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Review of UNHCR's Phase-Out Strategies: Case Studies in Selected Countries of Origin


Review of UNHCR's Phase-Out Strategies: Case Studies in Selected Countries of Origin

1 February 1997


This study endeavours to identify and analyze some major issues and concepts relating to the phase out of UNHCR involvement from post-repatriation situations. It also examines typical areas where the continuation of activities that may have been initiated under UNHCR's leadership is essential to the consolidation of peace as well as to the prevention of further refugee flows. This report has been constructed from a comprehensive analysis of phase out and hand-over experiences in four large scale repatriation situations that have taken place in recent years: Cambodia, El Salvador, Mozambique and Tajikistan.

In preparation of this report, field research was conducted in Cambodia, Tajikistan, Mozambique and El Salvador in the late spring of 1996. Key documents were reviewed and in depth discussions were held with UNHCR representatives and staff. Representatives and staff of other United Nations organisations and programmes, senior Government officials, local officials, representatives of donor countries, NGO implementing partners, human rights organisations and the beneficiaries themselves were also interviewed. In addition, extensive consultations were held with relevant UNHCR staff in Geneva and with staff of the Secretariat and other major United Nations organisations in New York. Information covering essentially all aspects of the study topics was collected and analysed during this exercise. In the interest of brevity, however, only information required to support the recommendations is presented.

The field work and analysis were carried out by Dan O'Donnell, a consultant with extensive experience in legal and human rights issues, with the assistance of Constantin Sokoloff, Senior Officer, Inspection and Evaluation Service, who was also responsible for finalising the report.


CARERE Cambodian Repatriation and Resettlement

CIDA Canadian International Development Agency

CIREFCA International Conference on Central American Refugees

CRC Cambodian Red Cross

ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross

MSF Médecins Sans Frontières

NAR Mozambique's National Refugee Support Agency

OSCE Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe

ONUHAC United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination for Mozambique

ONUSAL United Nations Organisation in El Salvador

OPS Office of Project Services

PDK Demoncratic Khmer Party

PEC Economic Cooperation Plan

PRODERE Programme for Displaced Persons and Returnees in Central America

SCF Save the Children Fund

SIDA Swedish International Development Agency


(1) Most of UNHCR's experience with large scale repatriation has taken place during the last decade. Broad involvement with reintegration, however, was not attempted until the repatriation to Nicaragua in 1987 when some 350 "Quick Impact Projects" (QIPs) were implemented in the communities in which returnees resettled. They supported the repair or reconstruction of schools, health centres and other infrastructure necessary for the rehabilitation and development of the local economy.

(2) Traditionally, the view on the Organisation's involvement in countries of origin had been that "UNHCR could only respect its humanitarian and non-political status by confining its activities to countries of asylum, and by responding to refugee movements once they had taken place. Any efforts to address the conditions giving rise to forced population displacements within countries of origin, it was agreed, would have involved the office in functions which fall beyond the scope of its Statute"1.

(3) In recent years, however, a new emphasis has been placed on the responsibility of States to create conditions allowing its nationals to return home and the propriety of UNHCR facilitating and supporting this process. "Although the core of our Mandate is still the granting of protection to and the search for solutions for millions of refugees" the High Commissioner stated on one recent occasion "the international community is no longer satisfied with UNHCR waiting for people to cross borders to protect and assist them. Instead, growing emphasis is being placed on the provisions of humanitarian assistance, protection and the creation of conditions which may contribute to early solutions in the countries of origin."2

(4) This development has not taken place in isolation, but reflects the international community's choice of an increasingly pro-active mission for the United Nations system. It may be noteworthy that major examples of UNHCR's involvement in repatriation and reintegration such as in Central America, Cambodia and Mozambique, coincided with comprehensive post-conflict programmes launched by the international community.

(5) In 1994, the General Assembly enjoined "the High Commissioner and the international community as a whole to do everything possible to return refugees home in safety and dignity assisting, where needed, the return and reintegration of repatriating refugees." With specific regard to the reintegration of returnees, it "underlines the need for further progress by the United Nations system in addressing in a coherent and mutually supportive manner humanitarian assistance, rehabilitation and development activities, especially in countries to which refugees are returning voluntarily"3.

(6) The new challenges stemming from the expansion of UNHCR's involvement in countries of origin require re-thinking the approaches and methodologies developed during decades of work in countries of asylum. The High Commissioner has observed that: "the shift from war to peace is neither easy nor clear. In some cases open conflict is replaced by lingering security; in others it might erupt into renewed violence - endangering prospects for repatriation and creating risks of fresh outflows. In almost every repatriation operation, UNHCR's 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."4


(7) The growing involvement of UNHCR in countries of origin has posed with new relevance the question of when and how to phase out its programmes. With more responsibilities in post-repatriation and internal displacement situations bequeathed upon the Office by the international community, the conventional pattern of "phase out on completion of return" has become less appropriate. Current standards require UNHCR programmes to ensure that conditions of stability in returnee communities are established and can be sustained.

(8) In recent years, new approaches to organisational phase out have been developed and tried in the context of specific operations. Once minimal conditions of stability are in place, sustainability would be sought through the "hand-over" of various missions to other actors. Disengagement strategies in El Salvador, Cambodia, Tajikistan and Mozambique are widely regarded in that domain as examples of at least partial successes that merit careful analysis. Despite lessons-learnt exercises undertaken in the Office during the past year much remains to be done in designing a systematic approach to phase out.

(9) A number of perennial conditions have inhibited UNHCR from clearly defining a phase out strategy. First, the boundaries of its missions in countries of origin are not always well delineated. Second, UNHCR's operational style leaves no time for comprehensive programme planning. Third, funding uncertainty and constraints hamper proper phase out planning. Fourth, programmes tend to be narrowly targeted at encouraging return. Finally, assumptions concerning what and how to hand-over to other actors in order to ensure the sustainability of the activities it initiated are often erroneous.

(10) The absence of a universal phase out matrix to be applied from the early stages of operational planning can be detrimental both to the Organisation and the beneficiaries of its programmes. Protracted assistance resulting from UNHCR's inability to ensure beyond its input the sustainability of activities in vital sectors, tends to stretch UNHCR's resources. It also generally accomplishes little for the empowerment of returnee communities. Arbitrary disengagement, on the other hand, can leave returnee communities in such precarious conditions possibly prompting further displacement.

(11) As a relief organisation, UNHCR has only limited expertise in the area of reintegration. Nevertheless, the wealth of field knowledge it usually accumulates in the early phases of an operation represents a considerable potential for reintegration planning. It is unfortunate that UNHCR often does not succeed in applying this potential to proper use or sharing it with qualified partners.

(12) While there cannot be a single blueprint for phasing out post-return programmes, a number of guidelines can be extracted from accumulated experience. The nature of phase out options is largely determined by conditions in countries of origin, post-return dynamics, returnee needs and the ability of UNHCR and others to fulfil them. The four operations under review differ significantly with regard to conditions and circumstances. Notwithstanding, lessons drawn show similitude in patterns.

(13) A major conclusion to retain is that time frames for phasing out UNHCR's post-return programmes should be based on operational objectives rather than pre-determined dates, available funding or ill-defined concepts such as "initial reintegration". Satisfactory disengagement requires certain specific issues to be resolved or adequately "handed over" to successor bodies prior to the phasing out of activities. Among these are: ensuring the respect and protection of the returnees' fundamental rights, determining land ownership and use, rehabilitating the social infrastructure, identifying and reinserting specially vulnerable persons and ensuring that basic needs are met in the sectors of food, water and shelter.

(14) While addressed in UNHCR's post-return programmes, these issues can seldom be resolved by the Organisation alone. In recent operations, the sustainability of the protection of returnee rights has been adequately ensured through linkages with national and international bodies. Timeliness in establishing these linkages has sometimes been a problem due to the lack of capacity of the prospective partners. In most cases, however, UNHCR has managed to create the conditions necessary for effective hand-over and subsequent phase out.

(15) The decision to phase out UNHCR presence in countries of origin, however, should not be based exclusively on the circumstances of the returnee population. The political and social stability of the country should also be taken into account. UNHCR has a legitimate concern with preventing refugee outflows or internal displacement. This gives it an interest in contributing to the creation of general conditions of political and social stability and may warrant maintaining a country presence beyond the phase out of its reintegration activities.

(16) In the sphere of social and economic reintegration, the Organisation has been somewhat less successful. QIPs programmes have been widely used as a means to address the immediate integration needs of returnees and their communities. QIPs, however, have often not been designed as sustainable and have not constituted a bridge towards longer-term rehabilitation activities. As a consequence, UNHCR-induced reintegration tends to be ephemeral while willing or capable successor bodies seem impossible to find. Under such conditions, the phase out of UNHCR activities becomes a dubious course.

(17) Clearly, a sound phase out strategy is one which is initiated at the outset of an operation. From the start, UNHCR should seek to identify prospective partners determined to sustain longer-term reintegration activities. Partnerships should be established and capacities developed. For a reintegration effort to be truly sustainable linkages must be established with community-based or national bodies.

(18) In the process of developing relationships with prospective successors, UNHCR should make a conscious effort to understand their organisational objectives and programme expectations. This is important in dealing with organisations governed by defined mandates. Experience has shown that in the case of other UN agencies, the best intentions of co-operation expressed at field level are likely to be mitigated or defeated by the system. Based on a good knowledge of partners, UNHCR's own expectations should be realistic.

(19) In planning operations in countries of origin, UNHCR should carefully weigh the benefits and costs of quick programme deployment. Piecemeal reintegration activities are easy to field and may succeed in stabilising returnee communities in the short-term. Long-term stability, however, is more likely to be achieved through comprehensive multi-sectorial programmes. UNHCR should strive to overcome its emergency bias and take a comprehensive view of post-return dynamics. Whenever possible, it should seek to integrate its activities with those of agencies concerned with long-term reintegration.

(20) Despite their potential for immediate reward, QIPs programmes should not be seen as a panacea for returnee communities. Other forms of programmes should also be considered drawing on the know-how of competent partners and the solutions best suited to the particular needs of situations should be retained.

(21) It is essential that UNHCR devolves to others as many responsibilities as possible immediately after the return of the displaced. In post-return situations, the considerable knowledge of field conditions it accumulated combined with impressive operational systems confers to UNHCR natural leadership. A sound phase out strategy would aim at relinquishing this advantage to selected partners.

(22) Finally, UNHCR's approach to inter-agency co-operation in post-return situations cannot focus exclusively on the roles that other agencies might play in helping it phase out. This needs to be balanced by the Organisation's willingness to ask what part it can play in advancing goals which are of concern to the UN system as a whole.


1. Minimum objectives regarding post-return programmes, notably the reintegration of returnees, should be defined at the outset of an operation and UNHCR should be prepared to continue support for these objectives until they are reached.

2. Where minimum objectives cannot be reached through UNHCR programmes alone, linkage areas should be identified.

3. Linkage partners should be first sought in the communities and national structures and their capacity-building incorporated in reintegration plans.

4. The mandates and programmes of potential partners should be carefully analysed for compatibility with reintegration objectives and activities.

5. UNHCR should aim at facilitating transitional arrangements between NGO implementing partners and funding organisations, including bilateral aid agencies.

6. Any comprehensive reintegration strategy, including protection activities, should be developed, to the extent possible, with the direct participation of potential linkage partners.

7. The experience and structures acquired by UNHCR during repatriation should be made readily available to prospective partners.

8. UNHCR should not expect to be able to "hand-over" responsibility for the economic and social reintegration of returnees to any single agency.

9. Phase out strategies should be designed on the basis of secured linkages ensuring sustainability and continuity.

10. Phase out strategies should include contingency plans.

11. QIPs implementation should be planned and managed in a way which allows for greater community participation.

12. QIPs programmes should be designed in a way which fits productively into comprehensive reintegration planning.

13. The value of inter-agency comprehensive targeting and planning, such as District Development Mapping, should be evaluated against progress in the field within a year or two.

14. In large operations, staff specialised in reintegration should be posted in field offices as early as possible during the repatriation or "movement" phase.

15. Specialised staff, whether experienced field officers, protection officers or programme officers, should not be phased out on the basis of expected developments while sensitive or complex issues within their areas of expertise remain unresolved.


I. UNHCR alone cannot meet all reintegration needs

(23) Opinions vary among the international community on whether direct support for reintegration should be within UNHCR's Mandate. In Mozambique donors took different views on this question. The major European donors supported UNHCR's reintegration activities while other major donors took a more critical view. Some donors, however, did not appear to have a consistent position on this issue. In Mozambique, USAID questioned the extent of UNHCR involvement, while the State Department praised the operation. In El Salvador, USAID officials expressed strong approval of UNHCR's continued support for reintegration, even four years after the repatriation effectively ended.

(24) After large scale repatriations, UNHCR is often the only agency, with the possible exception of peace-keeping forces, with substantial logistical capacity and field presence. Involvement with repatriation gives it an intimate understanding of the situation in the countryside. Furthermore, in situations where central authorities have little control on parts of the national territory, UNHCR often has a working relationship with a wide range of relevant actors. This gives UNHCR significant advantages over other agencies in terms of its capacity to contribute to reintegration and reconstruction. Experience shows that early hand-over of this capacity to other agencies is not possible. As a result, UNHCR is pressed to engage in reintegration activities, and thus, into stretching its Mandate.

(25) UNHCR's comparative advantage is offset, however, by limited expert resources in disciplines typically required by reintegration and reconstruction programmes. These include rural development, water and sanitation and public health. The Organisation's culture, labelled by some staff as the "emergency mind set" makes it ill-adapted to longer-term reintegration programmes. In addition, reintegration planning is generally not envisaged until repatriation approaches its end.

(26) In large scale repatriation operations, field officers are overwhelmed with the actual movements. Moreover, UNHCR does not have capacity in the field to consider the implications for reintegration of the decisions being made daily under the pressure of events. The belated assignment of one Reintegration Officer to the Branch Office, in a country like Mozambique where there were over 20 field offices and more than a million returnees, was insufficient. In an operation of this magnitude, there should have been staff free of operational responsibility, whose task would have been preparing for reintegration and overseeing the rehabilitation activities already started. Thus, the longer-term implications of decisions on matters such as the locations of resettlement sites could be taken into account.

(27) To extract maximum advantage from the infrastructure and experience which UNHCR offers as repatriation winds down, close co-operation with other agencies must be initiated from reintegration's outset. The term "hand-over" has fallen into disfavour because it is seen as reflecting the idea that UNHCR has the right to expect other agencies to take over half-completed projects which they did not help design and which do not necessarily fit into their overall strategies. This perception confirms the dictum that continuum from relief to development should not be seen as sequential, but as overlapping.

(28) Senior UNHCR officers involved in the operations under study, generally contend that they did everything possible to co-ordinate more closely with sister agencies from the very beginning. They note, however, that other agencies could not find the capacity to invest the time and human resources which closer co-operation required.

(29) UN agencies are aware of their own shortcomings in responding to "complex emergencies" and "post-conflict" situations. A system-wide effort to improve their response capacities has been under way. UNICEF has now created an Emergency Operations Unit, and has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR. The ILO has established an Action Programme for Countries Emerging from Conflicts and has expressed interest in closer co-operation with UNHCR. The creation of such specialised units and the development of more coherent policies and procedures regarding post-conflict situations are important developments, which should facilitate closer field co-operation with UNHCR in future large scale repatriations.

II. Phase out depends on target oriented planning

(30) Deadlines for phasing-out assistance for the reintegration of returnees should be defined in terms of the objectives to be established, not in terms of pre-determined dates, fixed amount of funding or vague concepts such as "initial reintegration". Failure to define the goals of reintegration can result in the phasing out of reintegration assistance when an unacceptably large part of the returnee population is still living in precarious conditions and no other agency is prepared to continue support for reintegration until the population has reached a minimally acceptable level of self-sufficiency. The consequences of premature termination of support for reintegration including the suffering of the population itself, backflows and internal displacement. It will probably have a negative impact on the local or regional economy and health and education systems. This in turn may exacerbate ethnic, religious or political tensions. Premature withdrawal of support for reintegration damages the credibility of UNHCR.

(31) A phase out strategy should be developed together with the mission statement or plan of operations. This should normally be done prior to establishing a presence in the country in question, unless the operation is established on an emergency basis, in response to unforeseen events (e.g. Tajikistan).

(32) Economic reintegration, social reintegration, physical security and respect for basic legal rights will not necessarily proceed at the same rate. Achievement of the desired objectives in one or two of these areas does not mean that the UNHCR operation as a whole can be phased out. A phase out strategy should have three aspects or dimensions: economic reintegration, social reintegration and physical and legal security. Economic reintegration, for purposes of a phase out strategy, can be understood as providing returnees with the means to become self-sufficient, in particular shelter and food security. For the returnee population in general, social reintegration means access to basic social services, such as primary health care and education. For specially vulnerable persons who are unable to achieve self-sufficiency it means finding, or helping to restore, social mechanisms which will give them a reasonable chance of survival.

(33) Physical and judicial security include the right to life, freedom from physical and sexual violence, whether actual or threatened, freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, forced labour and arbitrary dispossession from one's home, land or other property or separation from family members. This does not exhaust the list of basic human rights to which every person is entitled to, but it may be taken as a working definition of the concept for present purposes.

(34) Experience suggests that it is often difficult to attain even minimal levels of reintegration in each of these three areas in the medium term, i.e. within two to three years. UNHCR should try to meet minimum internationally acceptable standards before phasing out to respond to new demands on the resources of the organisation and valid institutional interest in phasing out without unnecessary delay.

(35) Living conditions in refugee camps are often superior to those in the refugee's country and milieu of origin. This does not mean, however, that the goal of repatriation should be to leave the returnee in circumstances roughly comparable to those of the host population in the country of origin. Reintegration objectives must, naturally, take conditions in the country of origin into account. Human rights standards, especially concerning economic and social rights, can be prioritised. Trying to address the broad range of issues implicit in these standards would cause a loss of focus that would be detrimental to effective pursuit of achievable goals.

(36) On the other hand, local standards may have dropped too low. In some cases, particularly where the country of origin has been affected by natural or man-made disasters, living conditions are so far below minimum that it would be incompatible with the humanitarian character of the organisation to accept such conditions as the fate of returnees. More pragmatically, promising the refugees population something more than the same desperate conditions which may have been partly responsible for their flight may be necessary to encourage repatriation.

(37) To take one example, in Cambodia a study found that 34 percent of the returnee population did not have food security, as compared to 17 percent of the local population. Reintegration assistance must continue in such circumstances. Food relief is not enough, for it alone will not lead to a solution. Whether or not it would be acceptable for UNHCR to use the local standards as its objective in circumstances such as these, is a compelling question which must be answered in the operational context. Ideally, the United Nations system and the donor community would adopt a mid-term reconstruction and development plan addressing these issues. This would allow UNHCR to define its own targets more objectively.

(38) The objectives for social infrastructure adopted in Mozambique offer an alternative to the local yardstick. Prevailing conditions in Mozambique were unacceptably low. Infant mortality was the highest in the world. Almost half the country's rural health facilities had been destroyed during the war. The goals adopted by UNHCR included access for all returnees within walking distance to primary health care, primary education and safe water. Plans included estimates of the numbers of wells, classrooms and health posts which would be needed to meet these goals. Given objective circumstances in the country, and in the absence of a coherent inter-agency plan for national reconstruction, it was not unreasonable for UNHCR to somewhat arbitrarily assume responsibility for constructing 140 health posts. Linkages with the national health care system could be worked out later, in co-operation with other interested parties.

(39) UNHCR staff, experienced in repatriation operations, stress the importance of flexibility. Given the circumstances in which repatriation movements occur, the risk of losing control and of facing adverse impact on repatriation or reintegration, is high. The Organisation's ability to anticipate such risks, and respond to such developments quickly and creatively, is crucial. Stating reintegration objectives in measurable terms may have disadvantages but the loss of flexibility is not among them. Objectives can be modified when necessary. In some circumstances, modification of objectives will be seen as failure. Planners should not, however, be deterred. Inevitably, UNHCR will face criticisms even if the criteria for success were never clearly defined.

(40) Setting goals does not require UNHCR to remain operational until each of them is attained. UNHCR can phase out if it manages to achieve the goals itself, or if it succeeds in making arrangements for another agency to complete the work it has begun. In Mozambique, various difficulties prevented certain objectives from being attained before field operations were phased out. Instead, a complex web of "linkage" arrangements were painstakingly cultivated with a view to ensuring that the remaining gaps would be competently addressed. These arrangements allowed UNHCR to phase out knowing that it had done a credible job of complying with its responsibilities vis-à-vis reintegration of the returnee population.

III. UNHCR should identify long term programme needs

(41) Estimates of the amount of time needed for reintegration efforts should be as realistic as possible. For fund-raising purposes, there may be pressures to err on the side of underestimating the time required for reintegration. In terms of effectiveness in implementation and sustainability, however, it is preferable to overestimate the time needed.

(42) There are two radically opposed approaches to involvement in countries of origin within UNHCR. One school of thought is that involvement in reintegration should be minimal, once repatriation has been completed. "One harvest cycle" has sometimes mentioned as the measure of an appropriate time frame. The repatriation of Kurds to Northern Iraq in 1991, where UNHCR's goal was limited to providing shelter for the winter and its presence lasted less than a year, is mentioned as a model. Of the four case studies, the Cambodian operation, where implementation of all QIPs projects was to be completed within seven months of the end of repatriation, matches best this approach.

(43) The opposite point of view holds that reintegration is a method for seeking a durable solution to a refugee problem. Consequently, the Organisation should monitor and assist returnee populations until their situation in the country of origin is stable in all crucial respects. This includes access to shelter and basic public services, food production, physical security and enjoyment of basic legal and political rights. El Salvador, where QIPs funding did not even begin until a year after the end of large scale repatriation, best exemplifies this approach.

(44) Given the terms of this debate within the Organisation, it may be reasonable to take two to three years as a working definition of "extended involvement." In El Salvador, the QIPs phase lasted slightly more than two years. In Cambodia, the QIPs phase ended within seven months of the end of repatriation, but field presence was extended for another 18 months while a safety net approach, which continued assistance selectively to vulnerable persons, was used to redress outstanding problems. In Tajikistan, field offices were open roughly two years and QIPs projects funded for about three years. In Mozambique, QIPs funding began during repatriation and continued for three years, although reintegration was the main focus for a shorter time.

(45) It is not possible to draw up a definitive list of activities requiring extended post-repatriation involvement in countries of origin. The needs of the returnee and host population vary greatly from one country to another and countless factors affect the amount of time needed to make a substantial contribution to meeting them. Nevertheless, experience suggests that involvement for two to three years is often needed in at least one, and usually several, sectors, including the following.

(46) Food: In three of the four countries studied, the returnee population was composed mainly of peasant farmers. Economic reintegration was thus largely synonymous with self-sufficiency in food production which, in turn, depends to a large extent on favourable weather and access to land suitable for farming. In two of the three countries, Cambodia and El Salvador, access to land was extremely problematic, and required years of intervention. In El Salvador, where UNHCR played a supporting role, four years were required to find a solution. In Cambodia, the extent of the problem is not as well documented, but it appears to be far from solution. UNHCR and Cambodian Repatriation and Resettlement (CARERE) (a UNDP/OPS rehabilitation and reintegration set up in Cambodia) co-operated closely in dealing with this problem while UNHCR maintained a field presence, especially during the post-QIPs phase in 1994-95. It is unclear whether CARERE will continue to devote resources to the land problem of returnees, now that UNHCR is phasing out and CARERE is entering a new programme cycle.

(47) Access to land was not a problem in Mozambique, but drought was. Fortunately, good rains during the year repatriation began allowed most returnees to attain food security. After some initial problems, WFP and other partners incorporated returnees into the national programme for all populations at risk, providing food relief and seeds as necessary.

(48) In El Salvador, the land issue was largely a political one. Contributing factors included the policies followed by bilateral donors in supporting the reintegration of returnees in lands beyond Government control, the provisions of the peace agreement concerning land, and the positions taken by returnee communities and the government at different times regarding implementation of the agreement. In Cambodia, many factors contributed to the land problem, but the lack of political will on the part of the government was one of the main ones. In future, every effort should be made to resolve the land issue on the political level, avoiding, to the extent possible, the need for time consuming village-by-village or household-by-household approach.

(49) Shelter: The need for extended involvement with shelter requirements depends entirely on the circumstances of the country of origin. In Mozambique, traditional dwellings are easily constructed with locally available, low cost materials, and little support for shelter was required during reintegration. In Cambodia, cash grants were sufficient to solve the shelter problem of returnees who did not need farm land.

(50) Tajikistan is the only one of the four countries where meeting the shelter needs of returnees required prolonged involvement. The problem has had two dimensions: reconstruction of destroyed homes, and securing possession of homes which had been appropriated by members of the local community or in some cases by migrants from other parts of the country. The number of houses covered by UNHCR's shelter programme was relatively small. Reconstruction was expected to take one year, but after two and a half years the original target was not entirely met and the need had been revised upward. The delay was due primarily to the need to import roofing materials and difficulties in procurement. As the shelter programme progressed, the government tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade UNHCR to agree to a substantial increase of the target. UNHCR's implementing partner, an international NGO, will continue reconstruction with bilateral funding.

(51) In so far as recovery of possession is concerned, the government adopted legislation recognising the right of returnees to regain possession of their homes. In the vast majority of cases they were able to do so, but there were hundreds of cases where it was necessary to resort to mediation or legal action. Difficulties in enforcing the law, including intimidation, favouritism and refusal to comply with court decisions, were common. UNHCR supported families who found it necessary to take action to recover possession of their homes for two years, until it became possible to hand-over responsibility for this activity to the OSCE.

(52) Water: Water required extended UNHCR involvement in three of the four countries studied, albeit for different reasons. Extensive destruction due to prolonged warfare was a contributing factor in Cambodia and Mozambique. Significant destruction also occurred in Tajikistan, although the war was much shorter. In each case the destruction was aggravated by other factors, including the prolonged suspension of international aid to Cambodia; decades of mismanagement followed by severe economic dislocation in Tajikistan, and in Mozambique, the lack of access for many years to territory under opposition control. Delays in the procurement of drilling equipment compounded with these situations in both Cambodia and Mozambique.

(53) In Cambodia, it took two years instead of one to drill the 500 wells. Drilling proceeded more satisfactorily in the province where the UNHCR Field Office remained open during the second year. In Mozambique, the number of wells completed by the time UNHCR phased out field operations, after three years of support for water projects, was only a fraction of the number originally planned. In Tajikistan, the installation and rehabilitation of wells proceeded without significant delays, yet still required almost two years to complete. Difficulties in maintaining wells were reported in all three countries, due in large part to poor training or lack of community participation in maintenance.

(54) Social infrastructure: Concerted efforts to rebuild the social infrastructure in areas receiving large numbers of returnees were made in Cambodia and specially Mozambique. In Cambodia, approximately 30 percent of the US$ 9.6 million spent on QIPs was used to upgrade 52 hospitals and clinics and build or repair 296 schools. This was accomplished in less than one year. In Mozambique, where the total number of returnees was more than four times greater, and the resettlement area much larger, 160 health facilities were built or rehabilitated, and nearly 900 classrooms built or rehabilitated during a period of two and a half to three years.

(55) The contrast between the time required to complete social infrastructure projects in these two countries could suggest that the need for extended involvement depends largely on technical factors such as the local construction and engineering capacity, logistical requirements and the size and degree of dispersion of the beneficiary population. These factors are important indeed, but community participation also needs to be taken into account. In Mozambique, the degree of community participation in these and other projects was low. This was due in part to the characteristics of the returnee population itself, which was not well organised, and in part due to the approach of UNHCR and some of its implementing partners, who focused on tangible results as opposed to process.

(56) The rush to complete these projects undermined community participation, resulting in problems with the sustainability of some projects, especially schools. The experience of Mozambique confirms the need to pay greater attention to the QIPs guidelines on community participation. When reconstruction of social infrastructure is included in reintegration plans, sufficient time to ensure adequate community participation should be allowed.

(57) Reinsertion of especially vulnerable persons: Of the four countries studied, Cambodia shows the clearest example of a concerted effort to provide support reintegration for persons with physical, psychological and social handicaps. The strategy followed by the international NGOs which headed this effort stressed finding, revitalising or creating structures within the community capable of providing long-term support to those unable to become self-sufficient. This avoids the need for long-term care and maintenance, but is a time-consuming process. An effort was also made to avoid dependency on international NGOs by training local staff and supporting the development of national affiliates. This requires capacity-building mainly through on the job training, a process which also requires a minimum of two years of involvement.

(58) Capacity-building: UNHCR was obliged to postpone some aspects of the phase out of reintegration assistance in each of the countries visited. Timetables which are not realistic have a negative impact on the capacity-building of implementing partners. Partner agencies, both governmental and NGO, labour under mistaken assumptions about the length of time they have to accomplish the tasks they are committed to, and the length of time they will continue to receive the financial support which is often crucial to their continued existence. Unrealistic time frames put all the emphasis on providing services at the expense of capacity-building. Expectations of a two or three year involvement, as opposed to one year, can help NGOs make reasonable plans for developing the capacity of local staff. It is difficult to make up the lost opportunity even if the time frame is later extended.

IV. Protection, prevention and early warning

(59) In some of the countries visited, the decision to maintain a UNHCR presence in the country appears, at a certain point, to be based on a general concern with the political and social stability of the country more than specific needs of the returnee population.

(60) In Cambodia, the situation of ethnic Vietnamese who were attacked by opposition forces became a major protection issue, as the repatriation was coming to an end. Tens of thousands of people fled to Vietnam and thousands more were trapped at the border: a situation not dissimilar to that which led UNHCR to set up operations on an urgent basis in Tajikistan. In addition to advocating for an appropriate solution of this problem, the office has given priority to lobbying for the adoption of legal standards recognising the right of ethnic minorities to Cambodian nationality. It also supports research and public awareness activities designed to promote greater respect for the rights of minorities.

(61) The problem of ethnic minorities is not directly related to the repatriation which led UNHCR to open its office in Cambodia. Ethnic Vietnamese and returnees are two completely different groups. Yet UNHCR's efforts to convince the Government to allow Vietnamese refugees to return, recognise their legal rights and protect them against violence, as well as change attitudes underlying the persecution they have suffered, are clearly valid objectives.

(62) This example illustrates a crucial point concerning phase out policies in countries of origin. Reintegration and the protection of returnees are not the only factors to be taken into account when evaluating the need for a continued presence. UNHCR has a legitimate concern in preventing future refugee outflows, be it the returnee population or other groups. Consequently, it has an interest in contributing to the creation of conditions of political and social stability which include, but in some countries may be broader than, its interest in the reintegration and protection of the returnee population.

(63) Promoting political and social stability is not an intrinsic part of UNHCR's Mandate. It is a task which belongs to the United Nations system as a whole. However, the link between such stability and the promotion of return and prevention of refugee flows gives UNHCR a legitimate interest, which overlaps with that of other United Nations bodies. UNHCR's contribution should be made within the framework of inter-agency co-operation, based on an assessment of its comparative advantage.

(64) The experience of the countries visited suggests that UNHCR's advantages are often considerable. The planning and implementation of repatriation give it at least access, if not a good working relationship, with all relevant political actors. UNHCR's involvement with reintegration gives it an intimate understanding of the political, military, social and economic situation on the ground. Assuming that repatriation and reintegration are reasonably successful, UNHCR will acquire important reserves of good will and influence. An official in Tajikistan said that "When the history of this country is written, 'UNHCR' will be written in letters of gold." UNHCR also enjoys substantial influence with the Governments of Cambodia and Mozambique.

(65) From the viewpoint of the international community, it would not make sense to discard this political capital for as long as the political or social situation remains unstable to the point that there is a substantial risk of developments which could lead to new outflows in the foreseeable future. Whether the locus of such risk is in the returnee population or some other vulnerable group is of little importance. The main concern should be with foreseeing a substantial risk, within the next one to two years, of a resurgence of repression, armed conflict or ethnic, religious, political disturbance which could lead to new outflows of refugees. If such a risk is foreseen, and if UNHCR has a substantial capacity to influence events in such a way as to diminish that risk, or at least provide early warning, then this should be taken into account in plans for phasing out.

(66) Social and political stability is often tenuous in countries in the period following large scale repatriations. Participating in bringing it about is a challenging task in the best of circumstances. UNHCR is not the agency to lead such efforts because of its limited mandate. UNHCR does, however, have more experience and expertise in sensitive negotiations involving both political and humanitarian principles than most other UN agencies. This gives it a key role to play in inter-agency efforts to promote post-conflict stabilisation. In the countries visited, the heads of other United Nations agencies indicated that they considered that UNHCR made an important contribution to preserve and consolidate the fragile progress made towards a more stable society. In Cambodia, the Representative of the Secretary General indicated that he felt his own effectiveness would be diminished without the support he receives from UNHCR.

(67) UNHCR's approach to inter-agency co-operation in complex emergencies or post-conflict situations has sometimes appeared a bit too self-centred. The perception has been that UNHCR's driving concern was to identify what role other agencies could play in helping it phase out. This needs to be balanced by UNHCR's willingness to ask what part it can play in advancing goals which are of concern to the United Nations system and which transcend the mandate of any single agency.

(68) The programmes for building capacity of national legal or human right institutions such as those now being developed in Central America and Central Asia may offer a valid justification for maintaining a presence whose ultimate goal is prevention. Such programmes also offer a congenial framework for inter-agency co-operation. UNDP, some bilateral agencies, including SIDA, CIDA and USAID, and even the World Bank are becoming increasingly involved in support for the administration of justice. UNICEF, UNHCR, UNIFEM, ILO, UNESCO and ICRC all have interests in human rights and have demonstrated their willingness to cooperage in this area.

(69) In practical terms, a possible guideline on the place of prevention and early warning in phase out planning would be: UNHCR should not phase out of a country where a large scale repatriation has taken place if the overall social and political situation is so unstable that there is a substantial risk of armed conflict, repression or serious social or other conflicts within the next year or two, even if the need for protection of returnees alone would not justify maintaining a presence. When such a risk exists, presence should be maintained as long as the risk remains and UNHCR has substantial ability to have a positive influence on political developments.

(70) This can be accomplished through a small presence, but it is crucial that the staff be chosen on the basis of negotiating skills and relevant experience. Effectiveness in promoting the political will to reach a peaceful settlement, tolerance and respect for human rights, rebuilding civil society and laying the foundation for responsible governance requires special skills. The assumption that a small caseload or small programme budget should result in downgrading field offices should not be followed blindly when the main reason for this presence is to fulfil a preventive function.

V. Unrealistic expectations hinder linkages with other agencies

(71) No single agency can be expected to assume responsibility for ensuring continuity of a reintegration programme when UNHCR phases out. In countries like Tajikistan, where the standard of living was not extremely low and destruction was relatively limited, or in countries like El Salvador, where the number of returnees is relatively small and civil society is well developed, it may be possible to ensure continuity and completion of reintegration by hand-over agreements with a small number of national or international NGOs.

(72) Where the unfinished tasks and challenges in ensuring sustainability are of different magnitude, it is unrealistic to expect any one agency to assume overall responsibility for finishing the work begun by UNHCR. The strategy being tested in Mozambique, where approximately 18 months was devoted to developing "linkages" with a larger number of partners having the capacity to ensure continuity in specific fields or regions, appears to be the most promising approach thus far and should be followed closely.

(73) UNDP: The recurring difficulties which characterise the working relationship between UNDP and UNHCR have been analysed elsewhere. UNHCR staff interviewed often expressed the belief that the quality of the working relationship with UNDP was determined largely by personal relationships between representatives. Working under great pressure in circumstances of material hardship, isolation and possible physical danger made it easy for misplaced expectations and professional misunderstandings to turn into personal animosity. This does not mean, however, that personal relations are at the root of such problems, nor does the solution lie in the inter-personal realm. Those who have studied operations involving UNHCR and UNDP are more likely to conclude that the two agencies differ significantly in their operational structures and institutional cultures, and as a result clash frequently. Moreover, UNDP often has to deal with unrealistic and confusing expectations as to its role. Efforts to promote better mutual understanding of organisational cultures should be increased.

(74) UNDP has recently created an Emergency Response Division to deal with complex emergencies, and made a serious effort to learn lessons from past difficulties. The Division recognises that emergency situations require prompt assignment of a representative with qualifications quite different from those of a typical UNDP representative. Personnel policies will be modified to ensure that only persons with the appropriate profile will receive such assignments and an appropriate package of benefits will attract those with the right qualifications and experience. A special fund (known as "Trac 1.1.3") has been set up to allow faster response to emergencies. In 1996, US$ 8.3 million was allocated to the fund and for 1997 this will be increased to US$ 33.6 million. Furthermore, the Emergency Response Division has posted a senior member to Geneva to ensure better communication between UNDP and UNHCR as well as with other Geneva-based organisations.

(75) These changes are recent, and have not yet been put to the test. They should allow UNDP to respond more quickly to fast-moving post-conflict situations and field representatives to meet the challenges inherent in such situations. Nevertheless, with the exception of the OPS, now a quasi-separate body, UNDP is not operational. It is primarily a vehicle for technical assistance. Therefore, expectations that UNHCR will be able to hand-over responsibility for projects aimed at the reintegration of returnees or the rehabilitation of areas heavily affected by repatriation to UNDP have been based on a fundamental misunderstanding.

(76) UNDP's potential lies in other forms of co-operation. The recently completed District Development Mapping exercise prepared jointly by UNDP and UNHCR in Mozambique is one example. UNHCR provided UNDP with detailed information about the inputs made into the economy, capacity-building and social infrastructure of all the districts most affected by repatriation. UNDP, in turn, completed this with additional information and systematised it into a series of district profiles which, it is hoped, will serve to trigger aid and investment where it is most needed. It is too early to evaluate the results of this approach, but it seems likely that greater realism about UNDP's ability to contribute to "bridging the gap" between relief, reintegration, reconstruction and development will probably prove more fruitful than the higher, unrealistic expectations which have existed in other cases.

(77) In El Salvador, the Programme for Sustainable Human Development will begin towards the end of 1996. Prepared under UNDP leadership, the Programme includes the co-ordinated inputs from eight United Nations agencies into social infrastructure, income generation, protection of the environment and governance. It is intended to continue the community based development work begun by OPS/PRODERE and the reintegration efforts supported by UNHCR and other agencies during the post-conflict period. UNHCR, together with UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNIFEM, OPS and WHO, will participate in the governance component by contributing to rights awareness activities.

(78) Neither the Mozambican nor the Salvadorian UNDP programme is intended to complete, continue or ensure sustainability of specific projects supported by UNHCR. Their goal is to take up where reintegration activities leave off, tackling a new set of objectives based on an assessment of accomplishments and emerging needs.

(79) OPS: The Office of Project Services (OPS) has been involved with UNHCR in each of the four countries, to different degrees. In three of them, the relationship has been problematic. In Cambodia, UNHCR was instrumental in establishing the OPS-managed CARERE programme. Initially, CARERE was one of UNHCR's main partners in implementing QIPs. When the QIPs phase ended, it continued to be an implementing partner in a small but important project to help returnees obtain access and title to farmland. The partnership apparently functioned smoothly in these areas.

(80) The difficulty resided in that UNHCR kept to its original timetable for phasing out shortly after the end of repatriation despite the hardship of many returnees and expected to hand-over responsibility for reintegration assistance to CARERE. CARERE, however, had a different sense of its mission, which was to build the basis for the development of North-western Cambodia. Not only was CARERE's mission different from UNHCR's at this point, but there were implicit contradictions between its purpose and UNHCR's expectations. CARERE's inputs focused on a limited number of localities, which were not selected on the basis of need, but on the basis of their potential for development. This tended to exclude localities having a larger numbers of returnees. Moreover, CARERE's emphasis quickly shifted to building the capacity of local government, in particular planning capacity. Once the brief UNHCR-funded QIPs phase ended, much of the remaining two years was spent in laying the groundwork for CARERE II.

(81) In El Salvador, the PRODERE programme was not a QIPs implementing partner, but the scenario was similar in other respects. PRODERE did yield tangible benefits for the communities which it targeted, but the main focus of its work was building capacity, and especially capacity for planning. The tangible results of its activity, in terms of roads, credits, schools, health posts and other infrastructure, was modest in comparison to the programmes supported by other agencies.

(82) In Tajikistan, OPS was retained by UNDP to implement a joint UNDP-UNHCR bridging programme intended to ensure continuity of small enterprise development and other QIPs projects while UNHCR phased out. The difficulties encountered included delays in implementation of the programme, OPS's refusal to support activities which it considered to be unsustainable and its reluctance to provide the international NGOs which had been UNHCR's main implementing partners with guarantees that they would be retained. OPS's reservations seem valid, at least in part. The problems in implementing the bridging agreement in effect forced UNHCR to choose between extending its own assistance role or accepting a gap in service delivery, which defeats the purpose of the bridging agreement. OPS maintains that a smoother transition could have been ensured by contracting OPS as co-ordinator of QIPs implementation at an earlier stage, without involving the UNDP as intermediary.

(83) Experience demonstrates that OPS cannot be counted on to ensure the continuity of a comprehensive effort to reintegrate returnees through the CARERE/PRODERE type of programmes. OPS has been used successfully as an implementing partner and can help ensure that QIPs are implemented in keeping with methods and technical standards that enhance their long-term viability. This, in turn, would increase the chances that agencies would be willing to assume responsibility for ensuring continuity, should UNHCR be interested in phasing out while the objectives of a project are only partially attained.

(84) The Cambodian experience indicates that involvement with QIPs implementation does not guarantee that OPS will assume responsibility for completing reintegration. OPS is unique in the United Nations system in that it is purely operational. It does what it is contracted to do and does not have long-term objectives of its own. Therefore, there is no possibility of convergence of objectives which could lead to a decision to assume responsibility for continuing any programme initiated by UNHCR.

VI. Protection linkages have been easier to establish

(85) In Mozambique, no substantial protection problems were reported during or after repatriation. The population density is low and traditional leaders effectively ensured that returnees obtained land suitable for farming. Identity documents were distributed during repatriation. When preparations for elections were disrupted, the elections were postponed for a year. Protection problems were substantial, however, in Cambodia, El Salvador and Tajikistan. In each of these countries UNHCR shared responsibility for protection with another international human rights monitoring body.

(86) Various suggestions have been floated as to criteria for determining when protection operations can be phased out. Some suggest that there should be a fixed limit to the amount of time that one can reasonably view returnees as a group whose treatment is of concern to the international community. Others suggest that UNHCR's Mandate ends once returnees do not suffer human rights violations motivated by their status as returnees, i.e. if they are not discriminated against and enjoy human rights to the same degree as the local population.

(87) The problem of dependency is not limited to dependency on relief. Returnees must learn to defend their rights through the legal system, the political system and social organisations. Paternalistic approaches to monitoring encourage dependency and perpetuates perceptions of returnees as both privileged and lacking in self-reliance. Ultimately, it may hinder their reintegration.

(88) Even where there is some residual discrimination against returnees, it may not be sufficient to warrant a continued protection presence, unless it affects basic rights. Violation of physical security, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, or denial of the right to secure possession of one's home and means of subsistence are compelling reasons for monitoring. The right to social benefits, education, formal employment or political rights, however, may be considered part of a grey zone, where the socio-economic context of the country of origin and competing demands on UNHCR resources must be taken into account.

(89) As a general rule, protection operations can be phased out if returnees are not discriminated against in the enjoyment of key human rights, or if discrimination persists but national institutions provide an adequate remedy. Those rights which should be the main object of protection efforts should be identified in advance, to avoid time-consuming confusion. This should not preclude dealing with other issues while protection capacity is in place, but will clarify criteria for phasing out such capacity.

(90) The importance of strengthening the capacity of national institutions to protect the rights of returnees and other vulnerable sectors of the population should be borne in mind from the beginning of operations. Where such capacity is weak, efforts to strengthen it should begin as soon as the preconditions for the effectiveness of such aid are met.

(91) The rule that protection may be phased out when returnees are not discriminated against must be interpreted cautiously when the general population lives in conditions of great insecurity. This question, like that of an absolute limit on the duration of UNHCR's protection mandate in countries of origin, should be seen in the context of the link between protection, prevention and early warning, which is addressed below.

(92) Linkages with international human rights bodies: In El Salvador, protection was UNHCR's first priority for five years. Subsequently, the creation of the United Nations Organisation in El Salvador (ONUSAL), a large operation whose mandate expressly included monitoring the rights of returnees, effectively allowed UNHCR to reduce the size of its protection operation and to shift its attention to issues other than physical security. Nevertheless, although ONUSAL was a large operation and stayed for an unusually long period of time, it did not obviate the need for UNHCR involvement in other protection issues. With the signing of the peace agreement, ONUSAL's mandate expanded to include monitoring demobilisation and the electoral process. Providing identity documents to all persons needing them before the elections became crucial to the success of the peace process. UNHCR, which had the comparative advantage in this area, led an intense and successful two-year inter-agency effort to meet this need.

(93) Politically motivated violence, which had a disproportionate impact on returnees, largely disappeared after the elections, but other problems concerning the enjoyment of basic rights and compliance with the peace agreement persisted. The most important of these was the right to land. Consequently, after the end of the documentation project, UNHCR's presence was reduced to that of a Liaison Office instead of complete phase out. This allowed UNHCR to continue with inter-agency efforts to resolve these issues.

(94) In Cambodia, UNTAC also had a substantial human rights component. Since it phased out shortly after the elections, while UNHCR was still fully involved in initial reintegration, the Human Rights Component had no impact on UNHCR's phase out strategy. UNHCR began phasing out its field offices around the time the Centre for Human Rights had established its field presence. UNHCR provided the Centre with material assistance, advice and information, in the expectation that its activities would provide some protection to returnees as UNHCR phased out. No formal agreement was made, however. The arrangement was a mixed success. The Centre felt compelled to give priorities to particularly grave practices, which affected some returnees, but did not affect returnees as a group disproportionately. Issues such as the right to land, where returnees were victims of discrimination, were considered a low priority and not dealt with.

(95) The fact that some of the Centre's interests coincided with those of UNHCR has had no impact on the latter's phase out strategy because the issue was too difficult to be resolved by any one organisation. Indeed, UNHCR has probably had more influence than the Centre and could not have handed-over responsibility for this issue without reducing the chances of success.

(96) In Tajikistan, as reintegration advanced, the persistence of tensions, lack of a peace agreement and weakness of judicial and law enforcement authorities led UNHCR to conclude that the continued presence of some international organisation in the field would be necessary when it phased out. UNHCR decided to focus its hopes on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which had an office in Tajikistan and was supporting law reform on human rights issues. It took almost a year for the OSCE to authorise a field operation and to recruit suitable staff. When it did, it took over UNHCR operations with an express commitment to follow-up pending cases. The transition has been a success. UNHCR has been able to phase out its field presence without leaving a gap in protection at the local level. It nonetheless retained a small presence in the capital which enables it to handle sensitive or difficult cases directly with national authorities.

(97) Building the capacity of national legal institutions: In Cambodia, UNHCR's pro-active protection efforts have given priority to the advocacy for the adoption of legislation compatible with international standards, in particular in the area of nationality and immigration. This has been carried out in close co-operation with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights. The results thus far have been limited, but this cannot be attributed to lack of effort on the part of UNHCR or the Centre.

(98) The Centre has taken the lead in the training of judges, prosecutors and other legal personnel. UNHCR planned to provide training on refugee and immigration law. These plans were postponed, however, to give priority to compelling protection problems concerning Cambodians of Vietnamese origin, a problem not directly linked with repatriation. In addition, a delay in replacing the Senior Protection Officer affected planning as well. Finally, UNHCR's hasty phase out has had a negative impact on the capacity of the office to respond to serious emerging protection issues not directly related to repatriation.

(99) In Tajikistan, field officers were involved daily in protection issues, which required them to develop close working relations with prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers. These field contacts led UNHCR to appreciate the need for a broad range of input, including training, information and office supplies. In the year following the hand-over of field offices to the OSCE and suppression of the Protection Officer post, a legal consultant was contracted to oversee a programme designed to meet these needs. The office is now exploring the possibility of implementing training on the regional level in other Central Asian republics. The potential for linkages to other multilateral or bilateral aid projects concerning the administration of justice are also explored.

(100) In El Salvador, UNHCR only recently began to develop a programme for strengthening the capacity of national human right institutions. In 1995, the Regional Office entered into an umbrella agreement concerning the promotion of refugee law with the Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen. The following year, the El Salvador office agreed to support the National Council for the Defence of Human Rights, an autonomous body established under the 1992 Constitution which is a member of the Central American Council. The agreement commits the National Council to help disseminate refugee law and human rights law, promote the adoption of laws and procedures implementing the 1951 Convention and protect the rights of returnees. If it succeeds in carrying out its commitments, the need for UNHCR's involvement in protection would be greatly reduced.



(101) El Salvador is sometimes included among countries where UNHCR operations took place in the context of a United Nations-brokered peace agreement. In reality, most refugees repatriated to areas under opposition control, while armed conflict continued. United Nations-sponsored peace talks began in 1990 and a United Nations mission (ONUSAL) was established in September 1991 to monitor compliance with a human rights agreement. A peace agreement was reached at the end of the year.

(102) UNHCR's strategy in El Salvador was influenced by its efforts to promote a regional solution to the refugee problem through the CIREFCA process (International Conference on Central American Refugees). The "process" included preparations for the Conference and efforts to implement the Plan of Action adopted at the Conference. The Central American countries participating in the Conference presented project proposals developed by Governments in consultation with national NGOs and with technical assistance from UNHCR and UNDP. After the Conference, governments and national NGOs were called upon to prepare proposals for implementing the CIREFCA Plan of Action on the national level.

(103) Prior to the peace agreement, UNHCR's activities focused mainly on protection. Most refugees returned in groups, and careful negotiations were necessary to allow for their safe passage. Other protection issues included the arbitrary detention of returnees, military attacks on returnees and the issuance of identity documents to returnees. When ONUSAL became operational, late in 1991, UNHCR began funding QIPs. Finally, in 1995 repatriation came to an end and ONUSAL was replaced by a smaller operation called MINUSAL. UNHCR's support to the QIPs ended and presence was scaled down. Meanwhile, UNHCR activities were increasingly integrated into inter-agency efforts to promote political and social stability and compliance with the peace agreements.

I. Inter-Agency Co-operation permitted planned phase out

(104) Initially, UNHCR provided assistance to individual returnees, including the traditional household kit and three months food relief, while NGOs assisted those who returned in large groups, mostly from border camps in Honduras. The CIREFCA process stimulated large contributions from European donors for refugees and returnees in Central America, and El Salvador was one of the largest beneficiaries. Yet most funds pledged for El Salvador were channelled through NGOs. The government received large amounts of aid from the United States outside the CIREFCA process. The role of UNHCR as a channel for reintegration aid was secondary.

(105) UNHCR began to implement QIPs only after the peace agreement. It targeted returnee communities which had received little assistance from either the Government or NGOs. Although early returnees received aid from solidarity movements, this decreased after the agreement. UNHCR targeted its QIPs to bridge this gap, specially for the 3,000 persons who returned in 1992. The QIPs were meant to "reinforce the socio-economic rehabilitation" of returnee communities and facilitate their incorporation into governmental development plans. In practice, the QIPs funded during 1993 and the first quarter of 1995 were less focused. The criteria used for approval were actual needs and viability rather than contribution to reintegration. While this practice provided for a high degree of community participation, it is difficult to assess its impact on reintegration.

(106) PRODERE: In anticipation of peace, a Special Economic Co-operation Plan for Central America (PEC), to be implemented by UNDP, was approved by the General Assembly in 1988. It included a Development Programme for Displaced Persons, Refugees and Returnees in Central America (PRODERE), a major programme to address the socio-economic causes and consequences of the conflict throughout the region. On the way to CIREFCA, PRODERE also became UNDP's contribution to the CIREFCA Plan of Action. The concept of inter-agency co-operation which in Central America known as "interagencialidad" came into vogue. UNHCR interpreted this to mean that at some point UNDP would assume responsibility for furthering the reintegration of the returnee population into the social and economic mainstream.

(107) PRODERE was implemented by UNDP's OPS. In contrast to the usual UNDP approach, which focuses on building the capacity of national agencies, PRODERE emphasised development from the bottom up. In other respects, however, PRODERE was more traditional. The emphasis on feasibility studies, planning and capacity-building was retained, although refocused to lower levels of government and civil society. Comprehensive planning processes, incorporating all sectors of the community as well as local authorities in preparing local development plans, were embraced as a means of promoting reconciliation and overcoming the divisions resulting from the war. PRODERE became operational in El Salvador in 1990 during the war and was extended for five years.

(108) The impact of PRODERE on the reintegration of a relatively small returnee population is debatable. PRODERE's activities were limited to certain areas with development potential and not necessarily large returnee populations. The short-term emergency assistance it provided was minimal: less that US$ 15 per returnee. Notwithstanding, PRODERE improved the economic environment and social infrastructure in areas within its coverage and, in so doing, made an important contribution to the reintegration of part of the returnee population living in those areas. In retrospect, UNHCR's expectations that PRODERE would have a direct impact on the returnee population as a whole as UNHCR phased out appear unrealistic.

(109) Whether the local planning mechanisms created during this five year long experiment will persist and improve the living conditions of the poorest sectors of the population of El Salvador remains to be seen. In the affirmative, PRODERE will deserve to be recognised for contributing a bridge between reintegration and development.

II. Hand-over to national structures ensured protection sustainability

(110) During the last decade, the focus of protection activities in El Salvador has shifted from safe transit during repatriation and physical safety during conflict, to documentation, access to land and capacity-building.

(111) From 1987 to 1991, UNHCR shouldered responsibility for negotiating safe passage of returning refugees, intervening in cases of arbitrary detention, disappearances, torture and attempting to use its influence to prevent military action against returnee communities. This operational context changed with the arrival of ONUSAL in July 1991. ONUSAL was to monitor compliance with the agreement on human rights signed by the Government and opposition. The agreement contained guarantees against arbitrary detention and recognised the rights of returnees to freedom of movement, identity documents and to participate in economic and social activities. Despite a field large structure, ONUSAL lacked UNHCR's experience, contacts and intimate knowledge of the terrain. Subsequently, a symbiotic relationship developed, whereby ONUSAL took the lead in monitoring the rights of all vulnerable persons and UNHCR shared information and contacts which enabled ONUSAL to operate more effectively. In addition, ONUSAL employed a large number of former UNHCR staff members and this naturally contributed to better understanding and communication between the two agencies. The presence of ONUSAL greatly reduced the need for UNHCR to maintain its initial monitoring capacity.

(112) Elections and documentation: Preparation for the 1994 elections became a priority for ONUSAL. Valid identification documents were a prerequisite for voting, but many Salvadorians, especially refugees and IDPs, had lost them. UNHCR had years of experience in providing returnees with such documents. Reintegration has a political dimension, UNHCR reasoned, which justifies support for the restoration of the material conditions necessary for returnees to exercise their basic right to vote.

(113) UNHCR joined forces with ONUSAL, PRODERE and the Government in a massive common effort to provide all citizens with documents before the elections. This was the only major type of reintegration assistance provided by UNHCR in El Salvador which targeted the host population as well as returnees. In a country of 5.5 million, approximately 1.1 million birth certificates were reissued. The lead role played by UNHCR in this effort is widely recognised as its most valuable contribution to reconciliation during the post-conflict period. With the end of the documentation project in 1994, UNHCR's protection efforts diversified.

(114) The land issue: High concentration of land ownership and large numbers of rural poor were one of the root causes of the civil war. By 1987, large parts of the territory were beyond government control, resulting in serious disruption of land-holding patterns. The peace agreements recognised the importance of the land issue and contained specific provisions on land in areas formerly beyond government control. This issue was of special concern to UNHCR, since many returnees had settled in these zones. Moreover, much of the improvements made through rehabilitation aid provided to NGOs during the war were located on lands which were not in the possession of the legal owner.

(115) Land entitlement proved to be one of the most difficult issues to solve. Its importance was not fully recognised at first. As a result, disputes over land ownership caused some secondary displacement, requiring new distribution of "emergency" relief. The seriousness of this problem partly motivated the extension of the ONUSAL mandate into 1995, and its continuation with a smaller mission. UNHCR contributed to tackling land problems by lending its good offices to negotiations among the concerned parties.

(116) Advocacy and capacity-building: After the peace agreement, the military, police and judiciary were purged or restructured with a view to creating a State capable of protecting the basic human rights. Some laws inspired by international human rights standards were adopted, but other new legislation has been criticised as incompatible with international standards. Violence against returnees, motivated by their presumed political sympathies, fell sharply after the peace agreement, but a resurgence of politically motivated violence attributed to death squads occurred during the electoral period.

(117) The political environment moved in a direction which made compliance with the peace agreement increasingly difficult. The election was won by a conservative political faction which had never supported the peace agreement. In neighbouring Nicaragua, difficulties in delivering on commitments regarding land and assistance led some demobilised combatants to take up arms again, triggering small new outflows of refugees. In these circumstances, UNHCR decided to postpone the withdrawal of its last international staff.

(118) UNHCR in effect shifted the focus of its protection work to supporting MINUSAL/ONUV and UNDP in advocacy on unresolved issues, including land issue, the social benefits, the right to nationality and human rights. Although UNHCR has had no formal responsibility for monitoring implementation of the peace agreement, it enjoyed a special relationship with the returnee population which has enabled it to play a useful role in such inter-agency efforts.

(119) In this context, UNHCR provided support to the National Council for the Defence of Human Rights. This autonomous body established in 1992 by the Constitution of El Salvador, in conformity with the peace agreement, performs functions similar to those of an ombudsman. The Council disseminates international refugee law and international human rights law; provides training to government officials and "representatives of civil society"; promotes the harmonisation of national law and procedures concerning refugees with international standards and participates in efforts to promote public awareness of the rights of refugees as well as all efforts to help returnees and other displaced groups achieve full reintegration and self-sufficiency. UNICEF and UNDP also support the work of the Council. In so far as UNHCR is concerned, this understanding is part of a regional strategy for promoting the rights of refugees and human rights. It follows the signature of a similar agreement by the UNHCR Regional Representative and the Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen in 1995.

III. Measured phase out ensured stability

(120) Phase out began in 1992, the year the peace agreement entered into force, which was also the last year of large scale return. In 1994, after the elections and completion of the documentation project presence was scaled further. Plans called UNHCR staff to be reduced to one national officer based in the UNDP office as from 1994. Instead, given the delays in implementing the provisions of the peace agreement on land problem, limited progress in strengthening national capacity to protect human rights area and other problems described above, UNHCR down-scaled presence to a Liaison Office.

(121) In essence, UNHCR has maintained a presence in El Salvador not for any compelling programmatic obligations of concern to it alone, but to lend its voice to broader United Nations efforts to maintain political stability and defend policies intended to reduce the root causes of the recent conflict. There is undoubtedly a degree of dependency in the continued utilisation of the United Nations agencies for leverage in pursuing domestic political and social objectives. Unsympathetic sectors of the political spectrum resent what they perceive as continued interference in question of domestic politics.

(122) Ultimately, the question of whether UNHCR's continued presence is relevant is linked to its possible contribution to the country's stabilisation and to the prevention of the type of conflict which raged in El Salvador. Observers of the region generally agree that UNHCR's decision to postpone phasing out in 1994, and its continued participation in inter-agency efforts to obtain compliance with the Peace Agreements, had in fact made a significant contribution to political stability.


(123) In January 1992, within months of signature of the Paris Peace Accords, UNHCR and UNDP signed a Memorandum of Understanding on repatriation and reintegration of Cambodian refugees which outlined a two-phase Rural Integration Strategy. The first phase consisted of a QIPs programme in returnee areas, while the second phase featured longer-term Area Development Programmes. A Joint Management Unit composed of UNDP, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and other agencies would be set up by UNDP.

(124) The strategy assumed that most refugees were farmers and intended to return to farming; that the vast majority wished to settle in the four Northwest provinces close to the Thai border, and that sufficient farm land would be made available to allocate two hectares to each returnee family. It also assumed that there would be peace.

(125) Six reception centres and four field offices were opened in the North-western provinces and repatriation was completed in April 1993. Shortly after the completion of repatriation, UNHCR announced that all QIPs funding had been allocated and that the phase out of the first phase of reintegration had begun. CARERE, the UNDP/OPS reintegration and rehabilitation agency, was said to have already "assumed the lead role in integrating the QIPs projects into their long-term development projects." UNHCR reintegration monitoring would be phased out, by end of 1993.

I. Changed circumstances defeated reintegration plans

(126) The assumptions underlying the reintegration strategy proved to be seriously mistaken in two respects. First, intensive Khmer guerrilla activity proved wrong the assumption that all parties would respect the peace agreements. Second, land was not available for all, but for only 5,700 families, or eight percent of the returnee population.

(127) UNHCR reacted to the deteriorating security situation by restricting the returnees' freedom to choose their destination and declaring some areas No-Go Zones. The policy was not wholly effective in preventing returnees from resettling in such areas and made the task of finding farm land more difficult. In response to the land problem, UNHCR decided to offer a cash grant as an alternative to farm land. For an average family it equated to more than a year's income, and 84 percent of the returnee families took this option. Limited access to land meant that most refugees could not be integrated into existing communities, but had to be settled in resettlement sites.

(128) Although most refugees achieved self-sufficiency with the aid provided, a substantial minority became specially vulnerable. Despite this situation, UNHCR did not extend the QIPs phase beyond the end of 1993. UNHCR kept to the plan outlined in the MOU, even when it became clear that CARERE II, designed as the vehicle for executing the second phase of the Rural Reintegration Strategy, would not be the solution to the needs of those returnees unable to reintegrate. In addition, UNHCR adopted a three-pronged strategy, consisting of advocacy, provision of a "safety net" and continued support for land titling.

II. Assistance phase out could have been smoother

(129) Concerted efforts to focus the attention of United Nations agencies and NGOs on the needs of returnees not yet successfully reintegrated were the main pillar of UNHCR's post-QIPs strategy. When other agencies were receptive, UNHCR provided information on the needs of vulnerable returnees which could be used in targeting aid. In the alternative, UNHCR resorted to moral persuasion. The results, not surprisingly, have been mixed.

(130) The Cambodian Red Cross: WFP and its implementing partner, the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), were full partners of UNHCR from the beginning of repatriation, and continued co-operating in providing relief to IDPs after repatriation. As UNHCR phased out its field operations WFP and CRC were the largest recipient of surplus equipment, in particular motor vehicles. The experience which the CRC gained from participating in the movement phase, combined with the equipment, represent an important contribution to building its capacity.

(131) Linkages with NGOs: A second pillar of UNHCR's post-QIPs strategy was to provide a "safety net" for specially vulnerable returnees through support to specialised NGOs. NGOs were previously funded through QIPs, so the decision to continue providing a safety net can be seen as a small but important exception to the policy of ending the QIPs' funding. Significantly, while most of the NGOs involved in infrastructure-building QIPs were international ones, nearly all of those providing social assistance to specially vulnerable groups were either Cambodian or international organisations which became integrated into Cambodian society by setting up national affiliates. Therefore, the decision to continue supporting these activities had secondary benefits in terms of capacity-building and the strengthening of civil society. These NGOs used approaches aimed at finding or developing durable solutions within local communities for individuals unable to become wholly self-sufficient and to avoid perpetuating dependency on external sources of aid.

(132) Linkages with CARERE: The Rural Reintegration Strategy called for close co-operation between UNHCR and UNDP during the initial QIPs phase, followed by a phase in which UNDP would become the lead agency for broader efforts to promote the development of the provinces most affected by repatriation. A UNDP-UNHCR Joint Technical Management Unit began approving QIPs proposals in June 1992. In September, UNDP's role was devolved to the Cambodian Resettlement and Reintegration project, CARERE, under the management of the Office for Project Services (OPS). CARERE began in 1992 and ended in 1995 and was succeeded by CARERE II, a four year project which began in January 1996. Although CARERE was slow to become operational, co-operation was good during the QIPs phase. The Joint Technical Management Unit met regularly and CARERE was receptive to UNHCR's inputs on the targeting of projects, acting in effect like an implementing partner with broad responsibility for QIPs administration.

(133) Noting that UNDP "is a non-operational organisation without a field presence or implementing capacity," the 1993 UNHCR evaluation of the Cambodian repatriation greeted the involvement of OPS with optimism: "Recent experience in Cambodia and elsewhere suggests that OPS has the potential to become a natural partner for UNHCR in reintegration efforts, bridging the institutional gap which separates returnee assistance and longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts." Unfortunately, events did not entirely confirm these hopes.

(134) The end of the initial reintegration phase and the hand-over of the lead role from UNHCR to UNDP/CARERE came at the same time as a crisis in CARERE. The end of UNHCR's QIPs funding coincided with a severe shortage of CARERE project funds and UNHCR was left with little leverage. The Joint Technical Management Unit ceased to meet, and UNHCR's suggestions as to the needs of vulnerable groups of returnees went unheeded.

(135) The transition from the first to the second stage of the Rural Reintegration Plan revealed latent divergencies in the objectives of UNHCR and UNDP/ CARERE. Although UNHCR had broadened the scope of its programmes to encompass specially vulnerable members of the host communities, its primary commitment was to the returnees. In contrast, the primary commitment of UNDP/OPS was with the development of that part of the country which had been most affected by the repatriation, not with any particular population. CARERE targeted selected districts or localities and sought to channel its resources where they would have the greatest impact on the regional economy and infrastructure. Since returnees tended to be clustered in areas with lesser potential, they were poorly represented among the population of the areas where projects were supported by CARERE.

(136) It is too early to judge whether CARERE will succeed in stimulating the development of north-western Cambodia. CARERE's strategy may prove effective in the long term. It remains, however, that the expectation that CARERE would bridge the gap between "immediate assistance" or "initial reintegration" and development may have been erroneous, or that the first phase of the strategy ended prematurely, while initial reintegration was only partially achieved.

(137) Many observers agree that the first phase was too short. Even with limited funding, greater flexibility in expending them would have been preferable. The deadline for QIPs allocations followed too closely on the termination of the repatriation movement phase, allowing little time to react to developments occurring in resettlement sites. Moreover, there was no operational definition of "initial reintegration". UNHCR's commitment to phase one could be labelled as "supply driven", for reintegration was implicitly interpreted to mean whatever could be accomplished with a fixed amount of resources within a predetermined time frame. No clear conceptual framework was used for responding to emerging specific needs. Instead, discussions were held among UNHCR staff, and between UNHCR and its partners, as to what UNHCR's actual objectives were and who had responsibility for a situation which, all agreed, represented something less than successful reintegration. Assuming some responsibility for responding to shortfalls, as UNHCR effectively did through the safety net approach and continued support for land titling, required a departure from its original plans.

III. Protection linkages ensured continuity

(138) Problems encountered by returnees which required protection efforts by UNHCR tended to fall into two categories: those linked to the political situation, and those involving access to land.

(139) Returnees were sometimes threatened, detained or killed for suspicion of involvement with the Democratic Khmer Party (PDK), or for involvement in legitimate political activities. UNHCR would seek access to detainees to ensure that they were not being mistreated and encourage local authorities to solve the case promptly and fairly. If the charges were clearly unfounded, UNHCR would ask that the individual be released. When necessary, such cases were referred to NGOs capable of providing legal aid.

(140) Incidents in which members of the local communities tried to deprive returnee families of the allocated land, either through administrative manipulations or threats of violence, were also a recurring problem. UNHCR tried to protect returnees by demanding recognition and protection of their rights from the local authorities. In serious cases, national authorities were asked to intervene. In addition, UNHCR also intervened with local authorities to protect NGO implementing partners from theft and threats of violence.

(141) Linkages with the UNCHR: The UNTAC Human Rights Component was active from early 1992 until September 1993. Its mandate included advocacy, education, training, and the investigation of alleged violations of human rights. More than 700 complaints of human rights violations were investigated monthly. UNHCR co-operated with the Component by providing it with information about violations of the rights of returnees.

(142) As the end of UNTAC's mandate approached, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution requesting the Centre to establish an operational presence in Cambodia, to carry on the work of the Human Rights Component, particularly in the areas of education, training and law reform. Moreover, the Secretary General was requested to appoint a Special Representative to evaluate and report on the evolution of the human rights situation in Cambodia.

(143) Deployment in Cambodia was the first experience of this kind for the Centre. The Centre was able to recruit some of the UNTAC human rights staff, thus assuring a degree of continuity and acquiring experienced professionals familiar with the country. The Centre had, however, only eight international staff in Phnom Penh and three provincial offices. Despite the lack of an express mandate to investigate human rights violations, The Centre was able to find implicit authority to do so in other aspects of its mandate. This made its work somewhat dependent on the good will of the Government. In 1995, tensions reached the point where the Government declared that it might ask the Centre office to close.

(144) The transition from UNTAC Human Rights Component to the Centre, which coincided with the first phase of closure of UNHCR's field offices, did not have a major impact on protection efforts at first. The highest incidence of human rights violations in the Northwest was noted in Battambang, where the UNHCR Field Office remained opened and shouldered responsibility for protection monitoring throughout the region.

(145) As the closure of FO Battambang approached, an effort was made to help the Centre establish itself in that province. It was expected that it would monitor violations of the human rights of returnees. A UNHCR local staff member was recruited by the Centre as Assistant Human Rights Officer. In addition an office, with all essential office and communications equipment and motor vehicles, was handed over. UNHCR also provided the newly arrived human rights staff with comprehensive information about the situation in the region and introductions to local authorities, NGOs and other relevant persons.

(146) Expectations that the Centre would take over monitoring the treatment of refugees proved only partially correct. Given the gravity of the human rights situation, where the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, execution and torture were not uncommon, The Centre felt compelled to concentrate on the most serious types of violations. It willingly took up cases of returnees when they came within these parameters, but assumed that returnees were neither more nor less likely than other persons to become victims of such abuses. Discrimination in the enjoyment of economic rights, particularly those closely linked to survival, is a serious human rights issue, but was not seen as a priority by the Centre. UNHCR itself did not view the land question as a human rights issue deserving priority treatment in negotiations with the highest central authorities, but rather adopted a low-key, incremental approach on the local level, in co-operation with CARERE, the development agency. Possibly, a recognition of the human rights dimensions of this issue at national and international levels combined with negotiations, land preparation and titling efforts on the local level might have yielded better results.

(147) Linkages in other protection/prevention activities: UNHCR also addressed protection issues which did not concern returnees such as that of the ethnic Vietnamese who make up five percent of the population and are the largest and most vulnerable minority. The Centre and UNHCR co-operated closely in efforts to secure legal recognition of the rights of minorities, through lobbying and technical assistance. Representations were also combined in negotiating, albeit with limited results, for the right of the ethnic Vietnamese trapped on the border and exiled in Vietnam to return.

(148) During 1994 and 1995, UNHCR became increasingly involved in prevention. It supported research on ethnic minorities by an independent Cambodian institute. It is hoped that such endeavours will help reduce the prejudice, intolerance and discrimination which are often at the root of refugee outflows. Activities aimed at banning the use of land-mines have also been supported, including an international seminar which took place in 1995. Since returnees are particularly exposed to mines, activities which aim at preventing their use can be seen as preventive protection. Campaigns by Cambodian NGOs to raise public awareness of basic human rights principles have also been supported in co-operation with several other United Nations agencies, including UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNDP and UNCHR.

(149) Early warning and prevention: UNHCR has made an important contribution to inter-agency efforts to monitor the political and security developments in order to anticipate, and if possible prevent, developments which could potentially lead to new refugee movements. UNHCR's lead role in planning, organising and implementing the repatriation and monitoring initial reintegration in the Northwest provinces gave it an intimate understanding of the security situation on the ground in the most volatile parts of the country.

(150) The phase out of field offices has reduced UNHCR's ability to monitor situations which could lead to new displacements, but the retention of Roving Field Officers and other experienced, Khmer-speaking international staff in Phnom Penh has meant that this capacity was still largely intact at the time of mission in May 1996. Since the departure of UNTAC, no other international organisation has comparable ability to monitor security developments.


(151) UNHCR's operation in Tajikistan, unlike those in Cambodia and Mozambique, did not follow a peace agreement. During 1992, as a result of conflict between the opposition and the Government, 60,000 persons fled to Afghanistan and another 600,000 became displaced internally. In November 1992, UNHCR participated in a United Nations Good Offices Mission and a presence was established in January 1993.

(152) The operation sought "to prevent an escalation of the displacement of populations in Tajikistan, which by extension could also generate refugee flows to regional countries and ultimately the military intervention of neighbouring states"5. By the time UNHCR had established a presence, however, many of the 80,000 IDPs trapped on the border with Afghanistan had been forced into exile. The fear of seeing potential rebel bases organised in Afghanistan, prompted the Government of Tajikistan to quickly make a commitment to the return of the refugee and displaced populations. Accordingly, the main focus of UNHCR's operations shifted from prevention to repatriation and the return of IDPs.

(153) Field Officers were despatched only weeks before the first convoys of returning IDPs arrived in March 1993 and the organised repatriation of refugees began in April. By September, several field offices had been opened, each headed by an international staff member and distribution of shelter materials had begun. Six field offices were established in Khatlon province, and another in Khorog near the Afghan border, to facilitate repatriation. By October 1994, some 26,400 refugees had returned through organised repatriation, and the rate of return fell to less than 100 per month. Others returned spontaneously, and received assistance after return. More than 70 percent of the refugees and 98 percent of the IDPs had returned by the time UNHCR field operations were phased out in 1995.

I. UNHCR assumed reintegration work alone

(154) Shelter: UNHCR's primary objective with regard to assistance for reintegration was housing. Local capacity for implementing projects was extremely weak. Few international agencies or international NGOs had a presence. Furthermore, precarious security conditions made most international organisations hesitate to set up operations, especially field operations. There were few private contractors. Public services functioned precariously, if at all and the struggle for power had left the central Government with tenuous control on provincial and local governments.

(155) Due to the lack of implementing partners, UNHCR initially assumed responsibility for procurement and distribution of shelter materials itself. Only more than a year later was an implementing partner, Save the Children (US) (SCF), found. SCF is able to continue providing this assistance, should donors agree that further aid is justified.

(156) Water: The water system, already badly affected by decades of intensive use of fertiliser and insecticides on large industrial farms, was further damaged by the war and breakdown of the economy. Médecins Sans Frontières (Belgium) (MSF), one of the first NGOs present in Tajikistan, implemented a UNHCR-funded water project in 1993. In 1994, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) took over these activities. Since no specific targets were established in advance, there are no clear criteria for determining whether or not the objectives were met. The needs of the region, however, go far beyond the reparation of wells.

(157) Small Enterprise Development and NGO capacity-building: The third main type of reintegration assistance provided, in addition to shelter and water, was income generation. This was the least successful of the three. General economic and social uncertainty caused disastrous market conditions in which little incentive was left beyond fulfilling one's immediate needs. In addition, the lack of community initiative and scarcity of external encouragement, as can be provided by international NGOs, hampered income generation endeavours. Despite the continuous efforts of UNHCR and the US embassy in Tajikistan to draw in international NGOs with the help of US funding, NGOs entered the country at a late stage and with exceeding caution.

(158) Furthermore, there is an acute need for capacity-building in Tajikistan. This is the result of the "brain drain" of trained administrators and professionals to Russia and other countries and the sudden shift to a free-market economy and the beginnings of a civil society, which created the need for new management and administrative skills. With the support of UNHCR, Save the Children organise a one-year, on-the-job training programme for staff of Tajik NGOs and local staff of international NGOs.

II. Bridging arrangement with UNDP did not meet expectations

(159) UNHCR turned to UNDP in an attempt to ensure the continuity of the projects it supported in Khatlon. A MOU on the Reintegration of Displaced Populations was signed in 1995. UNHCR agreed to provide UNDP with information on its projects, lessons learned, profiles of implementing partners and assets at their disposal, while UNDP agreed to prepare a Programme of Reintegration, recruit a co-ordinator, prepare contracts for implementing partners to ensure continuity in the implementation of projects, and mobilise any funds, beyond those provided by UNHCR, which might be needed for implementation of the Programme of Reintegration. The MOU stipulated a six-week time frame for completion.

(160) A whereas clause in the MOU, which was signed in July 1995, notes that UNHCR "is scheduled to phase down its field operations in June 1995." The fact that an agreement intended to ensure continuity could be signed after the scheduled date for closure of field operations betokens the difficulties which the signatories had in co-ordinating effectively. Relations deteriorated sharply after signing of the MOU and took a personal note.

(161) UNDP established a presence in 1993, but had a small staff. Weak capacity and gaps in leadership, recurring problems in UNDP's response to emergency situations, had a negative effect on co-ordination and consultation with UNHCR. The hiring of the co-ordinator referred to in the MOU gave UNDP the capacity to devote sufficient attention to linkages with UNHCR's rehabilitation projects, but this was not sufficient to ensure a smooth transition. The co-ordinator, from OPS, had strong reservations about using international NGOs as implementing partners and preferred an open bidding procedure. Some of the rehabilitation projects, in particular the Small Enterprise Development, were seen as nonviable.

(162) Five months after the MOU, UNHCR and UNDP exchanged letters agreeing to provide "bridge funding for strengthening the continuum from relief to longer-term development." Two UNHCR sponsored rehabilitation projects, the IRC small enterprise development project and SCF's NGO training project, would continue to receive support from UNDP for a six-month period, with UNHCR providing over half the necessary funding. By the time contracts between UNDP and these NGOs were signed, the six weeks envisaged in the MOU had stretched into seven and a half months.

(163) In sum, UNHCR's expectations regarding UNDP's willingness and ability to take over the activities it initiated proved unrealistic. UNDP is geared to longer-term strategies primarily aimed at the development of national infrastructure. Therefore, it tends to overlook the post relief needs of specific groups which it has neither the capacity nor the inclination to fulfil. The input of OPS, in that respect, has not changed this orientation. OPS despite being more flexible than UNDP is also reluctant to undertake project work at the grass root level in the way NGOs would. It is, however, at the community level that UNHCR initiated reintegration work and that it expected to see it continue. Misunderstandings regarding this underlying principle of action have set UNHCR and UNDP on different courses. Moreover, UNHCR may have overestimated UNDP's ability to deliver quickly despite encouraging initial consultations at the field level. A lesson to learn is that a heavy bureaucracy like UNDP is unlikely to change its programme approach from field impulse.

(164) Efforts to involve UNDP in ensuring the continuity of the rehabilitation projects sponsored by UNHCR during 1993-95 were successful only with regard to a relatively small number of such projects, and only after considerable delay. The attempted "hand-over" of rehabilitation projects to the UNDP did not facilitate the phase-down of UNHCR's operations and, considering the opportunity cost of the time invested, may even have had a negative impact.

III. The hand-over of field monitoring tasks to OSCE was a success

(165) During the first six months of 1993, UNHCR's activities focused almost entirely on protection. Tensions in the returnees' places of origin were high. Warlords and militias who had participated in the fighting had at least as much power as the central Government. The first major achievement of UNHCR's protection effort was to convince the Government to discontinue the practice of the forced return of IDPs.

(166) Disappearances, murder, rape, beatings, forced labour, harassment and threats were not unusual. In order to counter these practices, UNHCR field officers tried to develop positive working relationships with local authorities, including mayors, police, prosecutors. When local authorities seemed unable or unwilling to take effective action, UNHCR would raise the issue in the capital. As violence against returnees waned, protection efforts began to focus on the right of returnees to recover possession of their homes, which was a major issue for them.

(167) UNHCR began to develop plans for phasing-out its field operations in 1994. It was felt that, while the phenomena of violence against returnees appeared to have been successfully dealt with, a continued monitoring or ombudsman-like presence would help ensure continuing stability. Negotiations between the Government and opposition under United Nations auspices had not yet resulted in a peace agreement, low intensity fighting continued in other parts of the country, and the continued presence of some refugees in neighbouring Afghanistan represented a danger.

(168) The organisations most seriously considered by UNHCR as potential candidates for assuming this role were the United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In the end, UNHCR turned to the OSCE to convince it to accept stepping in. Different reasons are given for the choice of the OSCE. Some sources indicate that the UNCHR was not interested, while others suggest that UNHCR decided to approach OSCE because the Centre had not demonstrated its ability to mount field operations of this type. The OSCE, however, had no such experience and almost a year was required to reach a consensus in favour of the operation and recruit suitable staff. This might have caused a few months delay in phasing out UNHCR field operations scheduled for mid-1995. Other factors also contributed to this minor delay.

(169) UNHCR invested considerable effort in the hand-over of its field operations to OSCE. It provided the OSCE vehicles and communications and office equipment, and arranged for the organisation to lease its offices and residences and to contract some of its local staff. It prepared a comprehensive briefing book which reviews the human rights and security situation district-by-district and held an orientation seminar. A roving UNHCR Field Officer maintained contact during a transitional period, providing advice and support when needed.

(170) The OSCE has been able to recruit highly qualified staff only on six- month contract bases. This carries the flaw of high staff turnover. Thus far, the most effective OSCE field staff have been highly motivated, and have renewed their contracts for a second tour of duty.

(171) The hand-over to OSCE involved some changes in the mandate of the field offices. The OSCE offices now receive complaints of violations of the rights of any person, not only returnees, and they no longer have responsibility for co-ordinating the distribution of shelter and other relief materials. They have undertaken to monitor the situation of returnees following the same criteria and procedures established by UNHCR, rather than imposing their own priorities, as the Centre did in Cambodia. In so far as relief is concerned, even though they have no formal co-ordination role, they generally refer inquiries to the appropriate NGOs, so that the actual impact of the hand-over on access to such services is mitigated.

(172) The fact that the OSCE has no role in providing material assistance, and has played a high-profile advocacy role on human rights issues on the national level does mean that it is viewed differently from UNHCR. Like the Centre, it is potentially more susceptible to being viewed as an unwelcome critic. For the time being, the national authorities give it credit for helping reinforce efforts to restore order and legality in the Khatlon region. It has succeeded in filling in for the monitoring or "ombudsman" presence of UNHCR in the field.

(173) The extension of services to other persons, in addition to returnees, and the foreseen expansion of OSCE's human rights monitoring presence to other regions means that UNHCR has not only managed to ensure continuity with respect to its own specific concerns, but also helped create an institution which may have a wider impact on Tajik society.

(174) Despite OSCE's presence, there are valid reasons to maintain a limited UNHCR capacity in Tajikistan. This includes preparing future repatriation, monitoring the progress of the peace negotiations, supervising the relatively large refugee caseload and promoting refugee law. Strengthening the administration of justice is inseparably linked to overcoming the legacy of war and ethnic cleansing which led to the mass exodus of refugees and IDPs. The political capital UNHCR earned by its response to the repatriation-return and its intimate understanding of the workings of justice at the community level are well suited to contribute to this effort. Like revitalising the economy, however, strengthening the administration of justice is a large task, to which UNHCR can make only a limited contribution. One lesson implicit in the difficulties encountered in phasing out assistance projects may be applicable here. Namely, an effort should be made to ensure that UNHCR programmes will fit in with, and reinforce, other contributions which may exist or may be planned.


(175) UNHCR established a presence in Mozambique in 1975, to facilitate the return of refugees exiled during the struggle for independence. Insurgency began in the late 1970's, becoming particularly intense in the mid 1980's. Peace negotiations began to gain momentum in 1989 and a Peace Agreement was signed in October 1992.

(176) Planning for the mass repatriation of Mozambican refugees began early in 1992 and a plan of operations was adopted by May 1993. The plan of operations focused on reintegration as well as repatriation. It anticipated that most refugees would return spontaneously and that repatriation would take about three years to complete. Investments in food production, water supply systems, the rehabilitation of roads and basic services such as health were considered necessary to prevent backflows, as well as to prevent large scale movement of returnees to urban areas and new outflows of economic migrants to neighbouring countries.

(177) The plan recognised that UNHCR "cannot and should not, by itself, undertake the overall rehabilitation of services and capacity-building" in the areas where returnees would settle, and that achieving political and economic stability would depend on the successful reintegration of other groups as well, in particular demobilised soldiers and IDPs. The number of IDPs was estimated at about 4 million, or one-quarter of the population. Consequently, the plan called for integrated assistance programmes for all three categories of affected persons and close co-operation with agencies having a long-term commitment to reconstruction and development. UNHCR would fund rehabilitation in districts having large numbers of returnees, but the programmes would have an area focus. The plan recognised that peace and access to land were crucial to successful reintegration.

I. A strategy of linkages facilitated hand-over and phase out

(178) A more detailed reintegration strategy was prepared as repatriation was coming to a close in 1994 and foresaw the "orderly phase out of UNHCR operations leaving behind a basis for continued reconstruction and development" and the "linkage of UNHCR's programme for the rehabilitation of basic services to the intermediate and long-term development programmes [of] other multilateral, bilateral and non-governmental agencies." The strategy confirmed that assistance would "target priority districts/communities, as opposed to particular population categories."

(179) The strategy indicated that reinforcement of community structures is "a basic objective" and should be pursued through "beneficiary participation in the different stages of the project cycle, from problem identification to completion and follow-up." QIPs projects should be "compatible with the perceived needs of the communities so as to ensure sustainability'.

(180) Linkages with other aid agencies were also considered but the primary responsibility for ensuring the sustainability of investments in rehabilitation was left to the Government. In countries like Mozambique, however, the question of sustainability must be interpreted in light of the dependency on external aid, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the national budget. This explains the emphasis in UNHCR's phase out strategy on community participation, on the micro level, and the involvement of bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, on the macro level. The "hand-over" of programmes to the Government was the ultimate goal, but could not be effective without complementary arrangements with the international agencies providing support in the sectors concerned.

(181) UNHCR's strategy for ensuring continuity was tailored to the decentralisation policy being pursued by the Government with the support of the donor community. On the national level UNHCR's main partners included WFP, the World Bank and the Ministry of Co-operation's Refugee Support Agency (NAR). On the provincial level, primary responsibility for the co-ordination of reintegration efforts was entrusted to the Provincial Planning Commissions. A July, 1996 deadline for "termination of UNHCR's reintegration programme" was established as part of the 1994-96 Country Operations Plan. Scaling down of project activity and the disposal or redeployment of assets was scheduled to begin in 1995.

II. Favourable circumstances eased pressure on reintegration programmes

(182) In contrast to Cambodia, most returnees returned to their place of origin. The influence of custom and traditional leaders is strong in rural areas, and served as an effective way of distributing land to those in need. This was facilitated by provisions of the peace agreement which committed the Government to recognition of the property rights of returnees and respect for traditional structures and authorities.

(183) Despite political tensions, the continued militarization of many areas and the absence of an adequate infrastructure for providing assistance and protection, refugees began returning massively. By the time UNHCR was fully operational, more than 60 percent of the refugees had already returned. As a result, UNHCR found it difficult to keep pace with events during repatriation. Immediate logistical exigencies required all the staff's attention. Time was short to reflect on the longer-term implications of daily decisions. UNHCR's field staff developed an emergency mind set which led them to view all their work as urgent. In addition, short-term results were sought at the expense of participation and sustainability.

(184) The QIPs concept, with its emphasis on rapid implementation, visible outputs and low-cost, may have encouraged the emergency mentality. Guidelines on the implementation of QIPs recognise the need for participation and sustainability, but field staff struggling to cope with repatriation tend to see these as ideals rather than essential elements of QIPs. The mode of implementation of the QIPs has a direct bearing on phase out, because it affects the willingness of other agencies to assume responsibility for completing or maintaining such projects.

(185) The ease with which returnees obtained land for farming, together with good rainfall in 1994, helped most returnees attain food security. In May 1995, nearly one million returnees were phased out of food aid. Returnees who had not managed to reach self-sufficiency were incorporated into WFP's general food aid programme for needy families. UNHCR also financed continued distribution of seeds to returnee families which had not attained self-sufficiency in food production.

III. The multiplicity of linkages has ensured continuity

(186) Contrary to Cambodia where it intended to hand-over its activities to a single entity, UNHCR's strategy in Mozambique has been to spread responsibility for ensuring continuity and completion among a larger number of partners. In some provinces, one agency agreed to assume broad responsibility for continuing support for rehabilitation in various sectors. In other provinces, separate lead agencies were identified as being willing to assume responsibilities for specific sectors. In some sectors, multilateral agencies agreed to assume a lead role nationally.

(187) One criticism of UNHCR's approach to ensuring continuity was that it seeks to involve other agencies only as its self-imposed deadline for phase out approaches. In Mozambique, other agencies did not participate directly in the preparation of the 1994 reintegration strategy. Nevertheless, UNHCR did organise a series of seminars to acquaint government, NGO and bilateral partners with its reintegration and phase out plans. A national seminar took place in early 1994, followed by seminars in each of the provinces concerned.

(188) Some of the agencies approached have been reluctant to agree, mainly because of reservations about the way QIPs were implemented. Notwithstanding, negotiations generally resulted in fairly comprehensive coverage of rehabilitation activities in the various sectors and provinces through linkage agreements. While success cannot be yet measured, it seems likely that by multiplying the number of partners the risk of failure is diminished. Some agencies are clearly more competent and successful than others, and some may not match the challenges involved, but the risk of large scale failure of follow-up arrangements would seem to be relatively small.

(189) District Development Mapping: Although UNDP assumed overall responsibility for co-ordinating humanitarian aid from ONUHAC in December 1994, it has not been a major operational partner of UNHCR. A community based development programme called PROAREA, on the PRODERE/CARERE model, was slow in becoming operational and covered only three districts.

(190) In September, 1995 UNHCR-UNDP relations took a new turn with the signing of A Framework for Inter-agency Initiatives to Promote a Smooth transition from Humanitarian Assistance to Sustainable Human Development. This agreement did not supplant UNHCR's reintegration strategy, but added a new, forward-looking dimension: District Development Mapping. It was developed midway through the 18 month post-repatriation period when UNHCR's operations focused mainly on reintegration and phasing out. A headquarters-based reintegration specialist mission helped the office focus its priorities and sharpen its working methods and served as a catalyst for closer co-operation between UNHCR and its international partners.

(191) Under this plan, UNHCR agreed to provide UNDP with information about UNHCR-funded reintegration projects in all districts where such projects existed, including a report on the progress made toward the expected results. This was to be completed by other data, collected primarily by the UNDP and governmental partners on a district-by-district basis, on vulnerability of the population, the need for capacity-building, and the need for capital for rural credit schemes and budgetary shortfalls affecting recurrent costs related to public services. This information is being incorporated into District Development Maps which, it is hoped, will stimulate foreign aid and investment, and ensure that the funds are used in a rational and productive fashion. This initiative represents a creative yet realistic approach to the elusive goal of "bridging the gap between initial reintegration and medium-term development."

IV. Protection of the returnees has not been a major problem

(192) Despite serious abuses which characterised the prolonged conflict in Mozambique, returnees did not experience any significant violence, discrimination or harassment. In contrast to other repatriation situations, the post-conflict situation did not involve any substantial discrimination or repression against ethnic or other minorities which might have involved a risk of new refugee outflows. Moreover, the need for protection and other non-assistance functions, such as early-warning and prevention, has not been important and has not had major implications for plans to phase out UNHCR's presence.

1 Follow-up to ECOSOC Resolution 1995/56: UNHCR Activities in Relation to Prevention, EC/46/SC/CRP.33, para.1.

2 Statement to the Third Commission of the General Assembly, 20 Nov. 1995.]

3 GA Res. 49/169, 23 Dec.1994, paras. 9 and 15

4 Keynote address, Fourth Advanced Development Management Programme, Sofia University, 28 Oct. 1995

5 SWANAME policy paper, 19 Nov. 1992