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Lubbers: refugees can contribute to local development

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Lubbers: refugees can contribute to local development

14 May 2001

BRUSSELS - UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers on Monday urged donors to allocate a modest percentage of development funds to programmes for refugees, internally displaced people and the local populations that host them.

All three groups are interrelated and should not be viewed in isolation, Mr. Lubbers told the first session of the UN conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC) in Brussels. Stressing that displacement is not just a humanitarian issue but a development concern as well, Mr. Lubbers cited the presence of millions of refugees and displaced people among local populations in Africa. A coordinated, comprehensive approach aimed at the three populations as a whole is required at both the international and regional level.

Mr. Lubbers urged the conference to support the allocation of a "certain modest percentage" of development funds for programmes specifically aimed at refugees, internally displaced people and the surrounding host population. One possible method would be through specific earmarking of funds that could only be disbursed for programmes benefitting this "interrelated cluster" of people. He said such support should be specified in both bilateral development assistance projects as well as World Bank programmes.

The High Commissioner reminded the conference that refugees and the displaced should not be viewed solely as a problem. They can also be instrumental in solutions - partly through making a positive impact on the political agenda and partly through their productive capacity to contribute to national development. He specifically emphasised the importance of empowering women, who along with children comprise the largest group of refugees and displaced people, in contributing to reconstruction and development.

One such project proposed to the conference by UNHCR and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation is aimed at empowering women to assure food security. Increasingly, rural women - including refugees and returnees - have had to assume a key role in this area by producing staple crops and raising poultry and small animals in LDCs. A range of related initiatives in the field of land rights, provision of tools and micro-finance projects can help them meet this challenge.

Such initiatives will require a new and enhanced linkage between humanitarian and development aid, based on a better synergy between the two. In line with this, full use should be made of the existing arrangements of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Community and its member states, Mr. Lubbers said. These arrangements include provisions for addressing the needs arising from displacement.

The Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries brings together the leaders of some 30 donor countries and LDCs, as well as heads of UN and international organisations. The conference, hosted by the European Union, ends on Sunday.