Bosnia and Herzegovina: landmark MOU signed with the Council of Europe Development Bank
Yesterday, in Paris, UNHCR completed the signing of a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Council of Europe (COE) Development Bank, which among other things will help bring a swift end to the protracted effort to provide individual accommodation for around 850 displaced people who are still living in official collective centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
This agreement, which was signed by the Governor of the COE Development Bank, Raphaël Alomar, and Acting High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin, is the culmination of a process of negotiation that began almost two years ago, concerning the possibility of using development funds to boost solutions for refugees and displaced people of concern to UNHCR.
In addition to setting out the basic parameters of cooperation between the two institutions, the MOU covers two important areas that are already proving immensely beneficial to some of the people who, 10 years after the Dayton Agreement, have still not found a permanent solution to their displacement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in Serbia and Montenegro.
In terms of direct grants to UNHCR, the COE Development Bank provided US$1 million in 2004 to provide permanent housing for more than 600 residents of collective centres in BiH and Serbia and Montenegro, out of a total of around US$3 million the bank has agreed to provide over a five-year period. A further tranche of this grant may be decided later this week.
Perhaps more importantly, following the same theme and model worked out with UNHCR, the bank has also reached an agreement with the BiH Government to provide an 8 million soft loan to build accommodation for the remaining people living in official collective centres. The BiH Government will itself contribute 4 million in matching funds from its own resources.
This is the first agreement of its kind with a major European development bank, and marks a major step forward in the effort to bring more development funding into the picture when it comes to providing solutions for refugees and displaced people.