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"From Humanitarian Relief to Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Response" - Keynote Address by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Fourth Advanced Development Management Program, Sophia University, Tokyo, 28 October 1995

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"From Humanitarian Relief to Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Response" - Keynote Address by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the Fourth Advanced Development Management Program, Sophia University, Tokyo, 28 October 1995

28 October 1995

I am very pleased to have been invited to inaugurate the Fourth Advanced Development Program on the theme of the interface between emergency relief and sustainable development.

Emergency relief is a wide-ranging term, and could cover varied situations from the earthquake in Kobe to the refugee influx in Kenya, from helping flood victims in Bangladesh to helping war victims in Bosnia. In order to better focus our discussion and bring it closer to the expertise of my Office, I will address the topic from the perspective, not of natural disasters, but of man-made disasters, in other words humanitarian and refugee emergencies.

The discussion on the interface is both timely and pertinent. As a volatile world throws up one emergency after another, it is becoming evident that the need for humanitarian relief will continue to spiral unless we address the underlying causes. The direct cause of most humanitarian emergencies is internal conflicts, exploiting ethnic and religious tensions, aggravated by social inequities, unbalanced development and economic marginalization fuelled by the easy availability of arms, and pursued with unthinkable savagery. We can neither prevent emergencies nor resolve them without a comprehensive and concerted effort to address the development and political aspects in conjunction with humanitarian action.

The issue of how to link relief with development is of fundamental importance to the work of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Mandated by the UN General Assembly to protect and assist refugees and find solutions to their plight, our work has greatly evolved over the four decades of our existence. We are working in 118 countries to protect and assist 27 million refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees (these are former refugees who have returned home but are not yet reintegrated). In conflict embroiled areas we are sending emergency teams to provide life-saving protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, for instance in former Yugoslavia and the Great Lakes region of Africa. In countries seeking peace after long years of war, such as Mozambique and Angola, we are helping refugees to return home and reintegrate themselves. We have honed our capacity to respond rapidly to emergency operations by strengthening our emergency teams, expanding our standby arrangements and enlarging our stockpiles. I am proud to say that today UNHCR can mobilize and have an emergency team functioning anywhere in the world within 72 hours. Concurrently, we are working to strengthen the linkages between relief and development in solution-oriented operations.

It is on this latter aspect that I would like to focus today, particularly in the context of voluntary repatriation to war-torn societies. I would like to share with you the challenges we confront, and the efforts we are making to overcome them by linking up with longer-term rehabilitation and development. Finally, I would like to propose some ideas as to how our efforts can be improved and enhanced in cooperation with others.

Repatriation movements in the Post-Cold war era can be divided into two basic categories according to the circumstances in the country of origin. Under the first category, a peace agreement has been reached under international auspices, incorporating measures foreseen for the return of refugees and displaced persons. A process of national reconciliation, even if fragile, is underway. Major repatriation programmes of this type have occurred in Central America, El Salvador, Namibia, Cambodia and Mozambique. The return and reintegration of refugees have been vital in bringing about national reconciliation and peace in their home countries We are preparing in the coming months for a similar operation for the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Angola.

Under the second category of repatriation movements, despite some fundamental changes, there is no functioning peace agreement nor a process of national reconciliation in the country of origin. Significant areas of the country may still be experiencing conflict. The power of the central Government may not be fully consolidated, or limited to certain parts of the territory only, as in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Liberia. Warlords and local commanders may be vying for power. Returnees may find their property destroyed or occupied by others.. Nevertheless, people continue to return under these less than ideal conditions. UNHCR has assisted in the voluntary repatriation of some 2.6 million refugees to Afghanistan, some 400,000 refugees to Somalia and over half a million refugees to Rwanda.

In both categories, to a varying degree, protracted conflict have destroyed political and administrative structures. Social cohesion has been undermined and society is militarized, divided and frequently traumatized.

In both categories the shift from war to peace is neither easy nor clear. In some cases open conflict is replaced by lingering insecurity; in others it might erupt into renewed violence - endangering prospects for repatriation and creating risks of fresh outflows.

The interface between relief and rehabilitation or development implies meeting the immediate protection and assistance of the returnees and the community which are to reintegrate them. But given the circumstances I described, repatriation and rehabilitation are not solely questions of creating jobs or rebuilding bridges, roads, or social and economic infrastructures. They entail promoting the political will to reach a peaceful settlement. They involve recognizing the protection needs of the returnees, promoting tolerance and respect for human rights, rebuilding civil society and laying the foundations for responsible governance.

From Afghanistan to Angola, Cambodia to Mozambique, in almost every repatriation operation, for UNHCR the immediate challenge is to ensure the minimum conditions of safety and economic and social well-being for those who are returning. The longer-term challenge is to ensure that others will carry on when we leave or phase down.

We are very conscious of the immediate, humanitarian needs of returnees, whether in the context of protection or assistance. Indeed, protection issues are particularly acute in view of insecurity in many countries. UNHCR believes it has a responsibility towards returnees because they are former refugees. However, legally they are nationals under the sovereign jurisdiction of their state, which makes it difficult for an international organization to protect them from that very government. The incident this spring involving the internally displaced in Kibeho camp in Rwanda illustrated the dilemmas inherent in protecting people in their own country. The issue is how to uphold the security of people when it conflicts with the security of the state. For UNHCR, the choice is clear, though the impact may be limited.

We rely heavily on international presence as the main tool for protecting people in their own country. In northern Iraq, UNHCR assigned 180 staff members, augmented by international NGO personnel. In an innovative move, the UN deployed some 500 guards, as a confidence building measure. In Tajikistan UNHCR deployed mobile teams to monitor the situation of the internally displaced and returning refugees and take action to correct abuses. In El Salvador, Cambodia, Rwanda and Guatemala, we have cooperated or are cooperating closely with human rights monitors.

Recently, we handed our monitoring activities in Tajikistan over to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This is a concrete example of how our protection role could interface with longer-term rehabilitation of human rights institutions.

Monitoring, though vital, can meet only part of the protection needs facing returnees or displaced persons. The situation in Rwanda has brought home dramatically the need to rebuild the judicial system, police and local administration, and provide training as part of the country's rehabilitation. Building the national capacity for safeguarding human rights and ensuring law and order is not normally seen as an aspect of development. Yet that is the kind of assistance sometimes most needed in post-conflict societies. It helps to establish a climate of confidence which is in turn essential to convince refugees that voluntary return can take place in safety and dignity. This is obviously a gap in international assistance to which more attention should be given.

As in the case of protection, so too in the area of assistance, UNHCR seeks to meet immediate needs of returnees through its reintegration efforts. In this context, UNHCR developed a novel approach to facilitate the repatriation and reintegration of refugees in central America, i.e. CIREFCA, as an integral part of the regional peace process. UNHCR, in cooperation with UNDP and other agencies, designed and implemented so-called Quick Impact Projects. QIPs have since been successfully applied to diverse situations, ranging from Myanmar to Mozambique. Comprising of small-scale projects, they aim to bring rapid and tangible benefits to local communities and returnees alike. They often involve projects such as building schools and health centres, digging wells and repairing access roads. One distinct advantage of these programmes is that they are implemented and managed at the community level, without necessarily any involvement of the central authorities. Not only does it give considerable programme flexibility, and greater sensitivity to needs of vulnerable categories such as women, but it is particularly well suited to situations of on-going conflict where de facto no central government exercises authority.

While QIPs can contribute to bridging the gap between immediate reintegration needs and longer-term development, their sustainability depends on their integration into broader rehabilitation efforts. Where there is no rehabilitation effort nor partners to carry the process forward, the impact of QIPs is limited. The synchronization of our programmes with other rehabilitation efforts is thus crucial to enhance reintegration, to provide opportunities for self-sufficiency and to give returnees and local populations faith in the future and in peace.

The contribution that UNHCR, as a humanitarian agency, can make through its reintegration projects to rehabilitation is limited and dependant on the presence and activities of development programmes. This in turn, often appears to be dependant on the existence of a functioning, comprehensive peace agreement and fully established central Government. But the needs of refugees and local communities are not determined by the level of security prevailing. In fact, quite to the contrary. Even in those situations where the need for rehabilitation efforts is universally recognized, the planning, programme and funding cycles, which characterize development and reconstruction programmes, are not geared towards the kind of rapid progress which the returnee and local communities require.

I believe a new approach to post-conflict rehabilitation is needed, dynamically linking relief and development.

First and foremost, a fundamental reexamination is necessary of current planning assumptions, methods and funding procedures. Yesterday's tools are not suitable for today's problems. They need to be readjusted to the new realities of war-torn societies, in which central state power appears to be in decline, and programmes must be implemented in uncertain and insecure conditions. They must take account of the diverse, yet urgent requirements of the various sectors of population, those who have moved as well as those who have remained at home, of refugees as well as returnees, the displaced as well as the demobilized.

Secondly, the objective should be to fill the gaps but avoid overlaps, taking into account the differing competence and expertise required for emergency response and rehabilitation, humanitarian action and development. The interface between humanitarian relief and development should be seen as phases along a continuum. Instead of a sequential process, I would argue that it is a "simultaneous" one in which the various elements closely interrelate. The planning process should take account of the totality of a country's needs and establish a coherent, global hierarchy of priorities. In the absence of such a blueprint, the impact of individual parts of the system is likely to remain limited, and some investments may even be lost or prove futile. The establishment of clear priorities is particularly important to attract scarce resources.

Thirdly, new partnerships must be forged on the basis of predictable relationships. Where we cannot meet the priority needs identified, we must seek out and work with others who can. Our sister agencies, bilateral donors and the Bretton Woods institutions are key partners with whom we have or are setting up agreements. As for NGOs, UNHCR has a long history of partnership with NGOs. Currently we have formal agreements with some 250 NGOs. The commitment, speed, flexibility and community-based approach which is the particular strength of NGOs, makes them ideal partners in meeting the variety of needs that are characteristic of post-conflict situations. It is also noteworthy that increasingly more funds are being channelled by donors through NGOs.

The times of fragmented approaches are over - we must accept the impact of inter-dependent issues and strive to find solutions in a global and unitary manner. A concentrated focus on what went wrong, what is missing, what is already in place and where resources may come from is essential.

Unfortunately, where the needs are greatest, the resources are usually the smallest. Thanks to CNN, some operations, like Bosnia Herzegovina, are well funded while other deserving ones like Mozambique or Liberia attract much less attention. When there is no impending emergency, it is difficult to generate confidence and resources for what is perceived as, and often is, a risky and long drawn out process of rebuilding war-torn societies.

My fourth point therefore would be to advocate a "third window" of financing, which could be a mechanism to channel funds from humanitarian or development sources for use of both humanitarian and development agencies in the process of rehabilitation. Until now, emergency relief and development programmes have been treated as two significantly different ways of supporting people and countries in distress, leading to a dual structure in aid management which does not facilitate rehabilitation.

In conclusion, let me say that dovetailing relief and development may bring us closer to prevention. Much of what needs to be done to help refugees go home and countries to rebuild themselves serves another purpose: preventing the recurrence of those factors which led to disaster in the first place. Fifty years ago, we faced a world devastated by war. Fifty years later, the world is confronted again with a similar challenge of rehabilitation and reconstruction as many war torn countries make a valiant effort towards peace and reconciliation. It is necessary, indeed, imperative to help these countries and communities. By linking humanitarian assistance with development we promote peace, stability and economic growth.