The Islamic Republic of Iran hosts one of the world’s largest protracted refugee populations and the single largest urban refugee population in the world. Being a protracted displacement situation, many young refugees are second or even third-generation Afghans living in Iran who seek to make a sustainable income for themselves and their families. As a result, livelihoods and skills development projects for refugees are an important part of UNHCR’s assistance programming in Iran.

UNHCR Iran’s Livelihoods Strategy is developed in line with the UNHCR Global Strategy for Livelihoods with the objective of improving livelihoods by supporting direct and indirect interventions at different policy levels (organisation, and individual/community) to foster self-reliance and economic conditions that are favourable to refugees. 

In collaboration with its governmental and non-governmental partners UNHCR continues to implement a diverse portfolio of Livelihoods interventions, including technical and vocational training on over 40 professions, such as welding, plumbing and tailoring.

UNHCR-supported projects include the establishment of home-based enterprises, working towards expanding the access to revolving and micro credit loans (revolving fund), community-based rehabilitation of natural resources, employment generation and the provision of equipment for income-generating activities.

UNHCR also implements cash-based interventions (CBIs) including cash-for-work and individual cash assistance projects to assist vulnerable refugees meet their protection and basic needs with choice and dignity. Jointly with the Government of Iran, UNHCR is currently exploring further ways to diversify its cash-based interventions, and leads a Cash Working Group between NGOs, UNHCR, and WFP to harmonize approaches and maximize cooperation between all CBI actors across the country.

Since mid-2014 the government has been increasing the number of officially authorised jobs available to refugees, and has recognized the importance of ensuring that refugees gain access to vocational education and demand-driven skills so that they can earn a sustainable living, and positively contribute to society during their stay in Iran. These efforts will, over time, enhance refugees’ financial, human and social capital and will better prepare them in finding a sustainable durable solution, either in their own country or elsewhere.