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close this bookResettlement of Displaced Population - 1st Edition (DHA/UNDRO - DMTP - UNDP, 1995, 60 p.)
close this folderPart 5: Program strategies to aid resettlement & recovery
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentLand based strategies
View the documentAssistance directed to families
View the documentAssistance directed to systems and groups
View the documentCASE STUDY: Options for assistance for Cambodian returnees



In this part of the module you will learn about:

· program strategy options for aiding resettlement and recovery
· agency planned and built settlements
· aided settlement development
· different types of settlement packages
· directed public services, QIPs, and regional-based services


In view of the unique characteristics of displaced persons and their circumstances as well as the factors influencing resettlement and recovery, this section considers some of the general program strategies being used by assistance organizations to aid recovery and a few of the lessons that have been learned. After a massive earthquake that destroyed several hundred thousand homes in Guatemala, the long-term recovery of families was associated with 1) the relationship among victims during recovery in terms of their social organization and 2) the relationship between victims and relief/reconstruction agencies (Bates and Peacock, 1989).

Assistance strategies provided by governments and international organizations to aid in the recovery of people who have been displaced may be grouped into three broad categories: land based strategies, assistance directed to individual families, and assistance directed to systems and groups.

Land based strategies

The planned establishment of new settlement communities may be the strategy of choice for aiding recovery. Particularly when whole communities have been displaced and wish to reconstitute a new community in a different location, the establishment of alternative planned settlements is often considered. Many variations exist in the development of new settlements but, in general, they may be characterized as either agency planned and built settlements or aided settlement development.


Agency planned and built settlements are developed by government or non-governmental agencies. Often, the site, land-uses and settlement layout are defined by the planning organization. The buildings and infrastructure are built by contractors hired by the reconstruction agency. New permanent houses are constructed. Basic services are planned and installed. Experts do the planning, often based on some consultation with the people. Farming schemes and income generating programs are started. Efforts are made to "sell" or convince potential settlers of the feasibility and virtue of the community designed for them. The high capital investment and significant professional input in the schemes are often justified on the basis that such inputs are necessary because displaced people do not have the skills or resources to develop such settlements on their own.

Reviews repeatedly suggest a low rate of success, despite best intentions and the expenditure of vast amounts of resources.

Although agency planned resettlement projects have been attempted in most countries, reviews repeatedly suggest a low rate of success, despite best intentions and the expenditure of vast amounts of resources. Reasons for their failures are related to the factors cited in Part 3. Most significantly, often these new settlements do not prove economically viable; the poorest families have no opportunities to earn a living in a way that is commensurate with their interests and skills. Often the new settlements are cited on poor land. If the settlement is isolated, residents may suffer from not being integrated into the local social and commercial systems. If it is well sited and with attractive opportunities, displaced recipients for whom the settlement was constructed are replaced by better-off families. The better the infrastructure and services, the less likely that the poorest can afford to live and support the standards imposed on them.

The physical layout of the community and type of houses constructed often mimics urban or alien styles rather than the forms and construction preferred by the families, who having no part in the siting, design and construction, often have no sense of ownership. Most settlement plans articulate strategies for overcoming such problems, however, planning failures are mainly due to centrally planned and executed projects which are designed and implemented for rather than by recipients.

Agency designed and built settlements are an example of a "paternalistic" or persuasive approach, which is imposed from outside. This approach may create dependency, lower adaptive capacity of people to their environments and encourage use of inappropriate technology in lieu of cultural values and preferences. It often wastes productive capacity of labor and management, delays the recovery process and often results in people remaining for long periods in refugee camp like situations (Bates and Peacock, 1989).


Aided settlement development is based on the need for the construction of new settlements but depends on settlers for much of the input. A sites and services approach is an example of an aided-settlement development strategy. Sites and services programs make planned sites available and ensures the availability of adequate safe water and sanitation but leaves the construction of housing and other community amenities to the settlers. In the Philippines, after a massively destructive flash flood, various resettlement programs were initiated by government and non-governmental organizations by securing tracts of land for affected families to collaboratively built standardized "core" houses with the aid of loans, materials and technical support provided by the agencies.

Assistance directed to families

An alternative to construction of new settlements are assistance strategies that help families on an individual basis. These strategies assume that families will integrate into existing communities or arrange whatever suits their needs. Examples of other strategies to assist families include food assistance, settlement packages, work projects and sponsorships.

Providing family settlement packages is an example of a family-oriented assistance strategy. For example, in southern Ethiopia after an incident of clan conflict which caused extensive displacement, an assistance package consisting of temporary food relief plus seeds and tools aided families to return and re-establish their livelihood. Family settlement packages include resources provided by organizations which are believed to be useful in attaining self-sufficiency. They may include such goods as personal items, clothes, food staples and spices, cooking utensils, soap and basic household supplies, farming and carpentry tools, seeds and pocket money. The packages may be most applicable when the needs of displaced families are distinct, as described in the sections above, and less applicable when needs are similar to non-displaced families. In the Ogaden area of Ethiopia, UNHCR used community-assistance approaches instead of family-oriented settlement packages. Food aid is often provided to families who are resettling until they are able to harvest or secure their own food.

Often a promise of land or cash compensation is included in settlement packages. The Cambodian repatriation program was initially planned on the assumption that all returning families would be provided a small tract of land. However, when it became evident that it would be very difficult to guarantee each family a suitable plot, a cash compensation alternative was chosen by most families. A review of this strategy concluded that, in this situation, the cash alternative was both preferred and positive because it allowed families the flexibility to arrange whatever circumstances were most suitable in the settlement process (UNHCR, 1993).

Assistance is necessary to supply jobs where the economy is weak.

Since the need for income is a primary criteria for successful settlement, assistance is necessary to supply jobs where the economy is weak. In Central America, the establishment of public works projects offering cash wages have been used as a strategy to aid recovery. In Nicaragua and El Salvador public works projects were organized so the jobs were rotated among needy displaced families. While public works projects have the disadvantage of being short term, they have the great advantage of addressing community needs by improving water and sanitation systems, building schools, etc.

Different versions of sponsorship strategies can be found throughout the world. The sponsorship strategy refers to initiatives for community leaders and villages to assume responsibility for aiding families. In India, for example, after natural disasters it is common for civic clubs and religious institutions to adopt an area or group of displaced people. Sponsorship was also a strategy used extensively in the United States and Canada when large numbers of refugees were being accepted. The sponsorship strategy links interested religious groups, civic groups, and individuals as "sponsors" of newly arriving displaced families to help them find housing, jobs and make social contact. This strategy has proven to be very successful.

Assistance directed to systems and groups

Other options to assist the recovery of resettled people include community development strategies where aid is provided through strengthened local systems and groups. Four examples are noted below: directed services, area-based services, QIPS, and CIREFCA/PRODERE.

1) Directed public services means the mobilization of existing services for the benefit of displaced and resettled persons. In virtually all resettlement situations recovery is dependent upon the quality of public and private services that underpin society. Special adaptation is often necessary to ensure that displaced people are granted access and that services are tailored to needs. Adapted services can be offered by all government sectors such as social services, banking, public works, education, health, agriculture, labor, and forestry. In addition, directed services in the private sector are also important, particularly credit and commerce.

Systems can be creatively modified to more effectively address needs in unique resettlement situations. In Sri Lanka, based on a strategy of using already existing systems, a very successful housing reconstruction program was mounted by establishing special loan programs through the local banking system. Increased resources can be made available to families, for example, through grants, regular loans, soft loans with variable repayment schedules, discounted loans with low interest rates, new guarantee arrangements, lending tied to training, and infusing capital into lending organizations (Fernando, 1988).

2) The area-based services approach is actively supported by UNICEF, particularly in urban situations. Service delivery systems are developed to ensure that existing services meet the needs of the most vulnerable families. The advantage of the area-based approach is that it strengthens local health and social services to reach all people in need of the service which includes the displaced or resettled families.

3) Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) was pioneered by UNHCR in Nicaragua to aid in the reintegration of repatriates. It is increasingly used as an assistance strategy in other resettlement and recovery programs as well. Because displaced people often return or resettle to poor and underdeveloped communities, the QIPs' strategy was developed to support quick-impact, community-based, micro-projects that are rapid-to-implement and require a one-time investment. QIPs may improve transportation, health, infrastructure, education, crop and livestock production, and income generation. The QIP aims to enhance resources for the initial re-entry and re-establishment periods and to aid returned families to become "self-supporting initially and self-sufficient eventually."

The QIPs approach identifies urgent needs at the "grassroots" level through discussions with returnees, NGOs, municipal authorities, and local church and social organizations. These needs are collated as micro-project profiles, screened to ensure that they meet program criteria and government development plans, and then funded for implementation by NGO partners, municipalities, cooperatives and others.

Quick-impact projects alone are insufficient for recovery.

Experience confirms that the QIPs strategy enhances the settlement process and facilitates reintegration. The disadvantage or weakness of the QIPs approach is that quick-impact projects alone are insufficient for recovery, as discussed earlier in this paper. A renovated school, a bridge, or a new health clinic building may be an excellent contribution but they are no panacea to the long-term process of economic and social integration, particularly in communities where survival is normally hard.

Consequently, while evaluations of the QIPs strategy consistently reaffirm its usefulness, the necessity of linking initial quick-impact projects with longer term development efforts is highlighted. "Community-based reintegration projects, however well designed, cannot bridge the gap unless they are undertaken within an organization framework which will continue to function once UNHCR has phased out its activities" (UNHCR, 1993). This has lead to collaborative efforts between UNHCR, the major implementor of QIPs in repatriation/resettlement programs, and UNDP which is committed to the longer-term development process.

In Cambodia, a joint UNHCR/UNDP QIPs program also emphasized the need for assertive development efforts in post-emergency situations. QIPs was channeled through local development task-forces. It was necessary to organize provincial focal points, encourage other organizations to become involved in community development activities, and strengthen the capacity of local organizations, enterprises and official structures. It was also necessary to ensure that reintegration and reconstruction programs and long-term development efforts were linked.

4) CIREFCA/PRODERE is a regional assistance program developed by UNDP in Central America for aiding refugees, returnees and displaced persons. The CIREFCA/PRODERE strategy grew out of regional international conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA), and assumes that the regional approach is the most constructive. Therefore in Central America, all countries with displaced persons receive aid and act as partners in rehabilitation and recovery programs, which are based on needs and circumstances in each country and funded through PRODERE (Refugee Assistance Project).

The PRODERE strategy attempts to stimulate sustainable developmental efforts at the regional, national, and local levels. It draws no distinctions between types of displaced persons or between displaced persons and equally needy non-displaced persons, rather it supports whatever developments are perceived to be helpful, including productive systems, marketing, human rights, legal system development, credit, technical assistance and transfer of technology, basic social services, physical infrastructure, education, women's participation, environment, health, institutional strengthening, and community training and organization. It is managed as an international program in collaboration with national and local authorities but does not channel funds through the government.

Q. 1) What are some of the problems that might occur in agency planned and built settlements ?

A. __________________________________________________

Q. 2) What types of assistance may be included in settlement packages?

A. __________________________________________________

Q. 3) Why are longer term development projects needed to continue the work initiated by the Quick Impact Projects?

A. __________________________________________________

Q. 4) What are some principles for assisting resettlement and recovery?

A. __________________________________________________


1) The settlements may lack employment opportunities, the land may be of poor quality, residents may be isolated from other communities, the houses may not be the type preferred by settlers, they may encourage inappropriate technology.

2) Personal items, household items, seeds and tools, food aid, cash.

3) As mentioned in Part 2, recovery may take up to ten years. Therefore, ongoing development projects are needed to support the long term process.

4) Strengthen systems; use a variety of approaches; decentralize efforts; base assistance on need rather than displacement; keys to success for resettlers' are participation in resettlement decisions and securing a livelihood.

CASE STUDY: Options for assistance for Cambodian returnees

Case Study Options for Assistance for Cambodian Returnees

Source: Robinson, Court, "Something Like Home Again", Immigration and Refugee Services of America, 1994.


In October of 1991, four contending factions in Cambodia's 13 year civil war agreed to a peace plan that put the country into UN hands until elections to be held in 1993. During the interim period, 385,045 refugees returned to Cambodia from Thailand, more than 330,000 of them assisted by UNHCR. Although UNHCR initially sought to allocate two hectares of land for each family, it soon became apparent that this quantity of arable and unmined land was not available. In October of 1992, UNHCR offered a choice of the following assistance packages to the returnees:

Option A: Agricultural Land. Included up to 2 hectares, including a housing plot, wood for house frame construction, US $25 to buy thatch and bamboo, a household/agricultural kit (including water buckets, mosquito nets, various handtools, and a blue plastic sheet), and food provided by WFP for 400 days.

Option B: House. Included a plot of land for a house, wood for construction of a house frame, $25 to buy thatch and bamboo, a household/agricultural kit, and food for 400 days. (This was reduced to 200 days in all options if a returnee chose to settle in the Phnom Penh area.)

Option C: Cash. Included reintegration money of $50 per adult and $25 per child under 12, a household/agricultural kit and food for 400 days.

Option D: Income Generating Tools. This option was considered but had to be canceled due to complications, but was to feature non-agricultural employment, and a tool kit (possible options included carpentry or electrician's tools, auto repair kits, bicycle-repair kits and sewing kits).

Option E: Employment. Returnees who were offered jobs with UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) or other organizations in Cambodia would receive reintegration money (as in Option C) and food for 400 days but no household/agricultural kit.

Option F: Family Reunion. This option was intended for families of soldiers or Option E returnees and included money and food as for Option C.

Option G: Spontaneous Returns. Refugees who chose to go back on their own and registered with UN camp officers before their departure would be eligible for 400 days of food in Cambodia.

The most controversial option, Option C: Cash, turned out to be the choice for more than 85% of returnees and allowed them the mobility to find relatives once in Cambodia. About 6.7% choose the Option B: House, 2.8% choose Option A: Land, and small fractions chose Options E and F.

QIPs: An Area Development Program called CARERE combines UN agency funds with government donations to target Cambodian communities for QIPs in 10 different sectors, such as transport, water, health/nutrition, education and crop production. UNHCR had managed $2.2 million in QIPs until July of 1993 when UNDP assumed the lead role in funding and coordination. The budget for QIPs in Cambodia for 1994 was over $12 million and was anticipated to be $25 million in 1995.