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UNHCR Asylum Capacity Development (ACD) Evaluation - An Independent Evaluation of UNHCR’s Support for Strengthening National Asylum Systems

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This document summarises the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the Independent Evaluation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR’s) Support for Strengthening National Asylum Systems. The evaluation was undertaken from January to December 2021.

The overall purpose of the evaluation is to review how UNHCR has fulfilled its objective to support and strengthen the capacity of national asylum systems in the period 2015–2020 and thereby improve the quality of protection for persons of concern and the sustainability of the systems that support this.
It reviews UNHCR’s experience globally and the lessons learned, and provides recommendations for UNHCR’s role in national asylum capacity development with specific reference to Refugee Status Determination (RSD) policy and processes. The specific focus of the evaluation is on RSD; although in less detail, it also considers the related activities of registration and documentation (REG). In collaboration with UNHCR Division for International Protection (DIP), a spectrum of country situations and typologies of UNHCR’s Asylum Capacity Development (ACD) activities is covered by the evaluation, including for example advocacy, legislative advice, institutional and infrastructure support, individual capacity support, asylum system monitoring and quality assurance (QA).

The evaluation has been built on a Theory of Change model of capacity development. The guiding principles for the evaluation have been that it is summative, formative, participatory and utilisation focused.
The evaluation employed a mixed methods approach for data collection and analysis, including: a targeted document review, key informants interviews, a global online survey of UNHCR (mainly protection) staff members, a sample of 11 case study countries, of which Costa Rica, Morocco, Niger,
Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom (UK) were in depth, and Azerbaijan, Ecuador,
Israel, South Korea, Uganda lighter-touch, and interviews with a small number of asylum-seekers in Costa Rica and Niger. Four online sense making workshops were held with UNHCR staff and the Reference Group to sense-check and test the initial evaluation findings.

The evaluation was subject to a number of limitations: a stronger focus on RSD than on other aspects of asylum such as registration and documentation; remote working because of COVID-19 travel restrictions; case study selection, partly based on objective criteria but also influenced by pragmatic considerations; difficulty of accessing internal annual reports by country and regional offices; lack of an agreed set of output codes for ACD for financial evaluation; and the absence of prior ACD-related reviews and evaluations from which to draw.