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UNHCR Consultancy: Evaluation on the relevance and effectiveness of sports programming for refugee inclusion and protection

Copyrights: UNHCR

UNHCR Consultancy: Evaluation on the relevance and effectiveness of sports programming for refugee inclusion and protection

UNHCR seeks applications for an evaluation of sport for protection programmes in Mexico and Rwanda. Application deadline 9 February 2020.


Sport has always been found in refugee settings. The predecessor of UNHCR, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) worked with refugees to organise sports activities in European refugee camps following the Second World War. More recent UNHCR archive records clearly show that sports activities have been widely present in refugee situations but have not necessarily been recognised as having a direct humanitarian benefit. During the 1990s and 2000’s records show that this starts to change, as sport becomes more visible as an intervention, particularly with recognition of the link to the Convention on the Rights of the Child Art. 31 on the right to play and the beginning of an understanding of the gender dimension of sport.

This evolution in understanding has led UNHCR, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and now the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) to believe in the potential of sport to meaningfully contribute to UNHCR’s core mission and protection mandate and the IOC mission to build a better world through sport. Building on a longstanding partnership, UNHCR and the IOC have since 2014 been working together to develop a dedicated “sport for protection” approach. The aim of the approach is to increase the protection space for displaced and stateless children and youth through the vehicle of sport. Projects developed to date have included for example, the establishment and rehabilitation of sports facilities to ensure safe spaces for young people to play, dedicated programmatic interventions that use sport as the tool to achieve protection outcomes, and efforts to provide opportunities for young people to become champions for life through their participation in ‘organised’ sports activities. Projects promote the participation of adolescent girls, young women and other marginalised groups, bring refugee, IDP and host communities together, as participants, coaches, leaders and supporters; with the aim of sharing common experiences and breaking down barriers and stereotypes, in the process strengthening resilience and psychosocial wellbeing. While sporting talent may be discovered and referred, sports excellence is not the objective of sport for protection projects.

Building on this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), UNHCR and Terre des hommes (Tdh) collaborated in the development of the “Sport for Protection Toolkit: Programming with Young People in Forced Displacement Settings”. The sport for protection toolkit has a distinct theory of change and focusses on three specific categories of protection outcomes - social inclusion, social cohesion, and psychosocial well-being. The objective of the toolkit is to provide young people aged 10 – 24 years with a safe and supportive environment where they have opportunities to build their skills and bring about a positive change in their own and the lives of the others. Prior to the release of the sport for protection toolkit in October 2018, UNHCR and the IOC/ORF partnered on the development and implementation of a number of sport for protection projects. These projects were implemented in refugee and IDP situations in Jordan, Ethiopia, Colombia, Rwanda, Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Turkey. New projects are under consideration in Uganda, Bangladesh and Colombia and will be developed based on the guidance outlined in the sport for protection toolkit.

Purpose and objectives

The ORF and UNHCR are now ready, to design and implement the first full projects based on the Toolkit’s sport for protection approach. This new phase provides an opportunity for the two organisations to pause and work to understand better whether the original assumptions about the potential of organised sports activities to increase the protection space and protection outcomes for children and youth remain valid. With this in mind, UNHCR’s Sport Section in the Division of External Relations and the Olympic Refuge Foundation are planning to evaluate 2 joint projects, one reaching completion of its funding period and another midway through.

This decentralised evaluation is intended to bring evaluative evidence of the contribution that sport for protection projects can have on protection objectives for refugee and IDP young people. The evaluation will explore whether and how sports activities have contributed to the overall protection objectives of the operations for both girls and boys, young women and young men; as well as examining what has worked well or less well in this regard. The evaluation will further look at intended and unintended outcomes of the projects and collect lessons learned from the different project locations.

The evaluation will also contribute to the very limited knowledge base of the sport sector and the humanitarian sector regarding sports-based interventions, specifically for the protection of young people in refugee and IDP situations. This will potentially allow for course correction in ongoing projects; informing future project and programme development and potentially contributing to the strengthening of the sport for protection toolkit. The evaluation will also provide a baseline of understanding for future evaluative work and understanding of the protection outcomes that sport can achieve pre-toolkit.

Visit the original job posting for full terms of reference and the application process. 

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