A one-day consultative meeting to discuss ILO-UNHCR partnership to promote livelihoods and poverty reduction for refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons as well as host communities took place in Monrovia on 30 March 2005 at the Mamba Point Hotel.
The Joint UNHCR- ILO Consultative meeting brought along other 4Rs core group members which included UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, National and International NGOs to discus the draft paper on "Relief to Development Transition" and how an effective partnership can be developed among different actors during transition recovery.
Key points discussed included Vocational Training and Employment creation for the youth including a review of UNHCR's own skills training programs as implemented by GTZ and possible partnership to support the LOIC vocational centers in Lofa, Maryland and Grand-Gedeh among the counties expecting over 60 percent of the total returnee population. The consultative meeting also provided the opportunity for key players to describe the transition problem, and review the current practice with the aim of forwarding recommendations, which included the review of recovery approach by developing more pragmatic linkages with development agencies.
The document also called for the enrichment of reintegration activities in favor of development, livelihoods/income, especially in the latter years of the repatriation-reintegration cycle and most importantly seeking "Inherently Sustainable" partners, such as local institutions, NGOs, churches, CBOs, to take ownership of various development projects.
ILO and UNHCR intend to develop programmes and work together within the 4Rs framework and the framework of the UNHCR multiyear operational plan for the reintegration of Liberian refugees, IDPs. The objective of the technical cooperation with ILO includes the gathering of better information about labor opportunities through a labor market assessment looking into skills, capacities, resources and local economic opportunities and skills/vocational training for self-employment. In addition to help humanitarian, development organizations and government develop a more structured approach to employment and labor in general.
The ILO-UNHCR partnership is also expected to enhance better understanding and cooperation of UN agencies and government on support to the livelihoods of returnees as well as preparation and implementation of sustainable livelihood strategy for returnee areas in Liberia.
UNHCR and its partners have so far implemented community empowerment projects to help returnees settle back home and to absorb the impact of mass returns on the local communities. This involves the repair of shelters, roads, water points, schools and clinics, which in turn, provide much-needed jobs in the community. Most importantly, efforts are being applied for community to take ownership of the various projects. The ILO partnership is also geared to facilitate UNHCR in its exit strategy.
ILO and UNHCR have been working in partnership for many years in order to combine their respective expertise to promote sustainable livelihoods for refugees and displaced persons. This partnership, based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1983, which provided the legal basis for interagency collaboration, has gained momentum over the past years as a result of a strong mutual commitment.
Over the last few years, the ILO-UNHCR partnership has achieved positive results by identifying and elaborating sets of measures aimed at facilitating the economic integration of target population into new communities in order to help them lead a full and productive lives.
After commencing the voluntary repatriation and reintegration exercises for Liberians returning from exile and IDP camps, UNHCR is currently undertaking a comprehensive gaps analysis exercise which is aimed at highlighting areas requiring intervention. In the meantime, additional activities continue to take place. UNHCR through its implementing partner African Concern International (ACI) completed three Watsan Projects in Margibi County and the reconstruction of two-foot bridges in Montserrado County as part of the Community Empowerment Projects (CEPs).
In addition, as part of the inter-agency collaboration with UNDP, and within the 4Rs programming framework, UNHCR took part in the review of 54 micro projects jointly assessed in Grand Cape Mount, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
Four returnee profiling monitors were also re-deployed to Grand Cape Mount County under the UNHCR funded project implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). This is intended to accelerate the data collection process. On 31 March, UNHCR organized the monthly inter-agency coordination meeting to reviewed activities of the various implementing partners in relation to implementation. The discussions also centered on transit management, health services, CEP activities, food distribution, payment of transport grant to IDPs willing to return to their places of origin and the planned distribution of agriculture inputs.