Within the refugee field, there has developed a substantial interest in moving assistance efforts from a relief orientation towards an emphasis on social and economic development to ease the burden on host countries and to make refugees more economically independent. Within the development community, there is also growing support for the view that relief assistance should be delivered in such a way as to lay the foundation for development. The relief-rehabilitation-development continuum" aims at building on the strengths and capacities of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons, integrating them into development plans and establishing a basis of self-reliance upon which development planners can build.
It has proved difficult to translate the new approach into concrete operational terms. In emergency situations, the focus of relief agencies largely has remained on meeting short-term needs rather than on developing skills that can contribute to long-term solutions. Even after the emergency phase is over, attention often focuses on providing relief assistance rather than on moving to development-oriented approaches. Funding is a part of the problem. After emergency needs are met, few resources are generally made available for development which, in comparison with humanitarian relief, is often seen as a less compelling concern.
Development agencies, for their part, have not always been willing or able to provide assistance for uprooted persons, especially when recipient governments refuse to include refugees or displaced persons in the regular development aid provided them. However, when programmes benefit local communities as well as refugees and the displaced, they have found greater response from local and national authorities. It is important that community-based programmes be introduced as an effective way of providing assistance in situations where the local community is equally in need.
Providing development assistance to internally displaced persons caught up in conflict situations is a special challenge. Nevertheless, much more could be done to assist the internally displaced to develop opportunities for self-reliance. UNIFEM has developed several low-budget projects for war-torn countries that include the provision of seeds and tools and income-earning activities for internally displaced women. It has found that training and small-scale programmes can be introduced even though traditional development requirements have not been met. It is seeking to develop new strategies to translate the link between relief and development assistance into concrete operational terms.
It is essential that relief and development agencies, together with international financial institutions, develop strategies and programmes for the internally displaced, many of whom possess skills and work experience and whose survival would be better assured through income-generating and development projects than through relief assistance. The Declaration of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) recommended that measures should be taken to ensure that internally displaced persons receive basic education, employment opportunities, vocational training as well as other basic services, and that governments, international organizations and NGOs strengthen development assistance for internally displaced persons so that they can return to their places of origin.
Consideration should further be given to introducing regional processes, such as CIREFCA, into appropriate areas so as to involve governments, NGOs and development agencies in integrating uprooted persons into national development plans.