This mapping report aims to outline existing approaches to child protection within UNRWA programmes and operations, as well as examine and analyze opportunities, challenges and potential means to strengthen these.
CHILD PROTECTION IN THE PALESTINE REFUGEE CONTEXT
Palestine refugee children are exposed to considerable child protection challenges including: physical and emotional violence, sexual abuse, child marriage, detention, child labor, political violence and conflict. In the Palestine refugee context poverty, insufficient livelihood and employment opportunities, and overcrowded living conditions are just some of the common factors which exacerbate child protection concerns in all UNRWA's fields of operation. The ongoing instability in the region has also affected Palestine refugees with the Syria crisis displacing children and families to neighboring countries. Significant numbers of Palestine refugee children in Syria have either lost both or one of their parents due to either death or disappearance. While in the latest hostilities in Gaza an estimated 519 children have been killed, more than a third of the total number of civilian fatalities. UNICEF estimates 1500 children having been orphaned as a result of the recent fighting.21 The significant range, scale and highly complex nature of child protection concerns facing Palestine refugee children, underscores the critical need for UNRWA to delineate and realize the Agency's commitment to child protection.
UNRWA does not currently have a common Agency definition of child protection or a child protection policy. There is some reference to child protection in wider protection tools and strategies; however, this does not adequately address child protection. 22 23 Over the longer-term UNRWA will need a specific Child Protection Framework outlining UNRWA's longer term vision and organizational commitment to child protection similar to what already exists for gender and disability. In the first instance, this should include a shared Agency definition of child protection including fundamental principles for ensuring prevention and response mechanisms for child protection adhere to minimum standards. Urgent in the immediate term is ensuring Field Offices and UNRWA staff are provided with practical guidance, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and protocols to guide the work they are currently undertaking both directly and indirectly on child protection.
Similarly, UNRWA does not currently have a comprehensive Child Safeguarding Policy.24 Considering the scale of UNRWA operations and direct contact with children and families this is of significant concern. Developing a Child Safeguarding Policy should form part of UNRWA's immediate efforts and clearly articulate the steps UNRWA will take to prevent threats to children from within the organization and how the Agency will respond to concern regarding the protection of a child.
CAPACITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Several UNRWA projects are currently engaging in family and child protection initiatives.25 The structure and function of each project varies, however, in general terms they serve to detect child and family protection cases within UNRWA services, assess the needs and refer cases (internally/ externally) for services. While each of these programmes highlights progress and significant steps towards addressing child and family protection for Palestine refugees, there is a need to further delineate clear competency frameworks and measures for accountability. Responding to child protection requires designated responsibility, with staff being held accountable for their actions and the results of those actions. A detailed competency framework is required to ensure staffs at all levels working in child protection are equipped with the requisite skills and expertise to perform functions specific to child protection.
CASE REFERRAL vs CASE MANAGEMENT
UNRWA is uniquely placed to undertake detection and referral of child protection cases through the Agency's extensive network of frontline staff and services. The success of several projects and programmes demonstrate the important case work that is currently undertaken. However, there is a need for more conceptual clarity in UNRWA's approach to child protection case management; currently terms such as case referral, case management and incident tracking are used inter-changeably. While UNRWA operations and programmes are engaged with incident tracking and case referral, it cannot currently be said that UNRWA undertakes full comprehensive case management. UNRWA does play a significant role in supporting case management including for example in detection, assessment and case referral. UNRWA will need to critically assess the Agency's capacity to adopt and undertake comprehensive case management services — both for child protection and for protection cases more broadly. This will entail a realistic appraisal of current and anticipated skills and resources and the ability to respond to the required level for comprehensive case management, while carefully weighing up the potential risks associated with case management and the potential to cause unintended harm to children and families.
PARTNERSHIPS. NETWORKING AND COORDINATION
UNRWA cannot be expected to have the technical expertise or resources to do everything pertaining to child protection. However, the Agency still has a responsibility to try and address gaps when identified. UNRWA can advocate for other specialist child protection agencies with suitable technical expertise and qualified child protection personnel to also respond. This further underscores the need to have conceptual clarity on what UNRWA can and does undertake as an Agency and what UNRWA is not able to do where other specialized agencies may be needed to fill gaps. Improved coordination both internally and externally have provided ample opportunity for networking and establishing partnerships.
While evidence of the child protection context exists in terms of numerous thematic studies, a comprehensive assessment and overview of the child protection context for Palestine refugees including primary mechanisms for response — within the child, family and community — is lacking. This is critical in understanding children, families and communities perceived priorities and the most relevant and appropriate strategy to mitigate and respond to child protection.
Assessment, monitoring and evaluation are critical to programming, including in determining the scale of child protection violations, identifying vulnerabilities, ascertaining risk factors and protective assets and mechanisms — informing overall programme design and ensuring accountability. Systems should be developed to continuously update information and monitor trends and changes to the child protection context which may alter the relevance or appropriateness of programmes or interventions.
Mechanisms for follow-up and measuring genuine outcomes of interventions are critical, especially in child protection given its cyclical and multifaceted nature. In addition, children and families should be provided with routine opportunities to give feedback on the services they have received. Utilization of mixed methods in monitoring and evaluation is important in measuring child protection outcomes.
Based upon the analysis of the findings, this mapping report provides a series of recommendations for next steps which were discussed further with key stakeholders in UNRWA during a two-day consultation workshop in November 2014.
21 UNICEF (2014) State of Palestine: Humanitarian Situation Report, 25 August 2014
22 UNRWA (2010) Tool for Incorporating Minimum Standards on Protection into UNRWA Programming and Service Delivery
23UNRWA (2014) Draft MTS 2016-2021
24 A safeguarding policy outlines a clear set of expected behaviors when dealing with children, which is binding to all Agency staff. These rules describe the positive approach to work with children, but also contain details of conduct that is deemed inappropriate and unacceptable and including what procedures and systems the Agency will put in place to ensure children do not come to harm.
25Including the Family and Child Protection Programme (WBFO), the Community Mental Health Programme (GFO), the Child and Family Protection project (JFO), and GBV projects in all Field Offices.