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Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996 06:46:32 +1030

/* posted Sun 21 Jan 6:00am 1995 by DRUNOO@xxxxxxxxxxxx in 
maykha-l/igc:reg.burma */
/* ------------------" Exploring the Links "-------------------- */

A presentation from:



University of Sydney * 18 February 1994.
Convened by the Australian Council of Churches Refugee and Migrant Services

    Mr Pierre-Michel Fontaine
Regional Representative for Australia, New Zeland and South Pacific, UNHCR
(*  The  contents of this paper are the responsibility of the author alone.
They do not necessarily reflect the views of either the United  Nations  in
general  or  the  United  Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in

1. It is widely recognised that there is  a  close  link  between  economic
   under-development  and  displacement,  from  the  latter's  root causes,
   through its effects, to the solutions it calls  for.  The  most  telling
   link  is that the largest refugee-producing countries as well as some of
   the largest refugee-receiving ones are in general third world developing

2. The areas of the world which are the poorest are often also those  which
   suffer  from  political  instability,  violence  and conflict. Political
   conflict, civil strife and human rights violations may  be  the  obvious
   reasons  why  refugees  flee  but  clearly under-development and poverty
   contribute to such conflicts or are aggravated by  them.  Some  examples
   are  Afghanistan,  Haiti,  Somalia,  Sudan  and Myanmar. Development and
   assistance  policies  are  therefore  indispensable  in  addressing  the
   underlying causes of refugee as well as migratory movements.

3. Strictly   speaking,   UNHCR's   mandate  is  to  provide  international
   protection to refugees, i.e. persons  who  do  not  enjoy  the  national
   protection  of  their country of origin, and to seek permanent solutions
   to  the  problems  of  refugees  by  reintegrating  them  into  national
   communities.  It  has  often  been  pointed  out  that  UNHCR  is  not a
   development  agency  and  UNHCR  has  in  the  past  been  cautined   by
   governments against becoming involved in development. However, economic,
   social and political development are so intimately linked to the refugee
   problem that UNHCR and the international community cannot afford to look
   at  the matter in a narrow perspective. Today governments have generally
   accepted  that  UNHCR  retains  a  measure  of  responsibility  for  the
   reintegration of regurnees and that UNHCR also has a role to play in the
   prevention of the causes of refugee outflows.

4. Given the mounting scale of the global refugee problem, UNHCR has had to
   seek  new  and innovative protection strategies. Its attention therefore
   focuses on each stage of a refugee  situation,  from  preventive  action
   through  relief and protection in the country of asylum to reintegration
   into a national community,  including  whenever  possible  that  of  the
   country of origin.

5. The  different  stages  of  a  refugee  crisis  are  closely  linked  to
   development and interrelated in a circle where lack of social, political
   and economic development leads to  refugee  outflows,  which  bleed  the
   country of origin and strain the local recources of developing countries
   of  asylum.  This may create further obstacles to the development of the
   country of origin and may affect development and  social  peace  in  the
   country of asylum. On the other hand, in assisted voluntary repatriation
   programmes,  refugees  return  home,  brings  tools and implements, cash
   grants, know-how and other  elements  of  reintegration  assistance.  It
   remains  for  empirical research to deermine what effect if any this has
   on the development of the  country  of  origin  and  the  prevention  of
   further  outflows.  In  an  ideal  situation,  the  solution  turns into

6. Today there is much interest in such a solution-oriented refugee  policy
   which fosters a link between refugee aid and development on the one hand
   and  the  promotion  of  civil, political, economic, social and cultural
   rights of refugees and returnees on the other. This is  best  undertaken
   in  a  multilateral  framework  where UNHCR alongside other agencies and
   humanitarian organisations will play an active role.

7. Let  us  now  take  a  closer  look  at  links  between  protection  and
   development in the three stages of action vis-a-vis a refugee situation:
   prevention, protection/asylum and solution.

Prevention and Development
8. Once we have acknowledged the link between under-development and refugee
   outflows it becomes apparent that one major way  of  preventing  refugee
   emergencies  is  through  development.  This  is, of course, a long-term
   approach with complax implications for all concerned.

9. Not only economic, but also social, political and  cultural  development
   contributes  to  the national protection which makes flight unnecessary.
   The rationale for international protectection is to replace non-existing
   national protection. National protection is inter alia provided  through
   mechanisms  for  the  protection  of  minorities,  accessible  and  fair
   judicial procedure, protection of basic human rights,  and  institutions
   which  take  into  account  the needs of different religious, ethnic and
   social groups and provide means  for  peaceful  problem-solving  between
   various  groups.  One  factor  of  deficient national protection is thus
   social, political and cultural under-development.

10.Looking at the enormous costs of refugee emergencies, first of  all  the
   human  cost  but  also the economic impact on both the country of origin
   and the country  of  asylum,  as  well  as  the  economic  cost  to  the
   international  community,  it  appears  that  prevention,  including the
   promotion of economic, social, cultural and political  development,  may
   be  not only the most humanitarian approach to the refugee, but even the
   most cost-effective one. In 1992, 16 industralised countries spent US$11
   billion on the reception and  status  determination  of  asylum  seekers
   alone.  Prevention,  whenever  possible  and appropriate, is better than
   cure. Whenever prevention is successful, it is the most  effective  form
   of protection for people in danger of becoming refugees.

11.Prevention  is  not  used  here  in  the sense of preventing people from
   getting access to asylum, but rather in creating conditions where it may
   not be necessary for people to flee in search of protection  or  asylum.
   After  all,  in  most  refugee  situations  it is only a minority of the
   population which takes flight. Usually the majority stays in the country
   of origin. There are people who do  not  wish  to  leave  in  any  case,
   however  affected  they  may  be.  Others  become displaced in their own
   country. Thus, while some commentators  question  the  validity  of  the
   "right  to remain", it is a fact that the majority of people remain, for
   whatever reason. Furthermore, the emphasis on prevention does not  entil
   overlooking   the   internally  displaced  and  the  otherwise  affected
   populations. Quite the contrary, it finds much of its  justification  in
   the   attention  it  focuses  on  such  populations.  The  provision  of
   protection and assistance  to  the  internally  displaced,  besides  its
   obvious  humanitarian  justification, may also have a preventive effect,
   as such action aims at reducing cross-border  movements  and  contaiinig
   potential refugee emergencies by reinforcing the incentives to remain.

12.Furthermore,  it  is  not  only rich Western countries which are not too
   enthusiastic about the  flight  of  people  into  their  territory.  The
   developing  countries  in the surrounding areas, for which these flights
   sometimes  create  serious  problems,  such  as   environmental   losses
   including  severe  deforestation such as in Mawawi, with a population of
   six million, which received one million  people  from  Mozambique  in  a
   one-year period. With the accelerated use of forests and water resources
   and   the   fact  that  they  have  to  devote  considerable  human  and
   bureaucratic resources to the care of refugees, these countries  bear  a
   significant  burden.  To  give  an  example of the difficulties faced by
   developing countries, in one case funds were spent by UNHCR to prepare a
   site for a refugee camp to relieve severe overcrowding in  the  existing
   camp  nearby, only to discover that this site had already been allocated
   to a multinational mining corporation for exploration purposes. A choice
   had to be made in a  typical  case  of  lack  of  communication  between
   government  agencies. Another site had to be found for the refugee camp.
   Thus, if anything can be done to make it unnecessary for people to  flee
   across national boundaries, it should be done.

13.There  are, however, various aspects to this issue. There is a long-term
   aspect which is development in its various dimensions.  In  this  regard
   UNHCR  can and does encourage concerted development efforts, thorugh its
   cooperation agreements with  other  UN  agencies,  such  as  the  United
   Nations  Development  Programme  (UNDP),  the  World Health Organization
   (WHO)  and  the  World  Food  Programme  (WFP).  But  there   are   also
   intermediate-term  aspects  such  as  promoting  mechanisms  of peaceful
   settlement of disputes within societies,  mechanisms  of  collaboration,
   mecahnisms  of compromise, which in some societies are very difficult to
   achieve. In the short term, of course, there is a range  of  approaches,
   such   as  assistance  to  internally  displaced  persons,  cross-border
   assistance, and Quick Impact Projects (QIPs). One of the lessons that we
   have learned in recent emergencies  is  the  need  for  cooperation  and
   coordination  between various UN agencies.

Protection in emergencies
14.During  the  emergency  itself, there is a series of protection measures
   that must take place, including promoting admission into the country  of
   asylum,  ensuring  that  people  obtain  some kind of protecion status -
   basically, in and emergency that hould be group determination (everybody
   is a refugee on a prima facie basis) - implementation of  the  principle
   of  non-refoulment  to  ensure  that asylum seekers and refugees are not
   sent back, that they are not intercepted on the high seas, in  the  air,
   or on land, to be sent back directly or indirectly to their countries of
   origin.   Protection  means  at  a  minimum  humanitarian  standards  of
   treatment and respect for the basic human rights of the refugees.

15.It also means physical protection i its  various  dimensions,  including
   the location of the camps. They should whenever possible be located at a
   reasonable  distance  from  the border, away from the fighting, in areas
   that are relatively salubrious so that the refugees will not succumb  to
   diseases,  and  so  forth.  Even  the  physical  make-up  of the camp is
   relevant: there should be sufficient lighting so that women can  go  out
   at  night  without  fear of being attacked, toilets should be relatively
   close in well-lit areas so that again women are not subject  to  attacks
   there at night, or during the day for that matter.

16.There  are  also  organisational  measures  to be taken by and among the
   refugees themselves.  The  refugees,  including  refugee  women,  should
   participate in the planning of their own camp existence and take part in
   their  own  security. Identification of vulnerable groups, single women,
   unaccompanied children, old people, and the handicapped, is an  example.
   It  is  likewose  for  ethnic  minorities.  Within a refugee flow ethnic
   minority people may be in danger from the majority from their own coutry
   and these groups need to be identified alos when necessary, with a  view
   to providing them with the protection which they need.

Asylum and development
17.As  indicated  above,  refugees  do  not  only originate from developing
   countries: a large majority of  them  also  find  asylum  in  developing
   countries.  The  presence  of large numbers of refugees in these already
   impoverished countries weighs heavily on fragile infrastructure, as well
   as on limited resources of arable land, water, firewood  etc.  If  these
   effects  are  not  adequately  addressed,  through  a development-orient
   approach which alos benefits the host population, it can lead to tension
   between the refugees and the local population and  can  have  a  serious
   impact  on  the  local  environment.  This  may have further detrimental
   effects on stability in the country of asylum.

18.The  program  in  Malawi  dramatically   illustrates   the   development
   implication  of  refugee  flows. Malawi is small, densely populated, and
   one of the world's least developed countries. It was until recently host
   to one million refugees  from  neighbouring  Mozambique.  This  equalled
   12.5% of the country's national population. The presence of the refugees
   weighted   heavily   on   the   country's   scarce  resources  and  weak
   infrastructure. Particularly devastating was the impact of  the  refugee
   presence on Malawi's forests.  Refugees felled large numbers of trees in
   order  to  acquire  qood for fuel and building materials. The arrival of
   the refugees therefore worsened the problem of deforestation and led  to
   subsequent  land  degradation.  To  alleviate the situation UNHCR became
   involved  in,  inter   alia,  reforestation  and  the  construction  and
   maintenence  of  roads and water supplies. Development projects by other
   UN agencies and bilateral donors specifically designed to address  these
   problems were put into motion.

19.Two mistakes that are often committed in an emergency situation are that
   protection  aspects  and  long-term development plans are underplayed or
   even set aside. Protection must be built into emergency management  from
   teh  very  beginning  and  relief  aid  should be provided in a way that
   shields people from further persecution and violence, while at the  same
   time  laying the foundations for lasting solutions to their predicament.
   Protecting asylum seekers from being forced back to their of origin  may
   be  as  vital to survival in an emergency as food and shelter. Likewise,
   development concerns have to be built into the response at the outset.

20.UNHCR has recently created  a  Unit  for  Protection  Operation  Support
   within the Division of International Protection. The unit aims to ensure
   effective  protection  input into field operations and to provide timely
   protection support in emergency situations.

21.The impact of refugee  emergencies  is  by  no  means  confined  to  the
   refugees  themselves.  Poor  short-term  planning can worsen the overall
   environmental situation. For example,  a  contractor  in  one  receiving
   country  asked  to  quickly  prepare  the  site of a refugee camp for an
   emergency influx simply removed all the vegetation from a huge piece  of
   land,  leaving  the  refugees  and coming generations nothing but a huge
   man-made desert. It was typical kind of  mistake  made  in  emergencies.
   Another  example  is  the case already referred to where UNHCR was given
   authorisation by one Ministry to prepare the grounds for a major refugee
   camp and spent large sums of money  doing  so,  only  to  discover  that
   another  Ministry had already allocated the terrain for exploration by a
   major international mining company. UNHCR had no choice but to  move  on
   and  start from scratch in search of another percel of land to place the
   camp. Therefore, refugee needs and development needs must  be  balanced,
   conciliated and harmonised.

22.When  refugee  assistance  is  well planned it can instead contribute to
   making the refugees become self-sufficient,  thereby  enabling  them  to
   contribute  to  the  development  of  the country of asylum and of their
   country of origin once they are able to return. Furthermore,  assistance
   provided  to  infrastructure such as schools, roads and medical clinics,
   and to the training of local staff, will continue to  benefit  the  host
   population after the refugees have left.

   /* Endofpart-1 */