International Assistance to Refugees in Africa Can Be Improved

ID-83-2: Published: Dec 29, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1982.

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GAO reported on improvements that could be made in international assistance to refugees in Africa.

Based on visits to four countries, GAO stated that efforts to meet refugee needs could be improved by better planning and coordination. GAO found that inequitable amounts and types of assistance have been provided to refugees in Africa, the U.N. programs tend to be open-ended and without plans for phasing out assistance, and continuous high levels of assistance often serve as a deterrent to refugees' voluntary repatriation. At two camps, the amount of assistance provided to refugees has exceeded the living standards of the local population. GAO believes that these problems occurred because comprehensive country-program plans and agreements with governments offering asylum and program guidance were not established nor was donor assistance effectively coordinated. African refugee programs are not sufficiently evaluated because of the Department of State's limited in-country assessment of, and reporting on, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) activities and projects, and the fact that about 95 percent of U.S. contributions to the program were unrestricted and inherently difficult to track. GAO found that, in some countries, governments consider the refugees as guests and limit the extent to which refugees can effectively resettle and integrate into the economy. Less restrictive asylum-country policies are needed for Agency for International Development (AID) refugee assistance to be effective.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should encourage UNHCR, in planning and implementing African refugee assistance programs, to: (1) develop a more comprehensive working agreement with asylum governments, defining the specific roles, responsibilities, and authority of the UNHCR and the asylum governments; and (2) develop a multiyear plan of operations for those countries where near-term solutions to refugee problems do not appear possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Administrator of AID should, where appropriate, establish a means to better evaluate and report on specific UNHCR refugee programs. State Department oversight of UNHCR programs should determine whether such programs: (1) provide assistance to all refugees who require assistance; (2) provide reasonable amounts and types of assistance in keeping with UNHCR standards and objectives; (3) are effectively coordinated with other donors and private voluntary organizations; and (4) promote lasting solutions to refugee problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Administrator of AID should, where appropriate, establish a means to better evaluate and report on specific UNHCR refugee programs. State Department oversight of UNHCR programs should determine whether such programs: (1) provide assistance to all refugees who require assistance; (2) provide reasonable amounts and types of assistance in keeping with UNHCR standards and objectives; (3) are effectively coordinated with other donors and private voluntary organizations; and (4) promote lasting solutions to refugee problems.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, AID, should closely monitor AID plans for bilateral refugee assistance to assure that asylum countries remove barriers to economic integration of refugees before making direct U.S. commitments.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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