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PPRE Risk analysis and monitoring (refugee situations)

Key points
  • Operations should undertake refugee emergency risk analysis regularly (at least once a year). The result should be recorded and kept on file.
  • Advanced Preparedness Actions (APAs) must be implemented when the emergency risk is high.
  • Where risk is high, record the preparedness status on HALEP


Systematic analysis of risk helps operations to decide what preparedness actions are required in each situation. Risks related to new refugee emergencies or the deterioration of existing ones need to be analysed at least once a year, through inclusive consultation with stakeholders, or whenever a situational change warrants a review. Refugee emergency risk analysis must always be done in collaboration with other partners.
Refugee risk analysis is a process that helps determine whether advanced preparedness activities are required. It uses scenarios to measure the likelihood of a refugee influx and the impact of a potential influx on the capacity of the country to respond.

The Preparedness Package for Refugee Emergencies (PPRE) promotes a standard methodology for risk analysis that follows three steps:
1. Step 1. Scenario(s) identification.
2. Step 2. Risk ranking.
3. Step 3. Risk monitoring and early warning.


  • Hazard. An event, process, phenomenon or human activity in one country that may cause forced cross-border displacement to another country.
  • Refugee emergency scenario. A description of the cross-border displacement caused by the hazard.
  • Likelihood. An estimate of the probability that a scenario will occur.
  • Impact. The perceived negative consequences of a scenario on the country of asylum's capacity to respond.
  • Risk. The likelihood of a scenario and the impact of the scenario combined.
Building blocks of preparedness

Building blocks of preparedness

Main guidance

When and for what purpose

All refugee emergency risk analysis should be undertaken by UNHCR country operations in association with governments and partners in the country and in close coordination with UNHCR regional bureaux, regional offices, and other UNHCR offices in the country of origin of the refugees in question.

Risk analysis generates early warning information, which country operations and regional bureaux rely on when they take advanced preparedness actions to address specific risks. Early warning information will only be useful if it connects to action.

Table 1 - Risk analysis

Table 1 - Risk analysis

Summary of guidance and/or options

Step 1. Scenario identification
To identify scenarios in a meaningful way it is essential to base the exercise on extensive research of secondary data. Sources of information that may help to define the hazard and the scenario include:


  • Existing research on conflict analysis and early warning. (This might include trend monitoring of internal displacement from the Global Protection Cluster; Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) analysis from the Humanitarian Country Team in the country of origin; IASC Early Warning Early Action and Readiness analysis; International Crisis Group reports; or reports by human rights organizations.)
  • Data from the country of origin on populated areas close to the border.
  • Historical information on displacement routes and trends (ProGres, PopStats, etc.).
  • Information shared between country offices.
  • Interviews with refugees or asylum seekers who are already in the country of asylum.
  • Information from media, academics, researchers, publishers.
  • Key informant interviews organized with relevant national or local actors, including local NGOs and communities.

Scenario identification begins by identifying the hazards that may cause forced cross-border displacement from a neighbouring country. Focus on the following hazard categories:
1. Conflict



  • Armed Conflict. Fighting between two or more parties that have standing military capacity and a relatively strong hierarchical organization, internally and internationally.
  • (Inter)Communal conflict. Fighting between groups that lack conventional military capacity and have a relatively weak hierarchical organization. Includes inter-ethnic conflict.
  • Electoral violence. Violence between political rivals in the period around an election.

2. Violations of human rights or international humanitarian law



  • Human rights violations. Serious violations of human rights committed by State or non-state actors that control a territory. Forced displacement may rise if human rights violations increase significantly.
  • Discrimination. Discrimination increases the vulnerability of individuals and population groups and exposes them to a higher risk of violations of their human rights. Discrimination means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on any grounds (religion, belief, gender, sex, age, descent, ethnicity, sexual orientation, other grounds) that has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights. It is important to examine the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
  • Weak rule of law. Domestic legislation or the government's policies and practices are such that the State fails to prevent or halt violations of due process and human rights, heightening the risk that violations will occur.
  • Impunity. Individuals and authorities who violate the rights of individuals or groups are not held accountable for those violations; victims receive no redress or reparation. Impunity increases the likelihood that violations will continue in the future.
  • Political instability. Situations of political instability can make a State more prone to respond in ways that violate human rights.

Refugee emergency risk analysis relies primarily on identifying the above types of hazard. However, analysis of other hazards may contribute to scenario building. Additional hazard categories that may be relevant include:
3. Economic hazards



  • Price increase. Significant and atypical (non-seasonal) consumer price increases of important goods and services make it harder for people to purchase essential goods, increasing insecurity. Areas with high poverty rates are at special risk. Hyperinflation is a specific risk.
  • Loss of income. Significant and atypical (non-seasonal) falls in wages or income opportunities, including the fall of subsistence income and income from sale of own products, would cause household income to decline or collapse. Income crises may be caused by any shock (including conflicts or natural hazards) and prevent people from being able to purchase essential goods.

4. Natural hazards



  • Hydro-meteorological. Floods, landslides, cyclones, droughts.
  • Epidemics and pandemics. Locusts, plant diseases and pests, human diseases, livestock diseases and pests.
  • Geophysical. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, tsunamis.

5. Environmental hazards



  • Chemical or biological. Hazards created by environmental degradation or physical or chemical pollution in the air, water or soil.

Once a hazard has been identified, it is necessary to develop at least three Refugee Emergency Scenarios for each hazard. Scenarios should be summarized in a short sentence that specifies the hazard and the potential scale of the refugee influx in a determined period of time. (See the example below.)

Step 2. Risk ranking
In this step, each of the identified scenarios is assigned a rank in terms of its likelihood and its impact. As described in the table below, risk ranking applies the following equation: Risk = Impact x Likelihood.




Very low (1)
There is a remote chance that the scenario will be realized in the next one year (0-5%).
Insignificant (1)
Emergency response capacities (of UNHCR,the government, UN, NGOs, and host communities) are high in comparison to the impact of the predicted scenario.
Low (2)
The scenario has a low chance of being realized in the next one year (5-15%).
Minor (2)
Emergency response capacities (UNHCR, the government,UN, NGOs, and host communities) are fairly high in comparison to the impact of the predicted scenario.
Medium (3)
The scenario has a viable chance of being realized in the next one year(15-30%).
Moderate (3)
Emergency response capacities (UNHCR, the government,UN, NGOs, and host communities) are partially sufficient in comparison to the impact of the predicted scenario.
High (4)
The scenario has a significant chance of being realized in the next one year (30-50%).
Major (4)
Emergency response capacities (UNHCR, the government,UN, NGOs, and host communities) are insufficient in comparison to the impact of the predicted scenario.
Very High (5)
The scenario has a positive chance of being realized in the next one year (over 50%).
Disastrous (5)
Emergency response capacities (UNHCR, the government, UN, NGOs, and host communities)are highly insufficient in comparison to the impact of the predicted scenario.

LIKELIHOOD. What is the estimated probability that the scenario will be realized in the next 1 year?
Assign a rank from 1 to 5 (as described in the table above).
NOTE. Likelihood is measured on a continuous scale from 0% to 100%, where 50% is not a neutral condition but represents the threshold at which an event becomes more likely to occur than not. This is why a scenario is considered very likely when the probability that it will be realized rises above 50%.

IMPACT. What impact would the scenario have on the country's current capacity to respond?
Assign a rank from 1 to 5 (as described in the table above).
The impact in each scenario measures the capacity of existing structures and systems to absorb and respond to the estimated arrival figures. The impact ranking takes into consideration every aspect of response capacity:




  • The geographical, urban, rural, security and other characteristics of area(s) that may receive arrivals.
  • The impacts on host communities (taking account of both their capacity and their willingness to host arrivals).
  • Accessibility and logistics (roads, warehouses, ports, airports).
  • Existing infrastructures for reception and service provision (hospitals, schools, services for persons with specific needs, referral mechanisms).
  • The presence of emergency response capacity at local and national level (government, NGOs, UN).

Likelihood x Impact = RISK
Multiply the scenario scores to define whether the risk is low, medium or high.



  • GREEN = Low risk
  • YELLOW = Medium risk
  • RED = High risk

When all the scenarios have been ranked and their risk level has been identified, the results of the ranking are placed on a Risk Matrix to determine whether advanced preparedness actions need to be implemented to mitigate the impact of the scenario (should it occur).
If any scenario appears the red boxes on the matrix (See image below), advanced preparedness actions are required.

Step 3. Risk monitoring, early warning and early action
Risk monitoring is one of the most important minimum preparedness actions that every operation needs to carry out regularly, ideally with key partners. Regular monitoring is necessary because numerous changeable factors in the country of origin influence the likelihood that a scenario may be realized. It is the responsibility of the receiving country to undertake risk monitoring, and to liaise with both the country of origin and regional structures.
Risk monitoring follows four basic steps:


  • Select early warning indicators. Identify a few indicators that can be objectively and regularly monitored, ideally by an interagency group. Indicators will vary according to the type of situation that is being monitored. Useful indicators for early warning are observable events in the country of origin that may cause or trigger population displacement.
  • Determine frequency and sources. For each indicator define how often each indicator will be monitored and what sources will be used for monitoring.
  • Determine early warning thresholds. Thresholds determine a specific level of the indicator value that, when crossed, requires an early warning to be issued or specific actions to be taken. Action might include revising the likelihood ranking on the risk analysis.
  • Take early action when thresholds are reached. Thresholds must be connected to actions. Actions may be generic, such as ‘start implementing APAs', or more specific, such as ‘launch a needs assessment', or ‘train a registration team for deployment to border areas'.
  • In the case of low risk scenarios, thresholds may trigger a new risk ranking exercise or re-define or re-position scenarios on the risk matrix.
    Risk matrix and value definitions

    Risk matrix and value definitions

    How to implement this at field level?

    • The UNHCR Representative is responsible for undertaking refugee emergency risk analysis, together with partners, and for coordinating with possible countries of origin, UNHCR HQ and regional bureaux.
    • Based on the result of risk analysis, a preparedness action plan should be put in place and implemented .
    • UNHCR contributes its analysis of refugee emergency risks to the multiple risk analysis prepared by UN Country Teams and Humanitarian Country Teams.

    Example. Scenario identification and a risk ranking exercise
    An interagency workshop has been organized in country Y to perform the yearly risk analysis. The PPRE was used to determine the risk level of three scenarios in the coming 12 months. The exercise will give the interagency team a shared understanding of risk levels, and help them decide what preparedness actions need to be implemented.
    Beforehand, the UNHCR office in country Y looked closely at hazards in neighbouring countries. It identified that upcoming elections in neighbouring country X were a potential cause of cross-border displacement. ‘Hazard description. Presidential elections are scheduled in the next six months in country X. During the period before and after the elections, social unrest and internal conflict may force populations to cross the border into country Y in search of international protection.'
    The office's preparatory research enabled it to develop three realistic scenarios of influx into country Y from country X. Each scenario has been given a ranking for likelihood and impact, as instructed in the PPRE chapter on risk analysis. The result is placed in the table below:
    Scenario Estimated influx scale in country Y Likelihood Impact Risk Score
    Describe scale and extent in 1 sentence Insert estimated daily or weekly figures of arrivals Insert score on 1-5 scale Insert score on 1-5 scale Insert score on 1-25 scale
    1. Security forces of Country X arrest opposition party members in main opposition strongholds before the elections. Those who feel they are at risk of arrest or being directly target cross the border into Country Y with their families. 20-50 per day.
    150-350 per week.
    Very high (5) Insignificant (1) Low Risk (5)
    2. The pre-election period in Country X sees violent episodes in the main towns. The government and security forces crack down on opposition. There are mass arrests of protesters, youth, journalists and others accused of destabilizing the country. People flee the main towns and cross the border into Country Y with their families. 50-100 per day.
    350-700 per week.
    High Risk (16)
    3. Conflict erupts throughout Country Y. Government and opposition forces control different areas. 100+ per day.
    700+ per week.
    Medium (3) Disastrous
    High Risk
    Table 5
    Table 5 shows that two scenarios are assessed as HIGH RISK.

    High risk scenarios require the implementation of a preparedness action plan and, if relevant, development of a contingency plan as described in the following chapters of the PPRE and in figure 1.

    The team performing the risk analysis would need to decide on which scenario would be chosen for preparedness and contingency planning. In the case of the example above, the second scenario represents the highest risk level.
    Example of risk monitoring
    Indicator Sources Frequency Baseline Threshold Action
    Number of violent incidents reported Media, ACLED. Monthly 10 +20% Confirm scenario
    Reports of armed mobilization Media, human rights reports. Monthly No reports New reports Enhance border monitoring.
    Share information with key partners.
    Border crossings closed/open Media, immigration. Monthly Open Change Liaise with the authorities to keep the border open for asylum seekers.
    Reports of internal displacement OCHA, UNHCR, media. Monthly No reports New reports of internal displacement in bordering regions. Enhance border monitoring.
    Activate interagency coordination and rapid response.
    Table 6.

    Table 6 is only an example. The PPRE does not require development of a risk monitoring table. However, it underlines that it is extremely important to monitor risks constantly.

Main contacts

UNHCR HQ, Division for Emergency Security and Supply (DESS), at: [email protected]

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