SPEC Webinar 7 - Seeking Economic Inclusion for Refugees: A Case Study of the Graduation Approach in Ecuador


German Development Cooperation (implemented by GIZ) and DFAT Australia have a standing cooperation in promoting and supporting dialogues in linking social protection and sustainable employment programmes. Both organization founded and continue to support the Social Protection for Employment Community (SPEC) on socialprotection.org. The webinar on graduation approach in refugee setting is the 7th webinar in a series of webinars organised by SPEC. Depending on the interests of partners and other stakeholders, the SPEC organisers also plans this to be a part of a series on the sub-topic of graduation approach in refugee settings to showcase experiences from other countries. 

Currently, there are more than 21 million refugees globally, nearly a third of whom are caught in a situation of protracted displacement1. It is increasingly evident that a short-term humanitarian response is inadequate. Instead, a growing global consensus recognises that displacement requires a joint humanitarian and development response, underpinned by long-term planning and programming for solutions, and led by a broad coalition of actors, including governments. In response, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has begun collaborating with development actors to bridge this gap and ensure that refugees - in particular, extremely poor ones - are not left behind. 

With support from Trickle Up, in 2013 UNHCR adopted the graduation approach as a vehicle to enhance international protection and improve refugees’ prospects for solutions in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Egypt; since then the partnership has expanded to four additional countries in Africa. Through the graduation approach, UNHCR and its partners set out to strengthen self-reliance and resilience among refugees and host community members living in extreme poverty. By building economic inclusion, refugees are empowered and enabled to live more independently of external assistance; access stabilized means for living; and contribute to the local economy, while preparing themselves to take advantage of whatever solution ultimately becomes available. 

Watch this in-depth, interactive discussion on how UNHCR and implementing partner HIAS adapted the graduation approach for refugees in Ecuador. Piloted with 200 Colombian and Ecuadorian families in 2015, UNHCR Ecuador has now reached more than 2,300 refugees through the graduation program nationally and has plans to collaborate with the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion on a new initiative to incorporate refugees into the government’s existing protection system, Plan de Acompañamiento Familiar. The new project aims to strengthen the national protection system by incorporating a graduation and self-reliance lens, while also improving refugees’ access to the State's projects, programmes, and services.



Alexi T. Bernagros, Director of Technical Assistance, Trickle Up

Sabrina Lustgarten, National Director, HIAS Ecuador

Maria Alicia Eguiguren, Durable Solutions Officer, UNHCR Ecuador


Prof. Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies University of Sussex

James Canonge, Social Protection Policy Officer, Social Protection Department ILO


Ziad Ayoubi, Senior Livelihood Officer, UNHCR


This webinar was the seventh of the Linking Social Protection to Sustainable Employment webinar series, which was organized by DFAT, GIZ and UNHCR. Please join the Online community Social Protection for Employment if you are interested in following the most recent discussions on the topic.