Examples of how UNCTs have progressed refugee inclusion

International Organizations

Examples of how UNCTs have progressed refugee inclusion

21 November 2023

The following examples demonstrate actions that UN Country Teams have taken to promote the inclusion of refugees, in the period since the 2019 UN common pledge.

How the UN has supported Venezuelans in Ecuador to access regularization

For displaced Venezuelans, regularization is the key to building productive lives. Thanks to bold regularization schemes, refugees and migrants in Ecuador are able to realize their dreams of becoming self-sufficient. Regularization is a term used to define the process through which persons with an irregular migratory status can access a regular one. In this case, it involves the whole process that comes after registration: getting an appointment, going to the appointment, having the interview and, finally, getting a VISA. Once the person in an irregular situation obtains the visa, they have been regularized.

In Ecuador, the UNCT has joined the registration and regularization process through different mechanisms. The first has been the communicational aspect, in which both the organizations of the UN Country Team and over 50 partners of the GTRM (R4V) have actively participated in disseminating the stages of the process, the closing dates, the requirements to access the registration and the VISA, as well as the information that can solve the doubts of the people interested in regularizing their migratory status.

Likewise, brigades have been coordinated with State institutions such as the Public Defender's Office, to reach remote areas of the cities and promote the registration of refugees and migrants. Often, due to cost, distance or lack of internet access, these people have not been able to access other regularization processes. Hence the importance of the UNCT's coordination to develop these brigades that allow more people to access this benefit. In the little house where María Jose Mercado and José Soto live with their three children in the border town of Ibarra, the line between work and home life is a blurry one.

The Venezuelan couple, who left their country two years ago amid food and medicine shortages and a deepening political, economic and human rights crisis, have turned their rental into a workspace.

José, who worked as an artist back home, paints on the canvases that María José builds and stretches, whilst their children, ages 11, 6, and 5, sometimes contribute a few brushstrokes. The family sells the finished products at local markets, but their irregular status has kept them from taking their business to the next level. 

“Regularization is vital – it’s what we need to find stability and calm,” says María José, adding that without it they are unable to obtain the tax number they would need to sell their paintings to shops. “It would also help my children. They’re in school, but they need to have an ID in order to get their diplomas.”

María José’s dreams of regularization are about to come true. Ecuador recently announced a plan to extend regular status to the nearly 50 per cent of the 430,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the country who currently do not currently have this status. The plan will not only remove practical barriers to accessing basic services like health care and education, it will also facilitate entrepreneurship and provide a doorway to full inclusion.  Regularization could be a game-changer for the couple's painting business, which has been supported by UNHCR and its partner HIAS through a programme which provides would-be entrepreneurs with seed capital and business advice. The regularization process has been supported by 13 UN agencies and over 50 NGOs participating in the Refugee and Migrant Working Group in Ecuador. The group uses communication campaigns, free legal support for refugees and migrants; and training for NGOs and civil servants to enable as many refugees and migrants as possible can access the regularization process.


María José worked as an elementary school teacher in Venezuela and says that she would like to give something back to her host community by working. José feels the same: “We are bringing our knowledge to Ecuador and also learning new things from the country. If we are able to return to our country, Venezuela, we will take with us what we have learned here.” 

UN support to Operation Welcome in Brazil

In Brazil, the UN Country Team has supported the government to deliver on progressive pledges made at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum.

By the end of 2022, Brazil was host to over half a million people displaced from countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Ukraine. These people are impacted by multiple and intersecting vulnerabilities, and are exposed to risks such as discrimination, exploitation, gender-based violence, violence against children, as well as trafficking in persons and smuggling.

The government stepped in with a robust normative framework providing protection and socioeconomic inclusion: refugees, migrants and stateless people can access documentation, work, health, education, and social welfare, which are made available through national and sub-national specialized support services, policies and programs.

Since March 2023 the UN has been supporting an initiative under Operation Welcome - a comprehensive response specifically for Venezuelans, led by the Office of the Presidency – enabling 100,000 refugees and migrants to voluntarily relocate across the whole national territory, where greater socioeconomic opportunities are available. UN agencies have facilitated access to basic goods and services for Venezuelans; built the capacity of states and municipalities to receive and support the new arrivals; and reinforced protection for groups with specific needs such as survivors of gender based violences, persons living with HIV/AIDS, elderly people, LGBTQI+ people, indigenous people; and victims of human trafficking, smuggling and labor exploitation.

UNICEF and UNHCR help turn inclusive policies into reality for refugees in Indonesia

Indonesia was one of the 10 pilot countries where UNICEF and UNHCR worked together, in support of government, to enhance refugee inclusion under their flagship Blueprint initiative.


In South Jakarta, Indonesia, Ahmed, a refugee from Sudan, spends time with his classmates from a national elementary school. | UNHCR/Kevin Gunadjaja

In 2019, the Indonesian government formally opened up national schools to refugee children. However, in practice, refugee children still faced administrative barriers to enrolling in local schools and struggled to obtain formal certificates upon completing their education.

In response, UNICEF and UNHCR approached the Ministry of Education to support the development of a revised and more inclusive policy, which was issued in May 2022. The new policy clarifies the role of the local Education office in including refugee children and provides guidance on the issuance of school completion certificates to facilitate the move to higher education.

Removing policy and administrative barriers has opened up a world of opportunities for refugee children such as Ahmed (7) and his brother Amjad (5), whose parents fled to Indonesia from Sudan more than 10 years ago.

Ahmed is in first grade in a local school in South Jakarta, while Amjad is in a local kindergarten. Ahmed is studying hard so that he can realize his dream of becoming a pilot. He enjoys all his subjects, which include mathematics, Indonesian language and science; and he can do his homework without any help from his parents. After school he and his brother take turns riding their shared bicycle, together with friends in the neighborhood.

Birth Registration

In 2019 A Presidential Decree in Indonesia strengthened all aspects of civil registration including birth registration for vulnerable groups. As with the progressive education policy issued in the same year, UNICEF and UNHCR undertook joint dialogue with national authorities to help realise the policy's potential on the ground, where a birth certificate can transform the life and opportunities for a refugee child. The agencies supported the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure local civil registries are aware it is their responsibility to issue formal notification of refugee children’s births.  

COVID-19 vaccination

Covid Vaccination

In Indonesia, a refugee accesses medical care through public health facilities.  | UNHCR/Jiro Ose

Following advocacy from UNICEF and UNHCR, Indonesia included refugees in its COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. As of August 2022, over 75 per cent of the eligible population had received the first COVID-19 vaccination, and over 67 per cent had received the second dose. The government also built considerations for refugees into its national roadmap for Wather and Sanitation.

With UN support, Costa Rica extends health insurance to refugees

In 2018, Catalina – a law professional- felt angry and scared after attesting the response to the protests in her home country Nicaragua and was forced to hide with other students inside a university campus.

One night, a homemade explosive entered through a window and went off, causing serious injuries to her foot. “I was bleeding and was rushed to the hospital” she said.

At the hospital she went into surgery and was quickly discharged due to security concerns that her attackers could track her down. Although her wounds were not yet healed, she packed a few of her belongings and crossed the border by herself and into Costa Rica.

Even though she needed medical assistance, she didn’t have health insurance or a job that allowed her to pay for healthcare in Costa Rica; therefore, she didn’t receive medical care for months. She learned about UNHCR’s project with the Costa Rican Social Security Bureau (CCSS) that provides refugees and asylum seekers access to the public healthcare system.

“It was a blessing to hear about the medical insurance provided by UNHCR” stated Catalina, a 46-year-old lawyer and mother of two.

The agreement entered by the CCSS and UNHCR changed the reality for Catalina and thousands of others by expanding the health insurance coverage to include at-risk refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica and grant them access to the public healthcare system. 

Thanks to this project, Catalina resumed her medical treatment. With time, her physical wounds have gradually healed, so have her emotional wounds.  

In Costa Rica, Catalina provides and delivers humanitarina assistance kits to Nicaraguan asylum seekers in San José | UNHCR/Roberto Solano

Catalina has gone back to doing what she loves most: helping others. Along with other religious organization and other Nicaraguans, she has coordinated initiatives to help homeless and persons in situations of high vulnerability in Costa Rica.

UNICEF and Development Partners Support Transition of Schools in Camps to the Ministry of Education in Jordan

Jordan’s schools have welcomed 150,510 Syrian and 52,183 non-Syrian students in the 2022/23 academic year - and UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education and development partners to enhance attendance, learning, and well-being for refugee children, taking into consideration the impact of COVID-19 school closures amongst other issues.

In Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan, Aya, 9 years, is enrolled in the education programme and is currently in Grade 3.(2022) |UNICEF/Bseiso.

The strategies used to do this range from building new schoolrooms to community outreach and providing transportation, including for children with disabilitities. UNICEF also works with principals and school leadership teams to produce data-driven School Development Plans, introduce pathways from non-formal learning into the national education system and support learners with accelerated learning.

In refugee camps children currently access learning opportunities provided by a blend of 1,330 Syrian volunteers and 1,634 Jordanian teachers funded by partners and contracted by the Ministry of Education. In order to make the shift to a truly inclusive approach, where sufficient financing is available operational responsibility is gradually shifting to the Ministry - for example, in March 2023, UNICEF transferred responsibility for the security of Azraq schools to the Ministry. A key concern for the success of this approach is government access to adequate financing.

In Egypt, a Sudanese refugee Pilot in the Making

"I want to be a pilot when I get old and travel the world," said Mohamed from Sudan, who lives with his single mother and older siblings after they sought asylum in Egypt. Mohamed's family wish that they could live a stable life in safety. To them, receiving an education means the dream of a bright future is no longer unattainable.

Mohamed is one of the millions of refugees around the world who did not choose to leave their homeland but was forced to seek protection outside of their borders when the situation in Sudan got dire. If they are denied access to education today, they will be left to face an unknown fate. 

As of February 2023, 292,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Egypt, of whom around 38% are children. Refugee children from South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are fortunate to be granted access to education in public schools on the same footing as Egyptians.

To support the enrolment of refugee children in schools, UNHCR provides students with education grants to contribute to the school fees and their supplements. In the academic year 2021/2022, UNHCR supported more than 36,000 students in public and community schools. The refugee school enrolment rate reached approximately 89% for the same academic year.

In parallel and based on the needs identified by GOE, UNHCR provides training for teachers, supports the refurbishment of schools and supplies equipment, furniture, and other necessities to assist the Egyptian facilities in absorbing the refugee population.

Among all the rights taken from refugees, the right to education remains one of the most important ones that UNHCR advocates for, alongside its partner UNICEF, and encourages everyone to defend, to help create the opportunity for a better future for refugees and their host communities. 

UN agencies leverage their expertise to progress refugee inclusion in Uganda

In Uganda, under the leadership of the UN's Resident Coordinator, multiple UN agencies are helping to include refugees in national systems and the economy, in line with the government's progressive policies.  

For example, UN Women has established a public private partnership which builds resilience and livelihoods for refugee and host community women in the Yumbe and Adjumani districts. UN Women funds local government to partner with Delight Uganda Limited, a fruit processing company, which in tun implements a climate-smart agriculture project.

The project has given over 1,000 women from the refugee and host communities alike access to new sources of income and new economic opportunities have been increased for refugee and host community women. Other benefits of the project are increased knowledge and skills in fruit production, as well as increased acreage under cultivation, using drought resistant strains of guava, mangoes, and green gram seeds.

The increase in income helps the women send their children to school and meets some of their basic needs such as food and health care.   

UNICEF is strengthening the participation of displaced populations and local actors in humanitarian and development action and using their feedback to inform the design and provision of services.

Using U-Report, an SMS based social media tool currently available in all refugee hosting districts, UNICEF is enabling refugees and host communities alike to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and receive the information they need to make informed decisions. Views and feedback from affected families, children and adolescents systematically inform the design, implementation and evaluation of the agency's programmes; and UNICEF has mechanisms in place for acting upon the feedback and complaints received by affected families, children and adolescents.

UNICEF intends to work with the rest of the UN family and other partners to extend this Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) approach. This involves strengthening local capacities to assess and report needs within communities as well as develop practical solutions, including advocacy messages. The agency will build on investments in development programming for community engagement, behaviour change and real-time monitoring—all of which can strengthen the accountability to refugee children and families and the communities that host them.

IOM is supporting refugees with sustainable electronic waste management – and creating jobs for young men and women at the same time.

In Bidibidi Village 15, Uganda, the project team is having an e-waste sensitization outreach to inform refugees and the host community of the health and environmental risks related to poor electronic waste management.

Under an electronic waste project, funded by Innovation Norway and implemented in partnership with Mercy Corps, IOM is running a pilot project to recover, repair and recycle solar products in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. The project gives new life to disused solar lanterns and batteries, whilst creating jobs and supporting livelihoods and raising awareness of the danger of incorrect e-waste disposal.

Under the project, IOM has partnered with Total Energies Offgrid Solar Solutions, BRIGHT Products and Solvoz to create a circular economy for solar products which have been provided to refugees and are usually disposed of at the end of their life through open burning – which contaminates soil and water sources, leading to health complications and poor agriculture yields amongst other things.

The project sees community mobilisers undertake house-to-house visits and community meetings to collect broken lanterns and sensitize communities about the dangers of poor e-waste handling.

The collected items are then repaired using recycled parts, and equipped with new batteries. Old batteries are assembled by technicians into second-life battery packs intended for small businesses, clinics, and schools.

21-year old Reida Kiden Moses is one of the seven technicians who have been trained in lantern repair, and battery testing and assembly. She works in a specialized battery testing and repurposing facility, called the Batlab, to the surprise of many community members who think such work is only for men. For Kiden, working in the Batlab not only allows her to provide for her mother and four siblings, but also keeps her dream of attaining higher education alive: she dropped out of school after her mother couldn’t pay the fees for post-primary.

“People always tell me this is a man’s job, but every woman is capable of doing this because God has given us the gift and the talent” says Kiden whose dream is now to be an electrical engineer.

The learning from this pilot project will feed into sustainable procurement programmes within government, the private sector, the UN and global clean energy efforts. With more displaced communities suffering the effects of climate change, innovative solutions to sustainable e-waste management are needed more than ever.