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European Bank Accord To Settle Bosnia Refugees

UN Agency Signs First Accord With European Bank To Settle Bosnia Refugees

Some 850 people who, 10 years after the Dayton peace accords, have still not found a permanent solution to their displacement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, will quickly receive individual accommodation under a landmark agreement between the United Nations refugee agency and a European development bank.

The agreement, the first of its kind with a major European bank, marks a major step forward in the effort to bring more development funding to help refugees and displaced people still living in collective centres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing today in Geneva.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Council of Europe (COE) Development Bank, signed yesterday in Paris by Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin and Bank Governor Raphaël Alomar, is the culmination of negotiations that began almost two years ago concerning the possibility of using development funds to boost solutions for refugees and displaced people of concern to UNHCR.

In addition to setting out the basic parameters of cooperation between the two institutions, the MOU covers two important areas that are already proving immensely beneficial to some of the people who, a decade after the Balkan wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia, have still not found a permanent solution to their displacement in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in Serbia and Montenegro.

In terms of direct grants to UNHCR, the bank provided $1 million in 2004 to provide permanent housing for more than 600 residents of collective centres, out of a total of some $3 million the bank has agreed to provide over a five-year period. A further tranche of this grant may be decided later this week.

Perhaps more importantly, following the same theme and model worked out with UNHCR, the bank has also reached an agreement with the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide an €8 million (euros) soft loan to build accommodation for the remaining people living in official collective centres. The Government will itself contribute €4 million in matching funds from its own resources.

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