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UNHCR and CEB sign an agreement in Geneva

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 31 October 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antònio Guterres and the Governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) Raphaël Alomar are signing today a document which will help UNHCR to find lasting solutions and change lives for thousands of European refugees, displaced people and returnees.

The memorandum of understanding, entering into force this morning in Geneva, will enable a long-term financial cooperation and funding of social housing, educational and health projects for uprooted people under UNHCR's mandate - primarily in European countries hosting large displaced populations, such as Georgia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Under the new agreement, the CEB will consider financing selected UNHCR projects in the form of grants, as well as selected projects for populations under our mandate in the form of loans. In the latter case, UNHCR will assist the CEB and the concerned governments in identifying suitable loan projects.

The cooperation between CEB and UNHCR dates back to 1999 when the bank contributed to UNHCR programmes providing emergency water filtration plants and transport for refugees and internally displaced persons in Kosovo.

Since then, the CEB contributed some three million Euros to UNHCR programmes focusing on the sustainable returns in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as housing and in kind assistance for refugees leaving collective centres in Serbia. In September the CEB also announced a supporting grant to UNHCR's operation in Georgia to provide shelter for the newly displaced population from South Ossetia.

The successful cooperation between the CEB and UNHCR represents an outstanding example of how to bridge the gap between humanitarian assistance and long-term development activities and sets a model that UNHCR is keen to replicate with other international financial institutions and development actors.