We should expect an upward trend in the rates of return this year any time from 20 January 2007 onwards. The gap between the numbers remaining and registered in Pakistan currently stands at 1.3 million, the closing date for registration of Afghans in Pakistan is 14 days away (written 05 January 2007) and the Pakistani authorities are hinting strongly that they intend to repatriate Afghans who have failed to register.
Large numbers of returnees tend to migrate towards urban centres which are ill-equipped to deal with the additional population and live in inadequate conditions in informal housing settlements due to lack of alternatives. The pressure on the informal housing settlements is reaching critical levels compounded by IDP crises in 2006 prompted by fighting in the south and the drought.
In order to cope with the increased demand, and indeed create the demand, the Land Distribution Scheme needs to develop momentum in 2007 by attracting investment. The following key recommendations are focused on improving the conditions that are conducive for refugees not only to return but also to stay.
Increased investment: Donors may want to "adopt" entire sites and provide an integrated package or focus on specific sectors and implement on a number of sites.
Integrated resettlement: Housing and Public infrastructure, economic development and community mobilisation. More support is needed for construction of housing and the development of public infrastructure. Human capital development, comprising general education and development of productive skills through vocational training and inputs. Small enterprise development and job creation comprising Business Development Services (BDS) to exploit the potential for small business in these new settlements, credit services for both start-up loans for small businesses as well as for medium-larger enterprises wanting to expand and create employment opportunities for residents and training for younger apprentices, creating linkages with private sector and government, especially for home-based employment. Stakeholders need to focus on the development of standard methodology for creation of new communities to ensure basic equity, minimum standards and a positive impact.
Capacity building of authorities: On a range of issues including programme coordination, management and oversight, technical skills and cross cutting issues such as gender and environment. (ACTED advocates a dual approach combining training (using adapted traditional teaching methodologies) and mentoring/consultancy support on an ongoing basis in the work environment to provide practical on- hand expertise.)
Monitoring and Evaluation: General monitoring and comparative analysis of land distribution progress as well as targeted socio-economic studies from the outset to provide baseline information and monitor demand and trends. The results will feed into the development of a standard methodology for development of new communities in Afghanistan.
Programme Integration: Proactive integration with other national programmes will ensure more participation and representation. Parallel interventions to regularise informal settlements: Informal settlements should be upgraded simultaneously to meet minimum standards and prevent deterioration in the environmental and health conditions in the informal settlements.