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close this bookMeeting the Humanitarian Challenge - UNV's Work Between Conflict and Development (United Nations Volunteers, 44 p.)
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Open this folder and view contentsUNV humanitarian action in the field: Effort and impact
Open this folder and view contentsCurrent concerns and future perspectives
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This booklet is well named. It has indeed been a challenge to the UN Volunteers programme to involve itself in urgent humanitarian relief and rehabilitation work. For its first twenty years, the programme had been largely confined to offering technical assistance for the long haul of development.


In the last four years or so, the frequency and the scale of emergency situations (mostly man-made, it has to be said) have been such that organisations existing to help the developing world could not credibly stand aside and claim that their role lay exclusively in the long-term development process. More than that, it has become clearer and clearer that there is in any case no real logical or practical dividing line between "relief and "development". Certainly not for the refugee or the cholera victim, there isn't - it's altogether too remote and irrelevant a distinction.

So, UNV has entered a new arena. It first set up a Humanitarian Relief Unit, to respond to the specialised set of recruitment, deployment and security considerations which are implied - different professions, rapid and single-status assignments, the need for enhanced health and even physical protection. Within two years, UNVs fielded by the Unit have come to number over 10% of the some 3,500 in all who serve in the average year. Food aid logisticians, medical personnel, camp administrators, human rights monitors and the like, they have served with the highest professionalism - and with great courage - in the most demanding of conditions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

Like the UNVs in agriculture, health and education, those on the humanitarian side seek too, wherever possible, to base their input on the structures, knowledge, solidarity and compassion which are to be found in every community - and which survive conflict and disaster. Facilitating what affected people themselves feel they need most, and involving them to the greatest extent possible in caring for each other, makes for the surest chance of success. And, since the community aspires to return as quickly as feasible to normality and to the daily concern of improving livelihood in the long term, this also is the surest way of once again getting back on the road to the sustainable human development which remains UNVs - and people's - paramount objective.

In closing, I would like publicly to thank the governments, UN and international agencies and others which have made generous donations to allow our humanitarian work to go forward. With those thanks I couple, too, our gratitude to the former Chief of the Humanitarian Relief Unit, Francis O'Donnell, for his energy and dedication in piloting our first years in this area; to Maria Keating for her work in updating and editing this booklet; and most especially, to all the UNVs who've been in the front line.

Brenda Gael McSweeney,
Executive Co-ordinator

Global context and role of the United Nations system

As the post-Cold War world stumbles forward, the human and political costs of realignment of resurgent forces has wrought an increasingly heavy toll on weaker societies. Whole communities, if not countries, often striving for self-determination, are undergoing devastating turbulence and conflict, resulting in great human suffering, and often placing them beyond the margins of the increasingly integrated global economy.

Whilst the industrial nations may become increasingly inter-dependent, atrophy is growing alarmingly at the margins. The last two years have seen a discomforting net trend to societal collapse in a growing number of regions - as always the poorer ones - as communities' traditional coping mechanisms for economic and political stress have been overwhelmed. Mass displacement, or worse, the genocide of "ethnic cleansing", are not the cause of this, but the symptoms of a more profound malaise, reflecting the inability of national and international communities together adequately to manage and direct the accelerating pace of global political, social, and economic transformation. Consequently, the humanitarian workload is exploding: and looks unfortunately like getting worse.

The euphoria that followed the end of the Cold War has been quick to disappear. In its place has come increasingly evident fragmentation, The costs of violence as a political option have spiralled: Dushanbe, Kabul, Kinshasa, Mogadishu, Monrovia, Yerevan, Sarajevo, Sukhoumi, have become not the exceptions, but the pattern for a whole variety of thoroughly destructive new conflicts. Without forgetting the smouldering legacies of Beirut, Nicosia, or Jerusalem.

Are whole regions, and not just countries, falling outside the Pale of emerging global integration? Marginalisation understates the drama of what is in effect the annihilation of local cultures, whole societies, on a growing scale - frightening enough to warrant its consideration as a fundamental threat to global peace.

The United Nations is the one encompassing global institution which can and must be expected to address these issues. Within the UN System, the United Nations Volunteers programme has developed new capacity and resources, and new relationships with partners in the humanitarian field. This has been facilitated by inter-agency cooperation as a result of General Assembly resolution 46/182, as well as by the global presence of UNDP, which administers UNV.

In UNV the world has an organisation where women and men from every country serve to promote human rights, to advance women's and children's rights and well-being, to protect the environment, to build inter-communal trust and cooperation, to assist in resettlement and voluntary repatriation of refugees, to promote civic education and to administer or monitor democratisation, including elections, to provide emergency relief to victims of natural and human-made disasters, to investigate and report on local situations, to train local partners for self-reliance, And to do all of this on an unsalaried basis, in a spirit of dedicated service.

This is the United Nations Volunteer!

Background to UNV involvement in humanitarian assistance

Set up by the UN General Assembly in 1970, UNV is administered by UN Development Programme (UNDP). It serves as an operational partner in developmental, humanitarian and peace operations at the request of any UN member state or UN system agency. UN Volunteer specialists comprise more than 100 nationalities. They have the relevant academic qualifications or a proven track record in community-based action. All have working experience - usually some ten years. Their average age is 39. They serve in 120 developing countries, three quarters of them in those designated as Least Developed.

In the last decade, UNV specialists have served extensively with UN agencies in the provision of humanitarian assistance. Since 1992 over 1,500 UNV specialists have worked in the areas of emergency relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation, and disaster preparedness.

In 1984, the UNDP Governing Council (84/19) approved the use of UNDP's Special Programme Resources for African regional drought relief assistance through the use of UNVs. Later, Governing Council decision 85/22 urged the greater use of UNVs for emergency relief, drawing attention to UNV's flexibility, speed, and cost-effectiveness. The Maseru Declaration of 1986 at UNV's Second Inter-Governmental Meeting, called for UNV's capability in assisting in emergency situations to be institutionalised, developing its roster with specially-suited candidates.

The Kathmandu Declaration of 1991 at UNV's Third Inter-Governmental Meeting noted the importance for UNV relief activities of working through the UN Agencies and other international organisations specialised in this field. It placed special emphasis on UNV's comparative advantage in rehabilitation and disaster preparedness, particularly at community level.

In 1990-1991, UNV was faced with an upsurge in urgent requests from UN agencies rapidly to provide UNV specialists for humanitarian relief work. During 1991, UNVs served in Angola, setting up peace corridors for food aid; in Liberia and the Horn of Africa; and in Afghanistan, where UNVs formed the main field component of UN system efforts for relief and rehabilitation. From the initial phase of the Gulf emergency, UNV specialists provided field support to the key UN agencies involved in Iraq and neighbouring countries.

As a result of this rapid expansion, and in an effort to place its response on a more solid footing, UNV established a Humanitarian Relief Unit (HRU) in its Geneva headquarters towards the end of 1991, for rapid recruitment of short-term experienced specialists in fields where needs are most acute in times of humanitarian crisis.

Encouraged also by UNDP Governing Council decisions 90/22 and 90/38 in regard to working with refugees, displacees, and returnees, UNV's humanitarian relief approach is part of UN system-wide efforts to strengthen emergency response. This is in line with General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991, which called for special rosters of stand-by personnel, and also called for UN agencies' governing bodies to examine reserve and other contingency funding arrangements for stand-by capacity.

Start-up emergency funds for UNV enable earlier fielding of the operational, logistical, and technical personnel needed by UN partner agencies to reach the affected populations efficiently and cost-effectively. UNV represents a small investment with a disproportionately large return in terms of satisfaction of basic human needs for millions of people on the margin.

Since 1992 over 1,500 UNV specialists have worked in the areas of emergency relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation, and disaster preparedness

Basic objective of UNVs humanitarian relief

A basic objective is immediately to respond to the front-line UN system agencies in their urgent requests for specialised personnel for speedy humanitarian deployment. The primary functions of UNV's Humanitarian Relief Unit are to recruit, deploy, and administer UNVs as individuals and in teams for assignments of variable duration according to need (e.g. 3-6 months, or more). Assignments in support of capacity-building for prevention, preparedness and mitigation of disaster may be longer.

Refugee children from Somalia

To provide its response capacity, UNV has established a facility for rapid recruitment and support, using a pool of pre-cleared candidates on stand-by. This includes the composition and orientation of emergency response teams for rapid deployment. UNV has comparative advantage in recruiting, training, deploying and administering volunteer-specialist humanitarian teams, UNV develops project concepts and documents, and engages in other programming activity, especially in relation to programmes to build capacity in disaster-prone countries for disaster prevention, preparedness, and mitigation.

Progress in implementation of the approach

The years 1992 to 1994 witnessed a rapid expansion in UNV's humanitarian relief volunteers. The efforts of the UNV's Humanitarian Relief Unit (HRU), established towards the end of 1991, are paying off the initially intensive process innovation, advocacy and advertising, inter-agency networking, and fund-raising. There is an increasing involvement in new activities in support of UN-coordinated programmes, especially for complex protracted emergencies. Working closely with the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), UNV has become recognised as a prime source for readily available experienced field relief workers and technical managers, who can accelerate the transition to UNDP-supported sustainable human development.

The use of experienced field relief workers and managers as UNV specialists, offering their services as unsalaried professionals, provides the UN system and the international community with an opportunity to deliver vital humanitarian services with dedication and selflessness, and to achieve greater impact with limited resources.

Presently, some 500 UNV Specialists are serving in humanitarian assistance programmes. This figure does not include approximately 200-500 Eritrean UNVs being planned under a new programme, nor many others under discussion. Those serving in humanitarian programmes are in the following countries:

Ivory Coast
Sierra Leone

Additional countries for which UNVs are currently being recruited include Azerbaidjan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Donor country support has been crucial and in the past two years UNV has mobilised contributions or pledges totalling US $ 20 million from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. When added to other UN System funds, the currently approved humanitarian assistance portfolio in UNV exceeds US$30 million in funding. Even so, UNV still needs a further several million US dollars to meet pipeline needs for its own projects, and for UNV assignments with UN Agencies for which they have not themselves, or yet, obtained funding.

Refugees suffer, so does the environment... (Photo: Trocaire/Stephen Jackson)

Features of UNV humanitarian assistance

Key features involved in the UNV approach in humanitarian work include the following:

• capacity to field short-term UNVs (3, 6,12 months);
• rapid deployment (e.g. within days of request);
• streamlined clearance procedures including advance technical clearance by UN agencies;
• development of special emergency rosters of proven candidates with

- prior emergency/humanitarian experience
- UN, bilateral or NGO aid background

• an extended network of recruitment partner organisations feeding candidates to UNV, including UNV's Cooperating Organisations and National Focal Points, humanitarian NGOs, human rights groups, disaster management centers;

• stand-by rostering for candidates pre-selected in certain disciplines and who confirm provisional short-term release agreement from their current employer;

• systematic and intensive pre-assignment briefing and post-arrival orientation, and where possible, intensive training in disaster management skills in advance of request for selected UNVs-designate, or as soon as possible thereafter, where needed;

• deployment where possible in teams, with a comprehensive package of services and supporting facilities;

• enhanced field support infrastructure deployed in advance.

Given UNDP's and UNV's emphasis on the need for rehabilitation/reconstruction activities as soon as feasible following a crisis situation, a key feature of the HRU is that it works closely with the UNV long term rehabilitation/development programmes to ensure a smooth transition between crisis and Sustainable Human Development.

UNV also has over two decades of experience in fielding specialists to environmental and conservation projects. In fact, there are many 'themes' within the UNV programme which facilitate and reinforce this transition between relief to development. For example, UN Volunteers are presently engaged in programmes of conflict resolution, confidence and capacity-building at community level, rehabilitation of infrastructure, repatriation and reintegration of refugees, human rights promotion, peace-keeping activities, implementation of disaster prevention and preparedness programmes etc.

Range of services - ways in which UNV specialists make a difference

Through its international and national UN Volunteers and field workers, UNV has the capacity to further expand its already broad range of community-focused initiatives which directly address the need to involve people at grass root level consciously and creatively in finding their own development paths. In building the bridge beyond crisis, the UNV programme bolsters local coping mechanisms of communities affected by war, drought etc. and thus reduces vulnerability.

UNV has integrated rapidly into the new UN system framework for emergency response brought about as a result of General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991. This called for strengthened UN system capacity to deal with emergencies, and to develop stand-by rosters of qualified personnel. UNV's special roster for emergency humanitarian relief now contains over 500 UNV candidates, Typically, recruitment focuses on a limited range of usually acute needs, such as:

• human rights protection officers
• water specialists
• community/social services specialists
• sanitation engineers
• food aid monitors
• refugee/displacee counsellors
• logistics and procurement specialists
• administrative/finance officers
• public health specialist
• epidemiologists
• architects and civil engineers

Other skills can also be called-in, supported by UNV's main roster of over 5,000 candidates in 115 professional areas.

In critical cases, e.g. the newly-independent Caucasus republics, the Horn of Africa, the Southern African drought, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, etc., UNV humanitarian activities are programmed in inter-agency consultations, often under the coordination of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). UNV's efforts have also involved developing close working relationships with the UN agencies most operational in emergency work, i.e.


UNV has participated in inter-agency programming (and/or missions) to identify needs, ensuring where appropriate that UNV support is integrated into agencies' proposals in the consolidated appeals launched by the Secretary-General. This has been the case with the former Yugoslavia, Eritrea, the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Kenya, Liberia, drought in Southern Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, etc. UNV has also contributed its own ideas and proposals, especially in relation to the promotion of participatory approaches to community-based relief, rehabilitation, and recovery.

UNV is now an active partner in the Disaster Management Training Programme (DMTP).

UNV/HRU's location in Geneva is ideal, as DHA-UNDRO is also based there and regular Inter-Agency Working Group meetings in relation to finalising consolidated DHA appeals are very frequently held in Geneva. Similarly, the largest concentration of humanitarian agencies, both within and outside the UN system, in the heritage of Henri Dunant, is based in Geneva - ICRC, IFRCS, ICVA, UNHCR, WHO etc, donor country missions and NGOs.

Three major kinds of mass human distress have become the prevalent areas of UNV humanitarian support in recent years:

• Helping victims of war and conflict
• Working with victims of drought and famine
• Supporting victims of natural and man-made disasters.

Establishing a camp for demobilised combatants in Mozambique.

The link to development: UNDP's strategic role

Being on the scene places UNVs in a good position to draw wider attention to the plight of the people affected, and to help in working out durable solutions, moving the focus forward to rehabilitation and recovery. Much of this is facilitated by UNDP's central role in advancing rehabilitation and development, and by its extensive field presence and support.

Whilst one approach lies in the "continuum" from emergency relief through rehabilitation to reconstruction and development, another lies in the necessity to work from conflict towards sustainable peace dynamics through effective conflict resolution. This is a prerequisite to underpinning sustainable democratisation and peace-building. Several UNV Specialists are presently working along these lines on UNDP-funded projects in parts of former Yugoslavia and in Mozambique.

Bearing in mind UNDP's commitment to Sustainable Human Development, UNVs are involved in capacity-building projects in such countries as Somalia and Bosnia. The UNV programme portfolio reflects this philosophy, in that Sustainable Human Development is an approach that is pro poor, pro jobs, pro democracy, pro women and pro children.

For instance, a UNV Orthopaedic Technician from Sri Lanka, on a one year assignment with UNICEF in Liberia, rebuilt from scratch the Benedictine Workshop and Rehabilitation centre (for children, women and adults) which had been completely destroyed by the war. At the outset of the UN Volunteer's mission, there was an increasing number of amputees and war victims in Monrovia. In addition to the physical rebuilding of the orthopaedic workshop, he conducted an orthotics and prosthetics training course for students. He also held monthly evaluation examinations and refresher courses for permanent staff to improve the overall standard of professionalism at the Rehabilitation centre. Some of the graduates of the Benedictine Rehabilitation workshop have found jobs which involve training local staff in hospitals and other health centres throughout Liberia. This is in itself confidence- and capacity-building at local level.

Whilst one approach lies in the "continuum" from emergency relief through rehabilitation to reconstruction and development, another lies in the necessity to work from conflict towards sustainable peace dynamics through effective conflict resolution

Another UNV specialist, an experienced community social worker who previously served with UNHCR in Sarajevo, now serves on a UNDP project, implemented by the UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, designed to ease social tensions and reintegrate displaced Croats and Serbs in their home villages of western Slavonia. This is part of a presently UN Protected Area called Sector West, in Croatia. The UNV specialist is based in Pakrac, a small town brutally destroyed in 1991, including the churches of its different denominations and works closely with UNPROFOR who have successfully organised a programme for Serbs and Croats to return to over ninety villages.

An open-air clinic in Afghanistan: UNV Dr. Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh)

In a presentation to UNV staffin Geneva, Mr. James Gustave Speth, Administrator of UNDP, stated that " The way forward to Sustainable Human Development lies in the comprehensive mandate of the United Nations Charter, a mandate for peace, security, development and human rights. Furthermore, it is a process of growth which creates opportunities for people to exercise their choices and realise their full economic potential. Therefore, we must continue to assist programme countries in their endeavour to strive for and to achieve Sustainable Human Development." UNV clearly reflects this outlook by virtue of its response to programme country requests.

UNDP has utilised funds from its Special Programme Resources to enable UNV specialists to support humanitarian work, e.g. in drought relief in Southern Africa, which integrates into a wider framework oriented to lasting human development. As the UN's volunteer agency, UNV also benefits from frequent interaction with UNDP Headquarters, especially on issues of human development. The UNDP Humanitarian Programme office plays a focal role in this respect.

UNDP has utilised funds from its Special Programme Resources to enable UNV specialists to support humanitarian work, e.g. in drought relief in Southern Africa, which integrates into a wider framework oriented to lasting human development

Supporting field coordination of response to complex emergencies

UNV specialists have become increasingly involved in supporting the roles of UN Resident Coordinators, especially in relation to UN Disaster Management Teams in times of crisis. UNV specialists in a number of countries have been or are playing such roles: the UNDP Emergency Relief Unit in Kenya is staffed by UNVs, including the Relief Coordinator; the Drought Emergency Coordinator in Lesotho is a UNV; a UNV has helped UNDP/Zimbabwe in synthesising drought information for the sub-region; UNVs for many years supported the UN Emergency Preparedness and Planning Group (EPPG) in Ethiopia and are presently supporting emergency coordination in Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia and the Sudan.

To take one example, the refugee influx at the height of the 1992 Somali famine and civil war, along with a serious drought and Kenya's own internal strife at the time, combined to put tremendous strain on the Government and on UNDP. To support the UN Disaster Management Team (DMT), a retired executive who had worked before on the Hong Kong Refugee Board, Don Ferguson (UK), became UNV Emergency Relief Coordinator, set up the Emergency Relief Unit and played a key role facilitating the coordination of relief and rehabilitation activities for drought recovery and for Somali and Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people in Kenya. Since then, a team of UNVs has joined the unit to conduct field needs assessment missions, report back to the DMT, and facilitate timely intervention and donor support for effective relief and recovery assistance.

Rwandan refugees awaiting shelter

Presently, there are 24 UNV Specialists involved in a wide range of Humanitarian activities in support of the care and maintenance of Somali and Ethiopian Refugees in different parts of Kenya. UNVs located in towns along the Kenya/Somali border where there is still a sizeable concentration of refugees, are serving as specialists in food logistics and monitoring, in vehicle maintenance for convoys involved in cross border operations and as sociologists working closely with the refugees themselves. In Nairobi UNV specialists utilise their professional skills in accounting, computer engineering and administration in support of the humanitarian work being undertaken in the field.

Today, some 35 UNVs are also active in Liberia, running provincial humanitarian operational centres, supervising camps under the guidance of UNOMIL, providing support and assistance to the National Aids Programme, undertaking peace-building activities and also working in the medical field as nurses and dispensary doctors. Similar roles are being played in Burundi, where 22 UNV specialists are actively involved in providing emergency assistance to refugees from Rwanda, UNV specialists are also undertaking primary roles in peacekeeping and human rights operations in Bosnia and Mozambique, and are working closely with UN Agencies in many other parts of the world, for example with WFP in Somalia and Kenya, with UNICEF in western Ivory Coast, and with IOM in Mozambique. In recent years, UNV specialists have also served in the WHO Pan African Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, based in Addis Ababa.

Following the Security Council's decision in 1993 to strengthen UNOSOM II, a major new programme was approved and to date some 33 UNV specialists have served specifically under UNOSOM in Somalia. Presently there are 59 UNV specialists working on a wide range of projects in Somalia with UNICEF, WHO, and UNOSOM II in places such as Mogadishu, Berbera and Hoddur,

A Sudanese veterinarian, working as a UNV Specialist with FAO in Somaliland, recently completed his three month assignment. He was primarily involved in the implementation of five main FAO projects; the establishment of meat markets in Hargeisa, Boroma and Berbera which are adjacent to the reactivated abattoirs, and the establishment of fourteen veterinary associations for nomadic health auxiliaries who will act as a link between the associations and the nomadic communities. The UNV specialist also ensured that these associations were provided with a large stock of Brucella Antigen and equipment for the testing of animals for brucellosis prior to exportation, Additionally, the veterinarian was involved in two smaller FAO projects aimed at re-establishing community self-sufficiency.

The first project involved the provision of fishing equipment to the fishermen and surrounding communities in Berbera. The second involved the provision of 200 ploughs and 400 oxen to 200 families in Boroma and immediate surrounding areas. The UN volunteer's work played an important role in the overall FAO programme, aimed at restoring self sufficiency within local communities.

UNV nurse and journalist Vanya Kewley inventories the situation in a Rwanda refugee camp

The role of UNVs as Information Specialists in emergency and disaster situations is also significant. In 1994, an Irish journalist, James Lowrey, carried out a six -month assignment as a UNV Information Officer in Monrovia. Working under the direct supervision of the UNDP Resident Representative in Liberia, he was primarily responsible for producing and disseminating the UNDP public information programme in Liberia, concerning emergency activities relating to the conflict in the country. Developing and implementing information strategies and campaigns in support of both short- and longer- term UN objectives, presented an enjoyable challenge to his communication skills.

In Zimbabwe, another Irish-funded UNV Specialist, Bernadette Murphy, undertook a one year assignment as a UNV Information and Liaison Officer in Harare. She was responsible for the coordination of information regarding all drought emergency-related activities carried out by the UNDP Field Office, concerning the Southern African Region. Essentially this meant maintaining an effective network with organisations involved in the drought relief effort, UN Agencies, donors and NGOs, compiling drought-related statistics regarding data on the number of people affected by drought, water shortages, the impact on livestock survival, and, in addition, assessing needs and financial implications. She also processed, analysed and consolidated information which was used in the publication of various reports for distribution to UN donors and NGOs.

Several UNV Specialists have also served as radio operators in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, the highly qualified UNV radio operators function on a rotating basis, where they have to live both day and night, on and off the job, in the PTT building and sometimes in the same room as where their colleagues are working. Normally, the radio operators function on a four weeks 'on' and four weeks 'off basis, due to the intense pressure of their work. This also helps to prevent the all too common ' burn-out' syndrome experienced by those working in war-zones.

Identifying the neediest and their survival strategies

Experience continues to show that it is often easier to identify the neediest and most vulnerable groups than it is to ensure that aid reaches them sufficiently and in time. Access can be a major problem, affected not only by logistics and physical constraints such as weather, but by social obstacles, interference, or corruption.

The long trek to safety can be a tragic and fatal one. Many displacees/refugees never make it - others may arrive in utter exhaustion. Vanya Kewley (UK), a former media and war correspondent, worked as a Field Officer with UNHCR in Rwanda in 1993, at the height of the influx of Burundi refugees into Rwanda. Within her role as field officer for the UNHCR Burundi Refugee Programme, she was able to use both her journalistic skills, in producing high standard field reports and in networking field information with donors and NGOs, and her strong organisational skills in ensuring that food distributions were on time, and in supervising health and vaccination programmes, carrying out censuses and registrations in the camps and working closely with local authorities and NGOs.

When Vanya Kewley first arrived in Butare in November 1993, the camps (which housed up to 70,000 refugees) were disorganised and undocumented. Both food and nonfood distributions were erratic and inadequate and there were frequent outbreaks of measles and dysentery, resulting in a high mortality rate. Three months after Vanya's arrival, UNHCR reported that the refugee camps had been well documented, emergency food and nonfood distributions were being carried out in an organised manner. Following her surveys, refugees had improved housing conditions and due to the extensive vaccination campaign she coordinated, mortality rates had been greatly reduced. Because of the close team spirit between the UNV Specialist, UNHCR and local and International NGOs, her work played a key role in the overall humanitarian assistance of UNHCR to Burundi refugees.

Following tragic floods which destroyed rice crops in Laos and reduced some local populations to dependency on food aid, a UNV specialist identified needy villages. Some affected families were in fact surviving by selling-off frogs, bamboo shoots and livestock to buy rice. As local coping mechanisms for harvest shortfalls, such as inter-family loans, selling off family goods, migrant remittances etc. were considerably strained, WFP rice was given as payment-in-kind for work undertaken to repair irrigation systems damaged in the storms.

UNVs supervise weighing out food supplies in Afghanistan

Re-focusing and fine-tuning relief efforts

UNVs working at the end of the aid delivery chain, such as Paul Cunnington in Phongsaly Province, a remote area of Laos, where he worked as a WFP Food aid monitor, have verified the relevance and effectiveness of aid provided. At times this revealed the existence of local coping mechanisms which were sometimes counter-productively disturbed or overwhelmed by inappropriate or oversupplied aid. Their feedback enabled adjustment and correction of humanitarian delivery policies and practices.

Following initial surveys of WFP's rice distributions, the UNV Specialist set up. an effective reporting system from the Phongsaly province to WFP and UNDP in Vientiane on the rice distribution activities in this area. Despite some lack of co-operation from District and Provincial authorities, the UNV specialist did his utmost to ensure that proper records were kept and that the villagers were trained so that rice could be distributed fairly. Furthermore, he encouraged and put pressure on local authorities to fulfil their duties as regards record-keeping and fair and proper distributions. He also supervised the establishment of effective rice banks.

UNVs often have the most delicate of negotiating tasks to perform at field level, trying to explain to local community officials the purposes of assistance being provided, as well as procedures by which they need to abide. The work may reveal corruption by local community leaders or officials, and that aid may not be reaching the intended beneficiaries. They may be drawn into involvement in overcoming local politics of exploitation of the most vulnerable groups. UNVs are in many cases in the front-line of the fight against localised petty corruption and profiteering.

Their work may also reveal inadequacy of record-keeping at village levels, and the need for parallel training of community officials newly responsible for stock management and distribution in times of emergencies which require commodity deliveries, including food. Today, UNV specialists constitute 40% of WFP's field personnel.

The work recently done by Khiem Bui (USA) and Thierry Rijckebusch-Flavingy (France) to upgrade refugee camp management as UNV Field Officers with UNHCR in Bassikounou, Mauritania, demonstrated that improved information and management systems in UN programmes enable better control, greater accountability and more efficient usage of relief materials, with better-focused impact on beneficiaries.

Delivery of urgent relief supplies to emergency victims

Access to victims of complex emergencies is a critical issue in many situations. UNVs in Angola have helped to keep peace-corridors open for the delivery of vital relief supplies. In Somalia, a team of UNV Air Traffic Controllers and other UNV navigation and safety specialists from neighbouring countries played a crucial role for ICAO in re-opening Mogadishu airport to cargo traffic, and in expanding flight schedules to accommodate airlifts for delivery of food relief at the height of the recent famine.

Far from home, Peter Mueti (Kenya) has become a veteran UNV specialist in relief operations and logistics. After serving in Afghanistan for some years ensuring relief supplies arrived at their isolated destinations, he went on to the former Yugoslavia, where he served as escort officer on UNHCR-run relief convoys to Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Later he moved to Podgorica, Montenegro, and organized warehouses, distribution plans, and coordination with the Montenegrin Red Cross, for deliveries of 21,000 MT of food and other materials, including 17,000 MT to 21 municipalities for 67,500 refugees. He also pre-positioned items for anticipated influxes of new refugees.

Additionally, since the Gulf War in 1990, UNVs have been providing essential services in water and sanitation, nutrition, food aid monitoring, etc. through UNHCR, WFP, WHO, UNICEF and other UN agencies, to the Kurdish population in the north of Iraq.

At their briefing for work in ex-Yugoslavia, and accompanied by UNV's Francis O'Donnell (right), UNVs met UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mme. Sadako Ogata (Photo: UNV/Eva Leon-Hing)

Shelter and services for refugees and displacees

The turmoil of conflict deprives whole populations of their homes, their livelihood, and their dear ones. The devastation that results is not only physical but deeply psychological and social as well. A first step to the road to recovery is refuge and respite from ongoing trauma and destitution. New refugees fleeing their country en masse, and internally-displaced persons, need immediate survival support, as well as help to re-build their shattered lives.

In Tanzania, Jacques Paquette (Canada) recently spent several months as a UNV Field Officer with the UNHCR Burundi refugee programme in Ngara. His primary task was to encourage and support the overall coordination with local authorities and other relief partners involved in the UNHCR Refugee programme. He was also deeply involved in the continuous preparation work for the reception of new arrivals., in setting up registration programmes, monitoring relief administration/distribution activities and control of ration cards. Keeping relations with the local authorities on an even keel formed part of his everyday work, along with maintaining professional rapport with other agencies present in Tanzania and with both the international and local NGO community. In Liberia, Paul Davis, a UNV specialist from Sierra Leone, has been working as a UNHCR Field Officer. The operational area for which he has been responsible lies on the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia. As both countries are dramatically affected by the war, working conditions are particularly volatile. While trying to bring malnutrition health hazards and other related problems under control, with renewed fighting along the border in Sierra Leone thousands more refugees kept pouring into Liberia and reception facilities had to be set up to cater for this influx. In November and December 1993 alone, an estimated 8,000 new arrivals poured into this particular border region.

Paul Davis assessed the need for clinics, wells, sanitation, seeds and tools and made recommendations to the implementing partners concerned. He supervises the distribution of food and non-food relief items, ensuring that they reach the targeted beneficiaries. Monitoring the registration of refugees and the issuance of ID cards also fell within his working brief. Because the he is very familiar with the culture of the refugees concerned, he has been instrumental on several occasions in defusing conflicts between the authorities, the displaced and refugee communities.

UNV humanitarian relief assignments with UNHCR are usually field-based, with UNVs often acting as the operational link between refugee populations and UNHCR administration in the country concerned. Such UNVs assist with refugee reception, establishment of transit or settlement camps, camp administration and infrastructure. Direct contact with refugees is usually required for case assessment and determination of protection issues. UN Volunteers have now been recruited to assist UNHCR in many countries, for example in Burundi and Tanzania, in receiving Rwandan refugees.

Togolese refugees sheltered in Ghana. (Photo: UNV/Caroline Radjabali)

UNVs also work in related technical support to backstop UNHCR field operations. Mohammad Atique Zaman from Bangladesh recently worked as a UNV mechanic on UNHCR's vehicle fleets to ensure the successful delivery of vital emergency relief supplies to displaced populations who had migrated to towns along the Kenya/Somalia border. Essentially, his work concentrated on four main areas: mechanics; management of the spare parts depot; training of local staff, and overseeing the overall running of the vehicle fleets.

Due to the continuing civil war and recent drought in Somalia, many different Somali clans became refugees in Northern Kenya. In response to the crisis, UNHCR in 1992/1993 set up reception centres and camps in towns on both sides of the border such as El Wak, Mandera and Liboi. Rapid availability of spare parts was an area which the UNV specialist identified as an immediate problem and he therefore set up several spare parts depots. Furthermore, he passed on his mechanical skills to twenty local staff. In Liberia, a UNV specialist from Japan, Keiichi Hara, and one from Ireland, James Shelly, serve as mechanics in support of the UNOMIL operation. Over the past few years, mechanics have also played key roles in the mobilisation and maintenance of convoys in the former Yugoslavia, bringing life-saving supplies to victims on both sides to the conflict.

Repatriation/return of refugees and displacees

Attending to the needs of refugees and displacees while uprooted forms an important part of the humanitarian support provided by UNV specialists, but most refugees and displacees yearn to return to their homes of origin. UNVs are also involved in arranging voluntary resettlement or repatriation, or in helping refugees on the road to recovery and self-reliance, as within the PRODERE programme in Central America. They work to ensure conditions are appropriate for repatriation, to arrange the logistics of transport home and to facilitate the return and reintegration in place of origin.

Activities with UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have included the return of Mozambicans internally displaced as well as from surrounding countries. UNV specialists have also assisted in the repatriation of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan, and of Cambodians from neighbouring countries in South-East Asia.

In June 1994, UNV and IOM agreed on a global memorandum of understanding for UNV support to IOM projects, to assist wherever forced population movements occur.

A new programme is currently under way in Asmara, where UNV specialists are supporting PROFERI, the programme for the voluntary repatriation of 430,000 Eritrean refugees from Sudan. Many of the UNV specialists for this programme are Eritrean professionals who have been recruited from countries of exile - their first opportunity to come home and help rebuild their newly-independent nation.

Everything ready for repatriating Guatemalan refugees from Mexico. (Photo: UNV/Gilles Reboux)

Monitoring and promoting respect for human rights, and enabling protection

UNV specialists sometimes live among communities at risk or in situations of rising tension. Serving as UNV Protection Officers with UNHCR, or as Human Rights Monitors, they both monitor human rights observance and report on factors of latent strife or processes of alienation between groups.

A Dutch UNV Specialist in the Yemen has just completed an assignment as a UNHCR Protection Officer assisting both Somali and Ethiopian refugees who are resident in the El-Koud Refugee camp in Abian, which hosts over 7,000 refugees. His primary responsibility was to disseminate information to refugees on legal aspects of the following matters: resettlement; emigration; UNHCR documents; legal assistance for those refugees who have had charges brought against them arising from fights between refugees themselves or refugees and others.

In addition to being involved in the preparation and implementation of repatriation programmes for the Ethiopian refugees, the UNV Specialist had a strong input to the development of the UNHCR Social Service programme which provides sports and cultural facilities for the disabled and for women. He was also instrumental in setting up (with the financial backing of the German DAFI fund), educational programmes for the refugees related to the UNHCR University programme.

Persistent constraints, restricted access and local hostility to UN personnel made it extremely difficult for Hiromasa Nakai (Japan) to operate effectively and deal with an overwhelming case-load of human rights abuses (ethnic cleansing) against minorities in the Banja Luka area of Bosnia. Nonetheless his work with UNHCR as a Social Services Officer served to reveal widespread abuses. UNV Protection Officer Benny Ben Otim from Uganda faced the same difficulties, yet managed to retrieve some families from imminent "ethnic cleansing" and arranged their rescue to safe havens.

Presently the UNV programme in Geneva is working closely with the UN Centre for Human Rights to assign further UNVs to work as Human Rights monitors in Kigali and along the border areas of neighbouring asylum countries. And another 72 Human Rights promoters are currently assigned to the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).

Confidence- and capacity-building at community level

The capacity of local NGOs in war zones is often almost completely eroded. The work done progressively and with total dedication by supportive UNVs such as Annette O'Gorman from Ireland, with UNHCR in Sarajevo at the height of the siege, was a rare glimmer of hope and an important factor in rebuilding local confidence and endurance. Restoring confidence in social institutions and overcoming the paralytic despondency of Sarajevo's war trauma was a large part of her empowerment strategy. She built up a network of inter-agency/NGO support for the Collective Centres of Sarajevo. Daily she ran the gauntlet of Sniper Alley, checking that relief supplies were reaching the 29 Centres that shelter thousands of the displacees and refugees in Sarajevo. Annette helped gather together over 30 Bosnian professionals from different disciplines to be trained as volunteers for community social work. Much of her work focused on unaccompanied minors and preparations for family reunification.

A special programme, awaiting funding, is being drawn up to support community-based rehabilitation and development in Liberia, with a special focus on communities receiving demobilised soldiers. The signing of the peace accords in July 1993 prepared the ground for the demobilisation, electoral, and rehabilitation process. Although the elections have been indefinitely suspended due to the continuing conflict in the country, some 34 UNV Specialists continue to work in Liberia. Many are involved in peace-keeping activities and confidence-and capacity-building at community level. Others serve as camp supervisors with UNOMIL; four serve as mechanics and there are also food aid monitors, logistics officers and one veterinarian.

Whatever the field of the UNV specialist's work, there is always a conscious decision to integrate into it an element of confidence -and capacity-building, be it through the sharing of skills with the local communities or helping to establish structures which will endure long after the volunteer has completed the assignment. That commitment is present in the mind of the volunteer, in his or her daily work with local communities, returnees and the internally displaced. UNV specialists help strengthen local coping mechanisms in such a way as not only to facilitate the reinsertion of returnees and the internally displaced but build a bridge from relief/rehabilitation to self- sustaining development.

Preventing conflict and mending bridges between communities

Teams of UNV specialists in Afghanistan have used reconstruction programmes as a magnet to draw warring factions together in rehabilitation of shared infrastructure, under a UNDP rural rehabilitation strategy. UNVs also played a key role in cross-border and cross-line relief and rehabilitation operations there, facilitating the setting-up of district development committees which acted as fora to shift inter-group dynamics away from factional rivalries to incentive-led collaborative reconstruction.

In Croatia, UNDP is funding an inter-ethnic endeavour particularly benefiting the elderly, women, and children. UNVs have been working on the spot to demonstrate the feasibility of resettling minority groups in their former villages through such community self-help and social action, and hoping to foster inter-ethnic harmony. Over 90 villages under UNPROFOR protection have already received Serb and Croat returnees.

In Mauritania UNV Oliver Delarue from France works as a Field Officer with UNHCR and as part of his work he acts as a facilitator for inter-communal dialogue and peace initiatives between leaders of rival Touareg and Maure communities in the UNHCR camps for Malian refugees.

In the Lebanon, in association with the Ministry for Displaced Persons, UNV Specialists and National UNVs are involved in a holistic and humanitarian project to resettle in their home villages some of the 90,000 families displaced in the civil conflict of some years back.

Briefing the Mozambique press on the work with demobilised soldiers: UNV Bengt Svenson (Sweden). (Photo: UNV/Bill Jackson)

Focusing on the special needs of women and vulnerable groups

Displaced and refugee populations usually consist mainly of women, children, and the aged. For example, sixty percent of the beneficiaries of UNV specialists' activities with refugees in Burundi and Tanzania are Rwandan women and children.

The condition of women and children in complex emergencies such as conflict or famine is most fragile, especially in that female-headed households tend to form such a major part of such populations. The economic as well as physical dislocation of conflict renders them extremely vulnerable. Material well-being is also an insufficient concern - the mental, psychological and social well-being of people under the shock of the loss of family members and friends and the trauma of warfare are more difficult to deal with, and require more sustained support, especially to restore self-esteem.

In Bosnia-Hercegovina, a scattered group of UNV women social services officers with UNHCR counselled traumatised rape victims, set up care-and-healing centers, and restored child-care centers and orphanages to receive abandoned infants, e.g. in Sarajevo and Zenice.

In Somalia, determined efforts by a Japanese UNV, Midori Paxton, to involve Somali women's groups in rehabilitation bore fruit when workshops conducted by UNOSOM drew several womens' groups together to lend them a collective voice on the role which Somali women should play in reconstruction and on issues such as health and orphan care. Women's cooperatives have also been created among refugees from Mali in Mauritania, with the help of UNV specialists serving therewith UNHCR.

Driven out of house and home in the former Yugoslavia - a mother and her children.

Education as therapy and for employment

Revitalising education can be an important way of normalising society in post-conflict situations. UNV specialists have been fielded to support 'Operation Lifeline Sudan' which brings vital relief supplies to targeted beneficiaries in southern Sudan. UNVs are also providing badly needed services to UNICEF programmes - one of which is an educational programme for war orphans and children severely affected by post-trauma stress. A similar programme is being developed with UNESCO and UNICEF for war orphans who are swelling the ranks of street children and unemployed youth in the cities of Angola. UNV specialists will provide the international experience and expertise to support the latter programme, for which funds have not yet been obtained.

Another special programme awaiting funding would focus on restarting various courses at the University of Liberia in war-torn Monrovia. UNV hopes to bring back experienced lecturers from the region as UNV specialists. In due course, it is hoped that UNV specialists will be provided to do similar work in Somalia.

Children should not be penalised: education should resume as quickly a possible.

Restoring food self-sufficiency

Getting away from the tragic famine conditions in Somalia in 1992 required restoration of food self-sufficiency. Coming from Japan where he was Project Coordinator for Japanese disaster relief teams abroad, Yuji Taketomo used his experience in Gulf War refugee camps to improve the logistics of importing and distributing agricultural inputs for FAO programmes.

Using such inputs, UNV agronomist Michael Agar (from Sudan), working with FAO in Hargeisa, managed seed, pesticide, sprayer, and tool distribution to over 30,000 displaced and returnee farmers and agropastoralists in the north of Somalia. Such support enabled local communities to resume agricultural activities and reduce dependency on food aid. The regions which benefited from FAO assistance included Borama, Hargeisa, Burao and Las-Anod. During the months of September/October 1993, the FAO programme of the gu season effectively took off, with the distribution of four different varieties of seeds - sorghum, cowpeas, mung beans and groundnuts - to families engaged in rainfed agricultural activities in north west Somalia. Despite the immense problems of insecurity and harsh conditions that exist in this region of Somalia, the FAO Emergency Agricultural programme achieved its objective of providing returnee refugee and displaced farmers with the essential agricultural inputs to restart their activities.

Six months after this distribution activity, it was evident that it had been extremely successful - most of the farmers in irrigated and rainfed areas had dramatically increased their output. There is now food security in these areas for the first time in over three years.

In Liberia a similar tools and seeds distribution programme which a UNV agronomist worked on successfully, helped farmers settle after the years of civil strife.

In Mauritania, Luis Cueto from Peru, a former FAO Chief Technical Advisor, used his skills and experience to establish horticultural and livestock activities, for 38,000 Touareg and Maure displaced persons from Mali, developing income-generating activities for them during an assignment as a UNV Emergency Field Officer with UNHCR.

UNV Zita O'Donohue, a Baby Nurse Specialist from Australia, working with Vietnamese "boat people" in Whitehead Detention Centre, Hong Kong. (Photo UNV/Eva Leon-Hing)

Rebuilding primary health care and preventing epidemics

Setting up a network of health surveillance sites was part of the work of Benito Tovera, UNV Regional Public Health Coordinator with WHO in the north of Somalia. His work entailed re-establishing health care capacity in semi-rehabilitated hospitals and clinics.

In a similar assignment Bernarda Cortes, also from the Philippines, developed key programmes for epidemiological surveillance and immunisation activities. She organised vaccination campaigns and epidemic preparedness plans, and oriented Somali zonal health officers. UNVs in Mozambique serve as medical staff to support provincial and central hospitals, helping them maintain their basic operations.

In Uganda, two UNV specialists, Musa M. Baldeh (The Gambia) and Florence Opadina (Nigeria) are working full-time on AIDS education programmes in support of local communities, in close collaboration with TASO, a local NGO which acts as an AIDS support organisation to individuals and families affected by the disease. Florence Opadina has recently had her curriculum on AIDS education endorsed by the Government as part of its health education programme, and has also produced a series of leaflets and booklets on AIDS awareness for general distribution.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic poses a major threat to populations on the move. Studies have shown that the incidence of seropositivity significantly increases amongst displaced populations and refugees, as well as in resident communities affected by such movements and by conflict or the return of demobilised militia. The issue must be addressed as an integral part of any response to conflict, displacement, or demobilisation responses.

In Liberia, UNV Francis Nahamya from Uganda works with WHO and the National AIDS Control Programme. His work focuses on two target groups for counselling and training: sex-workers who would serve as peer-helpers and military personnel (including regional peace-keeping troops from neighbouring countries, as well as former combatants who are being rehabilitated by the Interim Government in Monrovia), Addressing the needs of these two groups most exposed to risks of Sexually Transmitted Disease requires a prevention campaign that focuses on immediate protection while longer-term behavioural changes are brought about.

Developing new opportunities for sustainable recovery

The UNV Programme is constantly searching for new ways of providing opportunities for sustainable recovery, particularly in the aftermath of either natural or man made catastrophes. For example, in the Philippines, a country prone to recurrent natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, UN Volunteers have over the years been involved in community-based initiatives to help communities get back on their feet. Projects ranging from providing new types of housing or shelter to better withstand natural calamities to income- generating projects in fisheries have strengthened local coping.

Similarly in Eritrea, two UNV specialists based in Massawa on the Red Sea are very much involved in a Government/UNDP fisheries reactivation programme for the Semhar province. Following Eritrea's Independence in 1991, the Progressive Government of Eritrea proposed a reactivation of the Red Seas fisheries project in Assab and also in the fishing villages of Dhalak Islands and the Massawa area. In 1992, the Government and UNDP signed an agreement to release funds to this project, and FAO requested UN Volunteers to work on the rehabilitation programme. Presently two of the major aspects of this programme are being managed by UNV specialists.

In 1992, UNV Moinul Islam from Bangladesh set up an institution for credit for schemes to supply fishermen with essential fishing gear, boats and engines. This has been running very successfully for over a year and has a 90% payback record. The UNV has also carried out with the local fishing community collective marketing of fish and fish products in the province. In addition the institution also runs a welfare service. Simultaneously, UNV Ahmed Sabrie Siad has with the help of local fishermen recently completed the construction of a small factory which is being used for smoking fish locally caught. The products being prepared will shortly be test-marketed. If the feedback is positive, the possibilities for exporting the products will be explored. Both projects very much reflect confidence and capacity-building.

Elsewhere, to take the example of Botswana, thirty UNV civil engineers are embarking on a rural public works programme aimed at improving rural infrastructure and creating non-farm jobs as an alternative source of income for those whose livelihoods have been devastated by the recent drought.

Registering refugees in Afghanistan

Drawing from experience in the field

The humanitarian/peace/democratisation complex obviously constitutes a major present and future opportunity for constructive social development. The humanitarian relief and rehabilitation dimension offers great possibilities for UNV and UNDP, and provides strategic entry for subsequent graduation to longer-term sustainable development,

Once a major programme opportunity arises, rapid networking with the Country Offices and supportive organisations (including the traditional UNV Cooperating Organizations and newer theme-specific partners) can lead to greatly expanded UNV delivery capacity, as witnessed by the mobilisation for the Cambodia elections. Major programme opportunities for UNV can devolve from major UN agenda issues, especially arising out of Security Council preoccupations. Mention has already been made in this document of the human rights area in terms of the services which UNV is beginning to mobilise.

After a couple of years of increasingly intensive UNV involvement in humanitarian assistance, a number of issues merit further consideration. First and foremost is that the feedback received from the UNV specialists themselves is essential to any meaningful appreciation of the work they are actually doing. The feedback being received at present, as reflected in this document, gives only a partial idea of the extent to which the UNV specialists have in fact achieved considerable humanitarian results, as confirmed by visiting missions to the field and by the positive comments of user agencies. For a more detailed account it will be essential that UNV specialists (and their supervisors) systematically and regularly foreward periodic review reports.

Experience already gleaned from UNV involvement in various humanitarian assistance programmes demonstrates that capable and dedicated UNV specialists at local levels can:

• Provide support staff to local emergency relief coordinating units.

Examples: Rwanda, Lesotho, Kenya, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan

• Provide the necessary skills and local managerial capacity to support effective access to afflicted populations.

Examples: Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Somalia and ex-Yugoslavia

• Accelerate outreach to people in areas not presently receiving adequate assistance, through strengthened activities of the UN Agencies.

Examples: Angola, Mozambique, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania

• Reduce mortality among young children, women, and the vulnerable; restore primary health care and other basic services (water, social, agricultural, veterinary, etc.), and accelerate return or resettlement of displaced communities.

Examples: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda

• Develop income-generating and re-training activities for demobilised local militia/military and facilitate their reintegration into civil society, pre-empting risks of marginalisation and future destabilisation.

Examples: Eritrea, Somalia, Liberia and Mozambique,

• Assist in registration for return, and in logistical and technical arrangements for resettlement and repatriation of refugees, and internally displaced persons.

Examples: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia

• Monitor emerging human rights and humanitarian issues in major risk areas, and in areas of current strife, as they relate to possible UN and UNV roles.

Examples: Rwanda, Liberia and ex-Yugoslavia

There are two essential conditions for UNV specialists to be successful in these endeavours. One is that in addition to being carefully selected, the UNV specialists must be given a comprehensive cultural and country orientation at the beginning of their assignments; this should also entail an intensive local language training course, especially for those UNV specialists deployed in postings involving community interaction. Other training which may be required may include: participatory methods; recruitment and management of national staff; negotiation and mediation; security matters, personal safety, and communications. The other condition is that sustainable impact can only be brought about through association with local national co-workers, so that a dynamic of self-reliance is built in all UNV-supported activities.

During the past two years, a high percentage of UNV Specialists have undertaken assignments in war-zone areas such as Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. What has emerged from their periodic field reports is the need to incorporate personal stress and trauma management into pre - departure orientation/training. To date one group has availed of this type of pre-departure orientation through a special course organised in Geneva by the Humanitarian Relief Unit, for UNVs undertaking missions in various parts of the former Yugoslavia. The course proved to be highly successful and of immeasurable value to the volunteers when they reached the field.

Furthermore, the need for UNV specialists to have access to post-trauma counselling, should they be involved in a security incident, is one which is very much acknowledged by the HRU, and it is a policy which UNV is endeavouring to implement whenever and wherever possible. In fact, many UNV specialists who spend more than 3-6 monthsin an environment of continuous conflict and instability have reported that they would have benefited greatly from access to a qualified post-trauma counsellor after their assignment finished.

As UNV further develops its humanitarian capacity, new programmes are being continually developed. Many uncertainties remain, of which security concerns are of special importance. UNV is developing a security assessment methodology for determining the risks inherent in deployment in some areas, so that candidates and their co-sponsoring organisations can be better informed and prepared.

As UNV further develops its humanitarian capacity, new programmes are being continually developed. Many uncertainties remain, of which security concerns are of special importance

Reducing scope for conflict: demobilisation

UNV could also consider downstream linkages to highly localised initiatives of preventive "diplomacy", mediation or conflict pre-emption. Another area relates to demobilisation of the military/militia, and the issues that emerge in the relationship between the military and civil society in developing countries undergoing democratisation and structural adjustment.

As the military disengage from government and hand over to civilian administration or fragment factionally under societal collapse, a challenge is posed, more especially if the forces of micro-nationalism appear on the scene. If and when peace can be restored, how can the military return to barracks, and at the same time be given a constructive role to play in the nation's welfare? How can it be seen to play a positive and productive role, beyond the domain of national security, but sufficient in scope and responsibility to obviate the temptation to usurp civil government? And in the context of demobilisation, how can discharged military personnel be re-integrated meaningfully into civilian life, rather than becoming a destabilising force? These are the challenges UNV specialists are facing in new programmes in this context, underway or beginning in Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Eritrea and Somalia.

To respond effectively requires a new dialogue between governments, military leaders and relief and development agencies, Innovative programmes can be considered to take advantage of the highly organised and disciplined ranks of military manpower to implement infrastructural projects. Donors and military could combine to carry out programmes to repair deteriorating urban infrastructure, renew services, and to extend them to the urban poor (low-cost housing, roads, water and sanitation services, garbage collection, etc.). Army engineering and health personnel could similarly fill gaps being felt as a result of cutbacks on sectoral ministries. A transition phase could witness the military budget compensating for structural adjustment austerity on sectoral programmes, until a gradual re-equilibrium could be restored through the shift of resources from defence spending to socio-economic sectors,

Military personnel may represent an organised work-force, and the potential to capitalise on inculcated discipline (if it remains) for carrying out reconstruction or environmental programmes can be a major advantage. The military usually also contain a range of skills and training (medical, engineering, logistical, catering, etc.) which can be relatively easily converted into civilian use. On the other hand, failure to deal satisfactorily with the conversion of demobilised troops will not only accentuate unemployment, but also shift the burden of family income-generating responsibility increasingly to women. In the short-term it is likely to contribute to family breakdown, female-headed single-parent households, and various social problems.

UNVs have also been involved in labour-intensive public works programmes, in small-scale enterprise development at community-level; and in community-based participatory environmental programmes that could be pulled together to dovetail with relief/rehabilitation programmes involving those demobilised.

Since the military are most often barracked in urban areas, the brunt of demobilisation may fall unevenly on already over-stretched urban infrastructure and services, even if, as is often the case in LDCs, the soldiers have been recruited from rural areas (and may contain a large percentage of women, as in Ethiopia, or children, as in Liberia). If they have rural backgrounds, there may be obvious advantages for post-encampment facilitation of their return to rural areas, with e.g. farming start-up packages in lieu of weapons under a disarmament trade-off. Only in more advanced economies could one envisage making use of such labour reserves in urban areas for industrialisation strategies.

It is worthwhile to note the success of food-for-work programmes in Eritrea, since the end of the war, in contributing to the overall rehabilitation of the country. Presently there are two major programmes being implemented which UNDP along with other agencies has been supporting. The first is a programme which employs several thousand demobilised soldiers on infrastructural projects, concentrating-on road and bridge building. The second is a national tree planting programme which also involves ex-fighters, to help combat the serious environmental problems Eritrea has in this area.

UNVs have also been involved in labour-intensive public works programmes, in small-scale enterprise development at community-level; and in community-based participatory environmental programmes that could be pulled together to dovetail with relief/rehabilitation programmes involving those demobilised. Given these and related concerns, UNV has assisting with the demobilisation of military personnel through camp management and other services such as vocational training, under ONUMOZ in Mozambique, and UNOMIL in Liberia.

A Japanese "Blue Beret" and UNV's Program Manager Joao Kol, confer in Mozambique

Participatory peace-building dynamics

UNV humanitarian activities with UN operational agencies and NGOs in complex protracted emergencies often require comprehensive security cover, and the success of such relief/rehabilitation programmes will often depend on parallel conflict resolution approaches at various levels of the affected communities, and the deployment of UN peace-keeping forces.

UNV's participatory development activities could be expanded to link into a network of community-oriented micro-conflict resolution resources. This is important since the rapid expansion of demand for UNV specialists for humanitarian programmes has come, not so much from emergencies arising out of sudden-onset natural disasters, but from complex/compound emergencies of societies in turmoil.

Urgently erecting a camp for Rwandan refugees

David Costanza from the US, as part of his UNV Electoral/Civic Education portfolio in Cambodia, lectured Cambodian police and soldiers on womens' rights. His team produced brochures on aids and on rehydration, and recommended follow-up projects in health care and adult literacy.

UNVs' work in humanitarian relief can also be complemented by parallel peace-building efforts. There are many ways in which UNVs have been supporting conflict resolution dynamics:

• in helping local communities overcome confrontation
• in breaching barriers and taboos to communication and broader participation
• in promoting civic education, especially for democratisation
• in training local leaders in mediation and negotiation
• in providing opportunities for collective reconstruction which bring people together in achieving common goals

Work along these lines has been undertaken by UNV specialists and field workers in, for example, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos, Somalia, and the former-Yugoslavia.

Promoting human rights and education for peace

Much humanitarian assistance undertaken with the support of UN volunteer specialists today relates to consequences of conflicts within states, between parties engaged in warfare against the state or other parties. These conflicts where one or more of the parties is not a member of the international community are increasingly prosecuted with complete disregard for human life and for humanitarian law. There is nothing "civil" about today's civil wars.

The dramatic increase in belligerence towards third parties with humanitarian motives is of great concern. The denial or restriction of access to non-combatant populations under siege or otherwise suffering from the effects of non-international conflict is already a serious enough constraint to deal with, especially for volunteers. Actual harassment, hostility, or physical assault on humanitarian aid workers or convoys is profoundly contemptuous of humanity as a whole. UNV specialists have been occasionally intercepted or detained by armed militia, albeit later released.

Education on the principles of humanitarian law must become part of a wider education-for-peace endeavour inculcating humanitarian values from kindergarten upwards. Ignorance of humanitarian principles, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention (and Protocol II, 1977) on the protection of civilians, cannot be allowed as an excuse for abuses or atrocities conducted in time of conflict by non-state parties.

Wherever rising social, ethnic, or other tensions increase the likelihood of conflict emerging, intensive publicity and special educational programmes should be systematically promoted. In fact dissemination of the principles is an obligation contained in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Protocols. The international community should dedicate resources to a stand-by fund to co-finance special programmes in such cases.

At the local level, neutral international volunteers could be brought-in to work with local volunteers in mixed UNV teams to proselytise for peace and respect for human rights and humanitarian principles. The result should be an overwhelming social reprobation for inhumane, behaviour and practices. Parties to disputes must recognise that the application of humanitarian principles in the prosecution of their campaigns does not in itself advance or compromise the legitimacy of their cause. If conflict does break-out, at least social intolerance of inhumanity should serve to render human rights abuses less likely.

The initially incidental but pioneering work in which some UNVs have been involved at the grassroots in participatory programmes at community level, and requiring e.g. mediating between opposing groups, becomes increasingly relevant in a world of depleting resources faced with demographic pressures. Competition over environmental assets and resources is bound to add to social tensions. The advocacy and monitoring of human rights observance, combined with the promotion of inter-communal solutions to joint problems, will play an important part in maintaining the social harmony necessary for sustainable human development in situations of latent conflict.

Education on the principles of humanitarian law must become part of a wider education-for-peace endeavour inculcating humanitarian values from kindergarten upwards.

Disaster prevention and preparedness at community level

On the natural disaster preparedness and mitigation side, UNV is exploring the scope for joint programmes with regional, sub-regional and national disaster management centers, as well as support to National Committees established for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), in collaboration with UNDP and UN/DHA, Whether complex or natural, disasters strike hardest at the poorest: poverty alleviation is a major factor in reducing vulnerability to the effects of disasters. Equally however, experience shows that human and financial investment in disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation is extremely cost-effective compared to the damage and destruction which otherwise ensue.

For several years UNVs have been directly involved in Disaster prevention and preparedness programmes. For example, in Kenya, UNV specialists are part of the UN Disaster Management Team in Nairobi which provides a vital link between humanitarian relief assistance and development.

UNV specialists are also working in various aspects of disaster preparedness and mitigation programmes to support institutions developing and implementing data-gathering and analysis programmes, e.g. epidemiological surveys, in early warning systems, or introducing new methods of construction for low-cost earthquake-resistant homes in Uganda, or storm-resistant housing in the Cook Islands.

Working out of such institutions, UNV specialists help draw attention to the needs for low-cost disaster prevention/mitigation (DPM) measures at municipal and community level in disaster-prone countries, using appropriate technologies and focusing on the most vulnerable low-income communities,

Similarly, UNV specialists and UNV field workers work to strengthen the technical and managerial capacity of local NGOs and community-based organisations in many countries, particularly under UNVs Participatory Development Programme ("DDS") for strengthening community-based organisations. This is active in a number of African and Asian countries and facilitates sub-regional exchange between experienced grassroots volunteer development workers.

Increasingly, UNVs could generate data on disaster preparedness at country and municipal level for the IDNDR, and in the same or at a subsequent stage, support the percolation of disaster management training (DMT) to sub-national level and community level.

Putting human development back on the agenda

As already mentioned, UNV specialists working in humanitarian assistance programmes are by and large working in complex emergency situations. The relief-to-rehabilitation-to-development "continuum" is especially intricate in these cases, with no clear dividing line between one phase and another, but rather many situations of parallel or overlapping dimensions.

The recent rise in the incidence of such complex emergencies, along with other factors relating to the end of the Cold War and the emergence of vast areas of Eurasia in economic and political transition, as well as global recession, have sapped resources that hitherto underpinned many development efforts in low-income countries. This fact adds urgency to the need to aggressively ensure that humanitarian assistance rapidly achieves its goals at minimum cost, and that the method and nature of aid delivery neither aggravates an emergency situation nor perpetuates dependency,

Insofar as UNV specialists most often work in an outreach mode, in direct contact with beneficiary populations and working with them if not also living amongst them, they offer the UN system a unique network of antennae that can listen to local needs and observe local capacities. UNV specialists very frequently go "beyond the call of duty", as recently attested to by the development impact of the after-hours activities of over 400 UNV district electoral supervisors in Cambodia (they helped in village reconstruction, community education, etc.). They can therefore play an important role in generating project ideas and stimulating new initiatives for the reintegration of uprooted populations into the social and economic development of the community and of the country.

Tracking the resources for resettlement of refugees in Guatemala

A multi-dimensional approach to the programming of UNV support to humanitarian relief and rehabilitation activities could induce a triple impact on local aspects of complex emergencies: UNV relief specialists could be teamed-up with two other kinds of UNV partners: participatory development (UNV/'DDS") specialists/field workers, and national UNVs. The twinning with UNV/DDS field workers would serve to ensure that even as early as during the delivery of emergency relief assistance, opportunities for restoring communities' coping mechanisms, and for igniting participatory development initiatives, would be identified and promoted. If participatory methods training (e.g. for rapid appraisal techniques) can be shared with UNV humanitarian relief specialists, they too can endeavour to integrate nationals (i.e. those who are members of assisted beneficiary communities) in leading the design, implementation and management of relief programmes.

There is no substitute for national leadership of the rehabilitation and development process. By proactively co-opting national partners (individuals for example as National UNVs, community-based organisations, and national NGOs) into the work undertaken by UNV specialists for UN system agencies' humanitarian programmes, one is also laying the foundations for national capacity and leadership to (re-) emerge in these fields. This kind of approach would also help better attune the currently rather interventionist nature of some international emergency programmes, and ensure greater acceptability and accountability to the local beneficiary communities. It would also concretely facilitate the forward drive towards sustainable development.

Guatemalan refugee women tend seedlings in a project run by refugees in Chiapas, Mexico.

Administrative support to UNVs in humanitarian assignments

When UNV specialists are introduced into a UN Agency's humanitarian programme or field administration for the first time, it greatly helps their integration if the Agency Headquarters concerned communicates to its field management personnel, that:

(a) UNV specialists are seasoned professionals in their own right (on average in mid-career), whose unique characteristic is a blend of altruistic motivation with a willingness to serve on non-salaried terms for a limited duration;

(b) UNV specialists seek to provide support complementary to the roles of other UN agency personnel, with a special niche to service the outreach of the programme to beneficiaries;

(c) UNV specialists are contracted for specific assignments with detailed job descriptions and duty stations: if circumstances warrant important modifications, these should be discussed between the UNV specialist and his/her supervisor, on arrival or later, and referred to UNV/HQ for approval before alteration (except in situations where extenuating emergency or security conditions warrant otherwise - where in any event UNV/HQ should be immediately informed);

(d) upon arrival at the duty station, supervisors and UNV specialists should draw-up a work-plan for the UNV specialist, which should be regularly revised;

(e) a comprehensive period of orientation should be arranged for each newly-arrived UNV specialist, if necessary including a period of local language training;

(f) a schedule of UNV periodic reports is established for each UNV specialist, and the cooperation of the UN Agency supervisor is essential in maintaining the frequency and timeliness of reporting.

Levels of overall support to UNV specialists must be ascertained before deployment: including for supervision, accommodation, equipment, transport, and the volunteer should be advised of the level of support to expect from the start of the assignment. Obviously, UNV specialist assignments need verifiable objectives and realistic expectations of success - they must also be sufficiently resourced. All UNVs going to the field need comprehensive country orientation material.

Adequacy and frequency of communication with outposted UNVs is an important factor in maintaining morale and facilitating success Communication facilities (radios, etc.) and guidelines on procedures should be provided systematically to UNV specialists in isolated postings. Additionally where security is concerned UNVs in high risk duty stations, should only be deployed with protective clothing and equipment (flak-jackets, helmets, radios).

In the course of their assignments, some UNVs may be delegated as agency authorities for petty cash, issuance of Travel Authorisations for other staff, procurement, inventory, management of sub-offices, organisation of convoys, etc. Such delegations of authority should be clearly specified and detailed in revised job descriptions.

Low-cost housing for refugees returning from Mexico to Guatemala

H... for Humanity: serving a purpose... for millions in need

The prevention/mitigation of complex emergencies entails the development of social/political early warning systems -country-based collection and analysis of information on emerging threats to social/national stability, along the lines of the Secretary-General's "Agenda for Peace". UNV, through human rights monitoring, as currently with UNHCR in Bosnia-Hercegovina or the UN Centre for Human Rights in Rwanda, can usefully promote a new understanding, definition, and structures for recognition and protection of minority rights. The efforts currently under way in Somalia, Rwanda, Central America, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina may herald some lessons for consideration, when analysed in due course. Other programme development work is focusing on UNV responses to needs for various kinds of logistic, food distribution, information management and other technical roles to address the effects of protracted complex emergencies.

UNV specialists and field workers may also help to:

• Identify and implement risk-reduction measures for humanitarian relief in hazardous zones

• Promote effective containment, settlement, and resolution of minor, local disputes impeding humanitarian efforts, through training of local relief committees and community leaders in community participation and conflict resolution techniques

• Promote democracy at the level of local communities, and provide impartial observation and verification

• Act as focal points for facilitating local integrated inter-agency and cross-mandate approaches to relief/rehabilitation efforts, whilst promoting direct local initiative and leadership in advancing the agenda toward longer-term sustainable recovery

• Initiate institutional recovery and strengthening of local capacities for project identification and implementation

The expansion of UNV support to humanitarian assistance has been phenomenal in the last three years: the total number of serving UNV specialists in this area is around 300, with funds now available for another 320 additional assignments. However over another 400 assignments are still on the drawing board, lacking funds. The full portfolio, including unfunded pipeline, now exceeds a potential 1,200 assignments. The number of humanitarian projects assisted has doubled in the last 12 months alone, with over 100 humanitarian projects being implemented at present and receiving the support of UNV specialists, and a further 40 in the pipeline.

It is perhaps the moment to recall the plight of the intended beneficiaries of such humanitarian activities: spread over 36 countries, the total population affected by UN system humanitarian programmes which avail of the dedication and services of UNV specialists is, estimated to exceed 45 million people.

UNV is working to translate its strategic approach into practice and weave its various themes (humanitarian assistance, community-focused initiatives, democratisation support, and technical co-operation) together into a fabric of support for more sustainable efforts that advance local agendas away from relief and dependency towards recovery, self-reliance: in short, lasting, people-centred development.



Domestic Development Services


Department of Humanitarian Affairs


Disaster Management Training Programme


Food and Agricultural Organisation


Humanitarian Relief Unit, UNV


International Civil Aviation Organisation


International Committee of the Red Cross


International Council of Voluntary Agencies


International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction


International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies


International Organisation for Migration


Least Developed Country


Non-Governmental Organisation


Office of Project Services


UN Children's Fund


UN Centre for Human Settlements


UN Development Programme


UN Disaster Relief Organisation


UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation


UN Operation in Liberia


UN Operation in Mozambique


UN Operation in Somalia


UN High Commisioner for Refugees


United Nations Volunteers


World Health Organisation


World Food Programme

Text by Francis O'Donnell and Maria Keating
Layout by Chinta Rajap

CH - 1211 GENEVA 10

Tel: (41 22) 788 24 55
Fax: (41 22) 788 25 01
Email: (Internet)