Improving living conditions for internally displaced people in Azerbaijan
The World Bank’s series of analytical work and advocacy activities on Health and Demography (H&D) contributed to a public debate about the state of health care and associated demographic and economic costs in Ukraine. Key messages from the studies were prominent in the debates during the 2009 presidential election. The government’s economic reform program (2010–2014) now includes key steps toward a reorganized and modernized health care system.
Seven percent of Azerbaijan’s population, approximately 603,000 people, is displaced, proportionally one of the highest concentrations of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the world. These IDPs left Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding territories after an armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, and settled into new locations in Azerbaijan. Without a peace agreement or final resolution of the conflict, they remain unable to return to their lands of origin, and their protracted displacement has profound implications for their social and economic status. Impoverished in the immediate aftermath of their displacement and deprived of their significant assets, IDPs constitute a vulnerable group. They have had to adapt to a new context, but still suffer from loss, trauma, and a sense of social marginalization and hopelessness. IDPs are more likely to be poor, suffer worse living conditions, and display lower employment rates and higher work inactivity rates than the non-displaced.
The project is designed to increase the access to and quality of infrastructure and services among displaced people and to thereby improve their living conditions. The project uses a community driven approach, where IDP communities come to consensus on their development priorities in their local area and formulate and submit proposals for small scale micro-projects to address those priorities. IDPs select a community committee, which represents the wider community and assumes responsibility for overseeing the micro-project including giving input into the micro-project design, collecting a community share to part fund the cost of the project, and evaluating the success of the completed micro-project. This community driven process is intended to raise levels of IDP involvement in development decision making and to increase their level of empowerment and responsibility.
Since 2005, 319 micro-projects have been completed, reaching 197,897 beneficiaries, 49 percent of whom were female. Leading to a general improvement in living conditions and access to services and infrastructure among IDPs, the outputs include:
- rehabilitation of 342 km of road
- rehabilitation of 66 km of water supply pipes
- installation of 124 km of new electricity cable
- repair of 43 schools, attended by 1800 children
- temporary employment for 3,945 IDPs in construction works on the micro-projects
The outcome and impacts of micro-projects are identified on a case by case basis; when IDP community members submit a micro-project proposal, they identify the expected outcome and impact of their desired micro-project. Subsequent to the completion of the micro-project, community members evaluate whether those expected outcomes and impacts have been met. Community members have assessed that 90 percent of expected outcomes for micro-projects have been fully achieved.
The project was funded through a US$ 11.5 million International Development Association (IDA) credit in 2005 and through an IDA additional financing credit of US$ 15.0 million in 2008.
The project is implemented by the Social Fund for the Development of IDPs (SFDI) which reports to the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs (SCRI). Twelve year collaboration between the World Bank and SFDI/SCRI has created a strong platform for dialogue on operational responses and policy reform for IDPs. It has also resulted in the improved capacity of SFDI as an effective implementing agency, which also channels funds from other donors including an allocation of approximately US$ 120 million from the Azerbaijan State Oil Fund. SFDI reports to a multi-agency Supervisory Board, with representatives of government agencies and international donors including UNHCR. UNHCR is represented on the project’s supervisory board, reviews micro-project proposals over a certain amount, and monitors overall project progress.
Promoting economic opportunities and livelihoods of IDPs requires more attention. At present, 71 percent of IDPs report being dependent on state subsidies, such as cash transfers, as the main income source for their households. The Bank and the government are currently considering a re-balancing of the nature of support for IDPs, focusing on improving their employment prospects, building their assets, and strengthening their self reliance. A 2010 study by the Bank and the government has identified constraints and opportunities in increasing IDP self reliance. The findings are informing the design of a proposed new IDP Living Standards and Livelihoods Project, expected to commence in January 2012.
The total of 197,897 people have benefitted from the project.
The Aligulu community of IDPs in the Lachin region has rehabilitated their school. The headmaster says: “The repair works increased the effectiveness of education and the attendance of students. Before, classrooms were damp, windows were not tight, the rooms were cold and student attendance was low. Now all these problems are solved.” Parents also confirm: “Before the repair children often fell ill. Now the classrooms are dry, clean and warm.”
Malahat Masimova, a member of the IDP community in the Ganja region: “Before, members of the community with low incomes couldn’t afford to rent a place for a funeral or a wedding. But now, with a large tent supplied to the community as part of a micro-project, they can easily celebrate engagements, wedding parties and organize mourning ceremonies.”