Evaluation of the Emergency Shelter and Non-Food Items Cluster in the Ukraine
Executive summaryIn November 2013, the Government of Ukraine (GoU) decided to abandon an agreement that would strengthen its ties with the EU, sparking large-scale protests. In March 2014, a conflict erupted with Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea, leading to a first wave of population displacement. A second wave of displacement followed shortly after, as a consequence of separatist offensives in the Donbas region. A ceasefire agreement (Minsk I) was reached in September 2014. However, clashes erupted again in early 2015, causing a third wave of displacement. A second ceasefire agreement (Minsk II) was signed in February 2015.Ongoing ceasefire violations, heavy shelling and armed conflict have displaced 1.5 million people, creating fluctuating population movements including secondary displacement, commuting across the contact line, and returns. The influx has placed a strain on host communities, especially in areas with a high ratio of internally displaced people (IDPs) compared to the local population.Activation of the Shelter ClusterIn July 2014, UNHCR activated a shelter sector and started developing a sectoral strategy, anticipating its’ leadership responsibility for the Shelter Cluster (SC). The Regional Focal Point (RFP) to the Global Shelter Cluster (GSC) was deployed to Ukraine in September 2014. A month later his contract with GSC ended and he was recruited by UNHCR to lead the shelter sector, prior to the formal activation of the cluster system. He later became the Shelter Cluster Coordinator (CC) and has remained the CC to date.The cluster system was activated on 23rd December 2014 with UNHCR as lead agency (CLA) for the Ukraine SC, in partnership with the Ministry of Regional Development and Housing (MoRD) and Ministry of Social Policy (MoSP). A sub-national SC was activated in July 2015, based in Sloviansk and led by People in Need. Many informants recognised the advantage of having an internationalnon-governmental organisation (INGO) as co-chair of the SC.The ResponseThe shelter response in the Governmental-Controlled Area (GCA), has been mostly well targeted and appropriate, supported by the SC coordination services. The SC has been described as the most effective cluster in Ukraine, with a highly valued information management (IM) system andcountry-wide mapping processes. The SC has also led technical working groups (TWIG), particularly on shelter winterisation and cash assistance which were essential for harmonising and standardising the shelter response. Monitoring of cash for shelter activities have shown high levels of beneficiary satisfaction with the programme.The humanitarian set-up has been described as “Kyiv centric” and somewhat disconnected from priorities on the ground. Humanitarian actors have struggled to engage with the national government, while relations with regional and local authorities have been comparatively better. The access restrictions to the Non-Governmental-Controlled Area (NGCA) has been one of the main challenges to providing rapid and adequate humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in those areas.A number of actors based in the field, including UNHCR, have been running informal shelter meetings to better coordinate shelter operations. However, when the SC sub-national hub was activated, a number of misunderstandings occurred amongst UNHCR staff, highlighting a lack of internal awareness of the cluster system.Key SC personnel were fulfilling dual responsibilities for the SC and UNHCR until April 2015. While key informants generally perceived that this double-hatting was well managed by the staff in question, it blurred the lines between the SC and the CLA, and contributed to a perceived conflict of interest during Cash Work Group (CWG) discussions.Activities of the Shelter ClusterSC meetings (SCM) have been responding to the needs of SC partners through regular meetings in Kyiv and ad-hoc regional coordination meetings until the activation of the sub-national hub in July 2015, based in Sloviansk.The SC strategy, setting out key priorities for the sector, was drafted in September 2014 and revised in June 2015. The first Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) meeting was called in December 2015, and until then all strategic decisions and priorities were made in plenary during SCM.The SC Team (SCT) led a number of technical working groups (TWIGs) which were very well received by SC partners. The SCT also led early discussions on cash transfer programming, discussing cash for shelter as well as Multi-Purpose-Cash Grant (MPCG). In May 2015, OCHA activated an inter-sectoral Cash WG (CWG), which resulted in 3 months of disagreements and negotiations amongst humanitarian agency, on the harmonisation of the MPCG transfer value, and the HCT deciding to make cash a separate section in the Humanitarian Response Plan. This, unfortunately, drew attention away from the provision of humanitarian assistance.The SC has published regular situation updates and factsheets, circulated via emails and through their Google group. These documents have enabled agencies to develop advocacy messages to donors, government and their head-quarters. A post-distribution monitoring (PDM) template, for cash assistance developed by the SC, contributed to consistency in agency reporting and improved transparency and accountability vis-à-vis the affected population.Overall, the SC has been valued for the information it produces. However, the majority of the material aims to provide an overview of the situation, and is directed at stakeholders in Kyiv. An increase in field-level tools and analysis is desired by implementing agencies. While the SCT are seen as responsive and helpful in responding to individual agency requests, it is believed that time could be saved by making documents more easily accessible and traceable.The SCT has provided capacity building for SC partners, including national non-governmentalorganisations (NNGOs) through various forums, TWIGs, SCM and individual ad-hoc meetings. The translation of meetings and key documents into English, Russian and Ukrainian has been essential to allowing engagement with national actors.ConclusionsOverall the SC is perceived as one of the strongest and most relevant clusters of this response. Every key informant highlighted the strength of the SC compared with other clusters in Ukraine.The general perception shows a satisfactory prioritisation of activities, but some informants expressed the need to refine this prioritisation, stressing the importance of needs in NGCA and the lack of humanitarian assistance in this area. The lack of baseline data especially in NGCA remains a challenge to providing a clear picture of the context. SCM minutes and the inter-cluster Contingency Plan described the need to support authorities in carrying out more effective IDP tracking in order to improve overall baseline data.