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Money Matters: An evaluation of the use of cash grants in UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation and reintegration programme in Burundi

2009 — By Katherine Haver, Felicien Hatungimana, and Vicky Tennant

To access another publication available in this series, titled ‘The Use of Cash Grants in UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Operations: Report of a Lessons Learned Workshop’, please click here

There has been growing interest in recent years in the use of cash grants as a humanitarian assistance and social protection tool. A three year research project carried out by the Humanitarian Policy Group concluded in early 2007 that ‘a strong body of evidence is starting to emerge to indicate that providing people with cash or vouchers works.’ A number of aid agencies and donors have now developed operational guidelines on the use of cash grants. Cash has also been used in UNHCR operations for many years, most notably in Cambodia in the early 1990s, in voluntary repatriation to Afghanistan since 1992, and most recently, in urban refugee programmes in Jordan and Syria.

The evaluation seeks to contribute to the broader body of research examining the impact of cash assistance in humanitarian settings, and to UNHCR’s own thinking on the use of cash transfers. It builds upon the findings of a ‘lessons learned’ workshop examining the use of cash in voluntary repatriation operations hosted by UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) and Division of Operational Services (DOS) in April 2008. It also forms part of a series of evaluations of UNHCR return and reintegration operations, and builds on an independent evaluation commissioned by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of its own support to reintegration in Burundi, much of which was provided through UNHCR, published in 2008.

The purpose of this evaluation is to analyse the impact of the cash grant on the reintegration of its recipients and on the communities to which they returned. It examines the role which the cash grant played in refugee decision-making, and the extent to which it enabled them to meet the immediate needs they encountered and contributed to their sustainable reintegration. It looks at the mechanisms put in place for distributing and monitoring the cash grant, and seeks to analyse whether it formed an appropriate response to the specific needs of potentially vulnerable returnees such as the landless and unaccompanied minors. More broadly, it seeks to draw lessons which may inform the use of cash grants by UNHCR in similar operations in the future.