UN-HABITAT on Tuesday announced the launch of a major new housing and social integration programme for tens of thousands of war refugees and other vulnerable people in Serbia with financial support from the Italian Government.
The Settlement and Integration of Refugees Programme in Serbia (SIRP) is rooted in a Memorandum of Understanding UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka signed with the Government of Italy in September 2002. Under its terms, Italy has provided 15 million euros (US$ 18.6 million) for the programme which will start in coming months and run for three years.
After initial assessments, an MoU was later signed with the Serbian Government which designated the seven municipalities of Cacak, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Nis, Pancevo, Valjevo and Stara Pazova for implementation of the programme in agreement with Italy and UN-HABITAT. The Ministry of Capital Investments and the local governments are the main implementing partners of the programme.
The programme has been planned around three main components – to provide some 670 new dwellings for 3,000 of the most needy direct beneficiaries and build institutional capacities for social housing development, assist the social and economic integration of refugees and displaced people, and help boost the development capacity of local governments in their development planning and municipal information systems.
As major international humanitarian organisations like UNHCR begin winding down their emergency operations in Serbia, UN-HABITAT is moving into the post-conflict transitional phase to help redress a major constraint in the area of developing sustainable social housing and integration schemes for low-income refugees and other vulnerable groups – weak institutions and outmoded housing and development practices.
The programme and feasibility studies were prepared with the support of specialised international and national expertise, consultative workshops with central and local stakeholders and a continual exchange of views between UN-HABITAT and the two governments. A steering committee and a project office to launch the programme have now been established.