Program for Return initiative garners $396M in pledges

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees chief Antonio Guterres (center) talks to a returnee in Srebrenica during his visit in Bosnia in August 2009. Participants at a regional donor conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina pledged more than €300 million for the Program for Return initiative. Photo by: UNHCR

Donors are laying the groundwork on a housing program for refugees forced to flee their homes in the 1991 to 1995 conflicts in southeast Europe.

On Tuesday (April 24), participants at a regional donor conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, pledged more than €300 million ($396 million) to the Program for Return initiative. The program is a joint initiative by the four former Yugoslavian states of Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro.

The five-year housing initiative, estimated to cost €583 million, is expected to benefit 74,000 people or 28,000 families, Serbian multimedia company B92 reports. Serbia will receive more than half of the funds: 63 percent. Bosnia will get 20 percent, Croatia 13 percent and Montenegro 4 percent.

The European Union, one of the donors present at the conference, pledged €230 million while the United States pledged €7.5 million. The four Balkan states will contribute €83 million to the program.

“This is a day to celebrate as we all commit to write the last chapter of the displacement tragedy of the Western Balkans in the 1990s,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees chief Antonio Guterres said.

UNHCR will monitor the project’s implementation. The program is scheduled to start autumn this year.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.