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Partnership Management Processes

Key points
  • Establish a multi-functional IPMC for the operation.
  • Select partners (following procedures set out in UNHCR's partner selection and retention policy) in advance and keep a list of potential partners readily available. Do not request waivers from the partner selection process unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Ensure partners are registered in the Partner Portal.
  • Ensure that partners are aware of and understand their obligations and responsibilities under PAs they sign.
  • Consult the partner when you prepare project descriptions, work plans and instalment plans.
  • Create PAs exclusively in MSRP: this is mandatory.
  • Establish project monitoring arrangements jointly with the partner.
  • Do not change PA articles or formats.
  • Do not transfer to partners more funds than are authorized under the operating level (OL) and the signed PA.
  • Do not transfer funds in cash. Transfer funds only to the partner's legitimate bank account or to an authorised cash-agency dealer.


This Entry discusses partnership management processes.

UNHCR implements its programmes in partnership with numerous humanitarian organizations: UN agencies, Government institutions, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, academic bodies, voluntary entities, and other not-for-profit organizations. For UNHCR, its partnerships make an essential contribution to the delivery of protection and solutions for refugees and other persons of concern. Partnership relationships are guided by the Principles of Partnership (see ).

The Entry considers a range of partnership management processes, including the selection and retention of partners, types of Partnership Agreement (PA), the management of agreements and resources, and project audit (see: Management of UNHCR Funded Partnership Agreements, UNHCR/AI/2017/16; Special Measures for the Management of Partnerships in Emergencies and the Video Management of Partnerships in Emergencies ).

An appropriate implementation model should be chosen, based on what the partnership contributes to the project or operation (the value it adds) and therefore to refugees and other persons of concern. Various factors should be considered when determining the best implementation arrangement in a given operational context. They include:


  • Obligations stemming from UNHCR's mandate and responsibilities.
  • The character, composition and location of the refugee population.
  • Operational requirements (scale, access, security, other factors).
  • The expertise, technical skills and knowledge available in UNHCR and among partners or commercial contractors.
  • The resources partners contribute.
  • Value for money and cost-effectiveness.
  • The presence of a UNHCR office in a country, and the availability of UNHCR staff.
  • The availability and experience of prospective Partners and commercial contractors.
  • UNHCR's reputation; issues of visibility in relation to the operation.
  • Viability and feasibility.

Selection and retention of partners for undertaking projects
Before signing an agreement, offices must carry out a partner selection process (see Policy on Selection and Retention of Partners, IOM/052-FOM/052/2013).

During emergencies, organizations frequently wish to partner with UNHCR, and UNHCR issues ‘Calls for Expression of Interest' to increase the pool of potential partners. At the same time, the capacity, experience, profile, presence, and contributions of organizations, and also the cost of projects, vary. UNHCR is required to demonstrate sound stewardship and to be transparent in its partnerships. The Policy on Selection and Retention of Partners requires all operations to select partners in an objective, transparent and consistent manner through a Multi-functional Implementing Partnership Management Committee (IPMC). IPMCs assess potential partners' capacity and identify the partners that will best fit, and achieve the best results, in a given operation.

Under special circumstances (including emergency situations), when a full selection process cannot be undertaken, a waiver may be sought from the Implementing Partnership Management Service (IPMS/DFAM). During the first six months of a declared L2 or L3 emergency, such waivers are decentralized and granted by the Representative on behalf of IMAS/DSPR. A country operation is nevertheless required to document the justification for a waiver decision and file it in e-Safe for the record.

Before a new partnership starts, partners must be registered in the UN Partner Portal. The UN Partner Portal is an interactive, web-based facility/database that holds basic information on partners and up-to-date data on the partnerships that participating UN Agencies funds. Through the Portal, both current and prospective partners can access ‘Calls for Expression of Interest' and obtain guidance and information on UNHCR partnerships. During L2 and L3 emergencies, if the situation requires it, pre-registration of partners in the Portal is not required. In all cases, however, operations must conduct a rapid due diligence to ascertain the integrity and competence of new partners and registration should be done as soonest the situation permits.

Partnership Agreements
A Partnership Agreement (PA) is a legally binding document between UNHCR and the Partner(s), stipulating the terms, conditions, responsibilities, obligations and accountabilities of the parties for undertaking specific activities to provide protection and assistance to Persons of Concern. Under the Partnership Agreement, UNHCR is authorized to contributes financial and other resources for specific programmatic activities, while the Partner assumes full responsibility for the delivery of agreed results, as well as accountability to UNHCR for the effective use of resources, in accordance with the UNHCR Financial Rules. Consideration should be given to the operational and/or governance capacity strengthening needs of smaller or less experienced Partners in meeting these requirements, particularly where they have the access, trust and contacts needed at community level to achieve the desired results.

PAs should be signed in a timely manner, so that refugees and other persons of concern can receive assistance and protection promptly and effectively. UNHCR offices may sign bipartite or tripartite agreements with local, national, regional or international NGOs, not-for-profit organizations, host Governments, inter-governmental organizations, Red Cross Red Crescent movement and UN agencies. Agreements must reflect the specific character of the partnership and the types of partner involved. The table below lists types of PA. (A detailed list can also be found in Management of UNHCR Funded Partnership Agreements, UNHCR/AI/2017/16.)





BiPartite:(Non-Governmental/Not-for-Profit Organization Bipartite:

(UNHCR/Partner/Host Government)

Letter of MutualIntent

  Bipartite (RedCross and Red Crescent Agreement - IFRC)   Bipartite (UnitedNations Agency)
Agreement forNational Fundraising Partner DeploymentPartnership Agreement Project PropertyAgreements (for use or transfer of assets and property)


The Programme Unit of an operation is usually responsible for preparing PAs. Only the Representative or delegated Head of Operation has the authority to sign a PA on UNHCR's behalf.
In emergency situations or when action must be taken urgently, a Letter of Mutual Intent (LOMI) may be concluded. A LOMI is a temporary mechanism that allows operations to jump-start activities by releasing stand-alone or bridging funds in a single instalment for urgent interventions while a standard agreement is negotiated. LOMIs may cover a period of up to six months; an extension beyond this may be authorized in exceptional circumstances. Every effort must be made to sign a standard PA as soon as possible. As soon as it has been signed, a standard PA supersedes and integrates a LOMI. Funds already released under a LOMI become the first payment under the PA that succeeds it. If a standard PA has not been concluded by the expiry date of a LOMI, the LOMI must be closed and reported on.

PAs that are concluded during an L2 or L3 emergency (and in urgent cases) only require the mandatory agreement of MSRP for the budget (Annex B) at signature. Other annexes (Annex B - Project Description and Annex C: Processing and Protection of Personal Data of Persons of Concern) can be finalized within one month of signature. Only the agreement amendment form (a simple three page document from MSRP) and the budget (Annex B) are required when an amendment is signed.

Management of Resources
A PA stipulates the budget required by the project. Project funds must be transferred promptly in instalments to the partner's officially-designated bank account. No cash payments are permitted. Fund transfers and all financial transactions must be made and recorded in MSRP and managed in accordance with the terms of the PA.

Note. In exceptional circumstances, if no bank transfer can take place, approval for payment by other means may be sought from the Controller.

UNHCR needs to exercise particular due diligence when it transfers resources to a third party during emergency operations. Its monitoring, verification and audits must provide reasonable assurance that UNHCR funds are spent for the intended purpose and used to provide protection and assistance to persons of concern in the most cost-effective manner. Among other safeguards and to remain credible with donors, UNHCR should verify the integrity of and data in partners' performance and expenditure reports. Projects that UNHCR funds and implements with partners are subject to audit. Projects due for audit are identified by applying a risk-based approach. The IMAS assesses projects that are subject to audit and engages external project auditors, in consultation with UNHCR field offices and relevant bureaux and divisions. PAs require partners to provide unhindered access to audit, monitoring and inspection teams.

Emergency operations are often fluid and subject to frequent change. Monitoring of projects is therefore essential, to track and confirm their progress against agreed performance targets, adjust their direction and implementation as needed, and identify measures that will improve their impact and quality. UNHCR, its partners and other stakeholder should jointly monitor and review projects, share information and coordinate, to strengthen their collective ownership and joint responsibility for project results.

In challenging security situations, alternative approaches to monitoring may need to be explored: remote monitoring, third party monitoring, deployment of innovative technology, etc. See the Entry on Remote Management.

The Administrative Instruction on Procurement by Partners under Partnership Agreements (with Implementing Partnership Management Guidance Note No. 4, Rev. 1, UNHCR/AI/2018/1) remains in force in L2 and L3 emergencies. It limits procurement by partners to circumstances in which the partner has a clearly proven advantage. Documentation must justify the partner's engagement, and partners must have pre-qualification for procurement (PQP) status. In urgent and exceptional situations, nevertheless, a partner that undertakes to apply for PQP status within six months may be engaged through a PA to undertake procurement (valued at more than USD 100,000).






Main guidance

When and for what purpose?

Implementing partnerships are a vital instrument that UNHCR deploys to protect and assist persons of concern, particularly in emergency settings. UNHCR disburses almost 35% of its annual expenditure through more than a thousand partners. Effective implementation with partners is fundamental to an emergency operation's success. PAs make it possible to:

  • Identify and respond to the needs of persons of concern promptly.
  • Collaborate in a principled manner with other humanitarian responders.
  • Provide resources to partners, enabling them to deliver essential programmes.
  • Demonstrate sound stewardship and accountability, within UNHCR and in relations with partner organizations, and to donors, populations of concern and other stakeholders.

PAs are mandatory whenever UNHCR transfers UNHCR funds to partners, including in emergency situations.

Associated risks

Failure to design soundly, negotiate, or effectively manage PAs creates a number of potential risks.

Operational risks

o The emergency response will be less effective, harming the lives and well-being of refugees and persons of concern.
o Partnerships will be ineffective and expected outcomes might not be achieved.
o Flawed or insufficient safeguards.

Financial risks and risks to other resources

o Resources that UNHCR has provided may not be used for their intended purposes.
o Partners may not properly account for funds entrusted to them by UNHCR.
o Funds may be spent inefficiently, reducing the quality or availability of the services that persons of concern receive.
o Fraud or other misconduct may occur as a result of faulty internal control systems.

Reputational risks

o If UNHCR does not fulfil its mandate, this will harm its reputation and credibility.
o Persons of concern may lose trust in UNHCR's ability to protect and assist them.

Steps to be taken

The Checklist for Managing Partnership Agreements provides easy to follow guidance from agreement initiation to closure.

Resources / inputs required

  • An authorized operational level budget and sufficient financial resources need to be in place before committing UNHCR to a PA.
  • Responsible, competent and professional NGOs, UN agencies, Intergovernmental partners.
  • Necessary procedures for project formulation.
  • Appropriate interventions to address the needs of populations of concern.
  • Qualified staff to foster partnerships and manage project agreements.
  • Effective security and implementation arrangements.

Related UNHCR management system(s)

Although partners are selected and partner relationships are managed outside UNHCR's MSRP system, a record of the assessment and selection process should be kept in the project files held by field offices; relevant documents should be uploaded into e-Safe for review and audit.

Partners must be registered on the UN Partner Portal and be assigned a Partner Code to allow the creation of PAs in MSRP.

All PAs must be produced from MSRP. The PA project description and work or instalment plan are prepared as word or excel documents. PA budgets are prepared in Focus at output detail level and exported to MSRP to be printed as Annexes to the Agreement.

Scanned copies of signed PAs (including LOMIs and Annexes) should be filed in UNHCR's e-Safe.

Main contacts

Contact IMAS at the Division of Strategic Management and Resultst (DSPR). At:[email protected].

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