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Step 2: Assess needs and capacities and determine programme


2.1 Assess needs and capacities

As the lead coordinator in refugee-related interventions, UNHCR is responsible for
coordinating a multi-sectoral participatory assessment.8 Depending on the objective of
the needs assessment, there are multiple guidelines available. These include the Needs
Assessment for Refugee Emergencies (NARE) for multi-sectoral needs, and the Joint
Assessment Mission (JAM) guidance the latter applying to food assistance only.
The basic issues covered in needs assessments are no different when cash-based interventions
are being considered as a response option. All assessments should consider the specific
profile of persons of concern their capacities, concerns and preferences, humanitarian
needs and coping strategies as well as analyse the underlying causes of the problem and
the local resources available to deal with it.9 Essential questions that should be asked are
listed in Table 6.
Table 6. Essential questions during needs assessmentsxii

What are the reasons that made individuals/communities flee to or from this location?

What dangers and difficulties are the people in this community experiencing?

Who is most affected by these problems or dangers?

What obstacles or problems does the community experience in meeting their basic needs,
accessing basic services such as education and health, or obtaining humanitarian assistance?

How is the community geographically dispersed (urban, rural, settlements, camps, hosted, etc)?
Map them.

What are the specific protection problems they face and what do they stem from?

What are their/the communitys suggestions to address these?

Who is more affected by these obstacles or barriers? (Use an AGD approach). Do women, girls,
men and/or boys experience particular problems of safety? What problems do different groups

What are people doing now to address the dangers and difficulties they are experiencing?

How have people organised/collaborated among themselves before the emergency?

NARE Explained, version 4.

UNHCR (2007) Handbook for Emergencies, Section II, p 76.


Operational GUIDELINES
for Cash-Based Interventions
in Displacement Settings

Table 6. Essential questions during needs assessmentsxii


If they/the community had cash, what would they be most likely to spend it on?

Do they/the community have experience with cash-based or in-kind approaches?

Do they have protection-related concerns about the type of assistance they receive?

What are the sources of income and other forms of support available to different socio-economic,
livelihood and at-risk groups?

In economic terms, what is the gap between peoples resources (income, savings, humanitarian
aid, etc) and the minimum cost of living, disaggregated by socio-economic, livelihood and at-risk

What is their present dependence on markets? What are they buying? Where are they buying it

Do they/the community have a preference for cash-based or in-kind approaches? What are their
reasons for preferring one or the other?

Whenever possible, but particularly in situations of protracted crisis, a more in-depth livelihoods
assessment should be undertaken to understand the household economy, using the guidance
developed by the Livelihoods Unit. This includes asking questions such as:


What are the major categories of expenditure for different socio-economic, livelihood and at-risk

From the NARE checklist (see DPSM/FICSS for more information).

2.2 Determine the programme objectives

The main aim of all UNHCR interventions is to safeguard the rights of refugees and persons
of concern.10 In practical terms, UNHCRs articulates its desired results and objectives in its
Results Framework. Results and objectives are in turn classified into Rights Groups. Each
objective should be a solution to a problem identified during a context-specific assessment.11
Implementing cash-based interventions is not an objective in and of itself but a
tool that can be used to meet UNHCRs protection and assistance mandate.
Within UNHCR programming, CBIs have most frequently been used to meet basic needs and
essential services objectives. But they can also contribute to community and self-reliance as
well as durable solutions (see Table 7). A more detailed list of possible ways that CBIs can
be used to meet UNHCR aims is included in Part III, Sector-specific operational guidelines.
Objectives are defined in UNHCRs Results-Based Management Framework.


UNHCR (2012) An Introduction to Cash-Based Interventions in UNHCR Operations, p.7.


UNHCR (2007) Handbook for Emergencies, Section II, p.92.


Table 7. How cash-based interventions are currently being used to meet

UNHCR objectives
Cash-based interventions can be used to achieve objectives in the following FOCUS-defined areas, but
the list is likely to increase in the future (e.g. to include health and WASH-related objectives):

improving food security;

establishing, improving or maintaining shelter and infrastructure, including core relief Items;

ensuring access to energy;

ensuring availability of basic and domestic items;

strengthening the services for persons with specific needs;

increasing access to education;

improving self-reliance and livelihoods;

realising the potential for voluntary return.

Key considerations in objective setting:

Depending on the response analysis and the transfer modality that is most appropriate,
objectives may need to be refined for example, where multiple needs can be met
through a multi-purpose cash transfer.
Objectives for multi-purpose grants should be defined broadly (e.g. an increase in
purchasing power, or reduction in negative coping strategies) in recognition of the
fact that people will use available resources to meet their particular needs.
The availability of other forms of assistance may influence objectives. If in-kind food
aid is going to be provided to the same recipients, this might change the objectives of
a cash transfer programme, as it is less likely that the cash will be spent on food.12 The
converse is also true: if shelter is a priority, and shelter assistance is not being provided,
it is more likely that the cash will be spent on shelter.

A multi-purpose grant can be registered in FOCUS under Ensuring availability of basic

and domestic items or services for persons with specific needs strengthened, depending
on the target group. A multi-purpose grant is most appropriate where:
multiple objectives (e.g. improved food security, access to shelter) can be met through
one transfer (i.e. cash);
needs and capacities of refugees and persons of concern are highly varied (e.g.
targeted assistance to persons with specific needs, crisis in urban areas and middleincome countries);


That said, if food assistance is most appropriately provided through cash and vouchers, the response analysis should be used to advocate for this
to be implemented.


Operational GUIDELINES
for Cash-Based Interventions
in Displacement Settings

some variation in the use of cash beyond intended objectives is acceptable, as long
as it does not have negative impacts on the recipients and host community. Major
deviations, however, call for a revision of the programme design, including the primary
objective, targeting, size of the transfer, and/or modality.13

For more guidelines on designing, implementing and monitoring the effectiveness of multipurpose grants, see Part III, Section 1. Multi-purpose grant.

Step 3: Analyse the different response options and choose the

best combination
A response analysis is a process to determine whether cash-based interventions either
alone or in combination with other types of assistance are an appropriate method to meet
refugee needs. The analysis should include an assessment of whether people will be
able to buy or rent what they need, without causing undue inflation; of whether
they can receive and spend cash or vouchers safely; and what their preferences
for assistance are. The components of a response analysis include market analysis, delivery
options, the relative risks and benefits of different transfer modalities (in-kind and cashbased), political feasibility, cost-efficiency, and potential effectiveness. The latter includes
timeliness, the skills and capacity necessary to implement cash-based interventions, and
their coherence with other aid programmes (emergency and development) (see Figure 7).
Key considerations for the response analysis:
Response analysis rarely results in an either/or determination of the best transfer
modality but rather what combination of approaches is best in terms of maximising
benefits and minimising risks to refugees and other persons of concern, as well as to
host communities.
Response analysis will include consideration of all components (see Figure 7), but
depending on the operating context (see Figure 4, page 21), some components will
need to be more comprehensive.
A response analysis may be followed by a feasibility study where more in-depth
information is required to inform programme design.


UNHCR (2012) An Introduction to Cash-Based Interventions in UNHCR Operations, p.7.