Aligning humanitarian cash assistance with national social safety nets in refugee settings: Key considerations and learning


The purpose of this document is to share learning and considerations on how operations have or could progressively align humanitarian cash assistance for refugees to national social safety nets (SSN) and the criteria used to take decisions at each step of this process. It is based on information collected from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Greece and Mexico as well as ongoing discussions on the topic. It also builds on the UNHCR Mapping of Social Safety Nets for Refugees � Opportunities and Challenges.

The document reviews some of the pre-conditions for alignment of cash assistance as well as the considerations for alignment in different types of situations, including where the government has no or limited capacity; the government has some capacity and/or is supported by a development actor for the development of and funding for social assistance; and, lastly, where the government has the capacity and provides social assistance to its nationals but might be reluctant to incorporate refugees in the same system. The main findings and recommendations are presented below. The direction provided in this document must be considered in light of the varied and specific opportunities and challenges that each context presents.


When considering alignment of humanitarian cash assistance with social safety nets in refugee settings, the first step is to map the access of nonnationals to basic rights, including but not limited to documentation, access to land and employment, freedom of movement, access to education, and financial and other services. Social assistance is only one component of social protection and should therefore not be considered in isolation. In contexts where refugees and others of concern to UNHCR do not enjoy their rights at par with nationals, full alignment of all the elements of cash assistance may not always be appropriate. Humanitarians must justify if they are not working with existing social protection systems. In these contexts, alignment should be preceded and/or accompanied by advocacy. The starting point is, however, including in these situations, alignment of some of the elements in the cash assistance to the extent possible. UNHCR and partners must build a refugee business case in order to convince the host government of the positive impact refugees can have on the country’s development and economy.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

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