Ensuring accountability to affected people (AAP) is a key principle in UNHCR’s work, as reflected in UNHCR’s Strategic Directions 2017-2021 and its Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) Policy of 2018. This has been a key priority for UNHCR Uganda, and concerted efforts have been made to strengthen feedback and response mechanisms.
Systems to receive feedback – including comments, suggestions and complaints – are a key accountability mechanism and risk mitigation measure, creating the opportunity for UNHCR and partners to hear directly from PoCs, to understand the protection risks they face, and to gauge the effectiveness of delivery of services. It is vital for feedback mechanisms to incorporate multiple communication channels tailored to the different needs and capacities of PoCs of diverse backgrounds, including, girls, boys, women, men, youth, older persons, and persons with disabilities. AAP requires that programmes are informed by the views of PoCs and adapted to their capacities and needs. Feedback from PoCs received through various channels provide essential input into shaping services. As part of the AAP framework, the Uganda refugee response needs to ensure that all formal and informal communications from PoCs inform protection, assistance and solutions programming, and that timely corrective action is taken as appropriate by all partners concerned.
As part of overall efforts to achieve this, the inter-agency Feedback, Referral and Resolution Mechanism (FRRM) was launched in the Uganda operation in October 2018. The mechanism seeks to enhance and improve two-way communication between PoCs and assistance organisations, creating a better informed and more accountable protection environment. It comprises of existing and recently established feedback channels such as protection desks, complaints / suggestion boxes, community structures and dialogues, toll-free helpline and email services, through which refugees can access reliable information, report protection concerns or incidents of fraud and corruption, provide feedback on services, and access referrals to agencies for support services. The helpline was launched in October 2018 with country wide coverage being achieved in March 2019 and is accompanied by a systems online platform which records and tracks all referrals. The platform’s referral network currently has some 470 individual focal points within 38 partner organizations working across 31 settlements. It is hoped that all operational and implementing partners will be incorporated into the system by the end of 2019.
All cases received are categorized according to the nature of the call. Categories 1-2 are related to requests for information or feedback and are handled directly by the helpline agents, guided by an extensive database of standardized FAQs. Category 3 represents more complex cases related to requests for assistance and are automatically channeled through the mechanism’s case management system to preassigned focal points within partner organizations for resolution. All cases received through the FRRM helpline are recorded in the system’s interactive data portal which allows UNHCR and partners to track individual case status, referral response times and quality of feedback given. The portal also displays individual and aggregated data by settlement, sector, call category, breakdown of age, gender and diversity of complainants, and more. With over 50,000 calls received during the first year since its launch, this data gives a unique insight into the needs and concerns of the community, providing UNHCR and partners with a powerful evidence base for programming and project design to ensure that resources are prioritized according to the needs of diverse groups within the community and that the impact of our work is maximized to best effect.
Over mid/longer term and resources permitting, the operation aims to connect other feedback channels – such as protection desks and complaints / suggestion boxes - to the FRRM database. PoCs can approach the Protection Desks (managed by UNHCR’s protection partners) in person to seek information on services, report any protection concerns or lodge complaints, and the Protection Desk staff refer cases that they cannot handle on the spot to the concerned focal point or partner for response and any necessary support. Through providing internet connectivity and tablets to Protection Desks, the staff could record cases received at the Protection Desks into the FRRM database, enabling the database to capture queries / complaints received through the Protection Desks in addition to those channelled through the helpline. This would facilitate a more comprehensive analysis and tracking of issues raised by the community. Meanwhile, some level of data on feedback received and handled at protection desks is available with partners / UNHCR albeit not in a centralized location.