity to host communities.

• Potential impact on the environment especially if considering designating protected lands for a camp or settlement.

• The challenges and cost of relocating refugees once they have been naturalized and/or the settlement has been degazetted.

• The stigma of being a refugee in a camp or settlement that may limit the full potential of the refugees and subsequently the positive impact they can have on the host country’s general socio-economic development indicators.

4. Make land available to refugees to promote self-reliance. The plots should be large enough to feed the household and generate some cash for non-food expenses such as clinic and school fees. The host government should seek the support of UNHCR and partner governments to provide training and other inputs to help farmers maintain the fertility of their land. At a minimum, this should include techniques such as crop rotation and natural fertilizers.

5. Survey the refugees to determine what skill sets they can use to contribute to the development process within the host communities. For example, those who have experience as teachers or nurses should be employed in the host communities’ schools and clinics. UNHCR is in a good position to facilitate this effort with the host country government.

6. Provide health workers and teachers to staff the clinics and schools constructed by UNHCR and partner governments as this type of assistance is not traditionally support by donor governments.

7. Ensure the safety and security to refugees and refugee camps and/or settlements. Collaborate with UNHCR in learning and applying the rights within the Refugee Convention and the expectations on safety and security through orientation and training programs.

For recommendations specific to the countries included in this evaluation, please see the country reports for each:

• Field Evaluation of Local Integration of Former Refugees in Zambia: Field Visit Report, April 15, 2014

• Field Evaluation of Local Integration of Former Refugees in Tanzania: Field Visit Report, September 8, 2014

• Field Evaluation of Local Integration of Former Refugees in Cameroon: Field Visit Report, September 22, 2014



1. Encourage and work with host governments to do all of the above, recognizing their sovereignty. In particular, support host governments in adhering to the Convention. This includes orientation at the highest levels of government and training local officials (immigration officers, police, school officials, etc.) and village chiefs regarding the rights of refugees.

2. Facilitate dialogue and share lessons among countries that are pursuing local integration. By connecting key people among hosting governments, circulating key documents related to local integration, and convening meetings, official responsible for local integration will have guidance and encouragement to help them avoid problems experienced in other countries.

3. Engage the host country early regarding the three durable solutions, emphasizing the likelihood – and assisting host governments in preparing for – a protracted situation and how best to approach local integration. At a minimum, this could be done by encouraging host governments to provide land to help refugees become self-sufficient and by allowing freedom of movement. Focus the government on how the assistance and programs for refugees can contribute to the national development plan.

4. Establish and maintain good working relations with host governments at the national and local levels, village chiefs, and NGOs. Involve them in key decisions. This may include such things as meeting and orienting new officials, regular in-person meetings, and collaborating on key decisions. At the local level, UNHCR should seek their implementing partners’ help. While this requires additional time on individuals who are already stretched, the investment in developing good relations with the host government will have great dividends.

5. Design and implement communication strategies that keep refugees and local officials informed of the current refugee situation and the efforts toward each of the durable solutions. This is especially important when efforts to promote local integration have direct impact on refugees, host communities, and government districts and/or regions. The strategy should include both oral and written information in the major languages used by the refugees and in village meetings.

6. Build and maintain momentum among partner and donor governments to ensure continual support for local integration. Such efforts may include orienting new officials when they arrive in-country; conducting familiarization trips to see the conditions of the refugees; coordinating communication among partner government, NGOs, and multilateral actors; and convening coordination meetings.


1. Continue to place emphasis on all aspects of protection – both physical security and access to services and rights – given that peace and security are what refugees value most. Legal assistance programs are key for refugees to exercise and access their rights and services.

2. Provide agricultural inputs such as tools and seeds to help move refugees toward food self-reliance. (See Sphere Handbook for livelihood standards.) UNHCR should work with implementing partners to distribute the inputs and to provide training on farming techniques (especially important if refugees come from a non-agricultural background) and on ways to maintain the fertility of the land given the likelihood of a protracted situation.

3. Work with local and national government officials, as well as implementing partners, to ensure that refugees have access to water, latrines, health care, and education in compliance with international standards or, at a minimum, at parity with host communities. This should also include coordination with development partners and the host government to ensure long-term sustainability of services and infrastructure. If there is a shortage of civil society actors, government and donors may need to turn to and/or leverage the private sector to assist and invest in development priorities.

4. Develop a strategy that benefits host communities in every situation. When water points, latrines, health clinics, and schools are constructed, they should be available to both refugees and the host community.

5. Where assistance and services are provided post-emergency to vulnerable refugees, UNHCR should incorporate vulnerable host community members as well. This will help ease tensions between refugees and nationals and ensure that the host communities continue to welcome refugees.

6. Provide legal assistance including legal aid programs and access to the national legal system. Access to legal aid can facilitate access to birth certificates, work permits, identification documentation, legal immigration, and due process for refugees that have been detained or arrested.

7. Explore the possibility of funding national NGOs to establish microcredit programs in areas where local integration is being pursued. This will help refugees make investments in education, training, modern equipment and other things that will help them break the cycle of poverty.



PRM needs to dedicate an appropriate level of human and financial resources to promoting and operationalizing local integration efforts. This can include the following:

1. Deploy high-level officials to encourage host governments to adhere to the Convention, especially in terms of naturalization. For example, PRM should take advantage of the travel of the Assistant Secretary, or his/her designees, to promote local integration or to address barriers to ongoing local integration efforts. In countries where the barriers are at a high-level within the host government, PRM should request an intervention of a U.S. government official at the corresponding level.

2. Designate at least one local integration officer in Washington who is exclusively focused on monitoring local integration efforts and providing troubleshooting and problem-solving support where progress is lagging; liaising with UNHCR local integration officers and U.S. embassy personnel; sharing information and convening meetings regarding local integration strategies and best practices; and identifying resources to support local integration.

3. Encourage Embassy Chiefs of Mission to allow foreign service officers with refugee portfolios in U.S. embassies to devote a greater percentage of their time to refugee issues. Where local integration is being pursued, refugees should not be a marginal or add-on responsibility.

4. Increase dialogue and coordination within the government, especially USAID, to address post-emergency, development needs. A written policy with a mandate between USAID and PRM to coordinate post-emergency needs may be necessary to outline the steps for development projects in refugee protracted areas.

5. Clarify which part of the U.S. government should take responsibility for addressing water supply and sanitation needs in host communities, as well as health care and education.

6. Improve tracking of PRM’s diplomatic efforts through written documentation that is accessible to PRM in Washington. This will allow PRM to track its interventions and contributions and determine where it has had an impact and where efforts could be strengthened.


PRM should focus programmatic resources on the following types of activities:

1. Support livelihood interventions through international and local NGOs. The support should include both the relevant inputs and related training. For the most part, this will focus on agricultural and agricultural-related activities and include seeds and tools, as well as training in ways to maximize productivity of the land. It should also be at a large enough scale that the households can move beyond a subsistence existence.

2. Explore the possibility of funding international NGOs to establish microcredit programs in areas where local integration is being pursued. This will help refugees make investments in education, training, modern equipment and other things that will help them break the cycle of poverty.

3. Improve the administration of one-year funding to eliminate delayed start dates and funding gaps from year to year. PRM has the ability to award a total amount and can obligate in smaller amounts as the funds become available. In addition, inform implementing partners about the possibility of multi-year funding.

4. Continue requiring that all PRM implementing partners submit reports to PRM and that they are maintained in a central location. PRM should also consider requiring a final, cumulative report for a series of one-year programs implemented by the same partner with similar objectives for the same refugee situation and country. This will provide a more comprehensive account of the successes and challenges of local integration.