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close this bookDisplaced Persons in Civil Conflict - 1st edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1991, 52 p.)
close this folderPart 3: Operational considerations
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPolitical constraints
View the documentLogistical difficulties
View the document''Structural'' problems
View the documentReaching people in conflict zones
View the documentAvoiding pacification
View the documentSetting priorities
View the documentStrengthening counterpart organizations

Strengthening counterpart organizations

As a provider of technical assistance, the UN plays a key role in helping governments develop the capacity to deal with the problems of displacement. In the initial stages of a crisis, few governments are adequately prepared to handle the problems of displaced persons. The UN can support governments by providing experts, training and financial support.

A great deal of forethought should be given to proposals to create institutions or capacities in government to assist the displaced. The type of institution created often has implications for the way in which assistance will ultimately be provided. For example, if the UN encourages the government to assign responsibility for displaced persons to an agency that normally provides assistance to refugees, the displaced will likely be treated as a refugee-like problem and more attention will be given to relief than to the development needs of the people. If the mandate is assigned to regional governments or to a ministry of local government, it is likely that the programs will be much broader and more developmental in nature.

The UN can support governments by providing experts, training and financial support.

In some cases, the UN has encouraged the government to establish a separate commission for the displaced to serve as coordinator of assistance and protection and to formulate plans which are executed by the line ministries. This approach can work well as long as the technical assistance given does not encourage the agency to focus more on relief than on development assistance.

Local and regional branches of government are often the most important entities in providing assistance to the displaced. When considering technical assistance and institution building, they should receive high priority.

Local and regional branches of government are often the most important entities in providing assistance to the displaced.

In countries that have weak regional and local governments, there is a tendency to centralize authority and decision-making in the capital. The UN must devise strategies for moving decision-making into the theater of operations so that "hands on" management can take place.

In large countries where the displaced are located in remote areas, centralized government decision-making can delay operations and affect the quality of decisions. In these cases, it is important to devise strategies that will encourage government authorities to send senior officials with the authority to make on-site decisions to the field. One way to do this is to build a large operations base in a central location and endow it with resources. Governments are unlikely to entrust such an operation to a junior official and will send a person with sufficient authority to resolve key assistance issues locally.

Safety of relief teams in conflict zones

As coordinators of assistance for the displaced, the UN staff bears a special responsibility for ensuring that all personnel operating in or adjacent to conflict zones work in conditions of minimum risk and maximum security. Guidelines and procedures for personnel should be established in conjunction with the host government and, where possible, with insurgent groups. The UN is often charged with the responsibility of notifying relief workers and other organizations about the risks they may face from military operations in or near their relief activities. In this regard, the UN is often able to obtain clearances for special flights into contested areas on airplanes bearing United Nations markings, to arrange for safe transport through the front lines in specially-marked UN vehicles, and to establish special relief corridors whereby food and relief supplies can be delivered under flags of truce or through designated corridors without undue restraint. It is important for the to UN carefully assess the risks before encouraging relief organizations to commit personnel and resources to operations in non-secure areas. A UN assurance that an area or means of transport is safe carries much weight - and responsibility.

Two of the most important aspects of working in remote and insecure areas are communications and stand-by evacuation support. To the greatest extent possible, UN coordinators should ensure that relief personnel have immediate and 24-hour access to telecommunications facilities and that suitable means are immediately available to evacuate personnel in case of an emergency. This may entail the assignment of light aircraft to be available on short notice to evacuate staff.