Mr. Ruud Lubbers, the High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, today signed an operational Memorandum of Understanding, to improve their collaboration in delivering durable shelter solutions for refugees and returnees.
The damage caused by conflicts and disasters is staggering. In the first half of 2003 alone, 60 million civilians were affected in some 30 conflicts.
Mrs. Tibaijuka and Mr. Lubbers sign Memorandum of Understanding in Geneva
UNHCR is the United Nations agency mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well- being of refugees. The organisation strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
In UN-HABITAT the Disaster Management Programme provides support, in post-conflict and natural disaster situations, to national governments, local authorities and communities by offering protection and rehabilitation housing, infrastructure and public facilities. It helps resettle displaced people and returning refugees. It also helps restore local social structures through settlement development, provides land and settlements planning and management for disaster prevention, as well as creating coordination mechanisms for improved disaster management.
The Memorandum of Understanding is significant because it enables closer linkages between the emergency and humanitarian work of UNHCR, and the developmental and longer-term activities of UN-HABITAT in order to bridge the gap between emergency relief and reconstruction. The agencies hope to work together on providing shelter solutions for refugees and returnees, settlement planning and management; land and property rights; infrastructure planning and development; and building the capacity of local and national authorities, particularly in post-conflict areas.
The agreement will enhance cooperation between the two agencies while at the same time ensuring systematic, predictable cooperation building on the recognized expertise of each organisation.