As a consequence of the armed conflicts in the 1990s, over three million people were displaced both within and beyond the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Over the past two decades, sustained efforts by the four affected states, as well as support from the international community, have enabled the majority of those affected to return home or find other durable solutions. However, despite these efforts, almost half a million people remain displaced throughout the region.
Towards a Solution
The Regional Housing Programme (RHP) is a joint initiative by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Its aim is to contribute to the resolution of the protracted displacement situation of the most vulnerable refugees and displaced persons following the 1991-1995 conflicts within the former Yugoslavia, including internally displaced persons in Montenegro from 1999. Its main objective is to benefit approximately 74,000 people (27,000 households). Its cost is estimated at circa EUR 584 million. This project is related to SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities, ), SDG 1 (No Poverty, target 1.5.) and SDG 10 (No Inequalities, target: 10.2).
The RHP was initiated as a result of diplomatic activities undertaken by the four countries and international partners. The objective was defined based on a precise analysis of potential beneficiaries and their needs, drawing on field visits to the most vulnerable refugees, analysis of the relevant institutions available databases and a comparative analysis of the number of potential beneficiaries, legislation and economic parameters in partner countries.
Countries from the region cooperate in the field of the regulation of the legal status of displaced and internally displaced persons, regulating the obligations in terms of pension rights and service periods and property issues in the countries of origin. The four partner countries work very closely together to reach their common goal. They support each other and exchange information daily to implement the RHP at a steady pace, identify synergies and learn from each other’s successes with the RHP. All stakeholders unanimously agree that the Programme has significantly improved regional cooperation, security and reconciliation among people who were on different sides of the armed conflict 20 years ago.
The RHP is an example of successful cooperation among countries that were previously in conflict and offers a significant incentive for similar future initiatives. It has helped to improve social housing policies across the region and has also led to the adoption of high standards in project development, technical areas and social integration.
During implementation of the RHP, the highest standards in construction, environmental protection and energy efficiency have been applied. The closure of temporary and illegal facilities contributed to the growth of urban areas, reduced the number of illegally built shelters and newly developed housing units were built in line with modern urban standards and were synchronized with City Development Plans.
In addition to providing housing solutions, the initiative also includes a range of sustainability measures to ensure the regulation of legal status, education, health care, full access to the social care system and regulation of pensions and employment opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees. The partner countries have developed a range of projects, political documents, initiatives and legislative changes to ensure the project’s sustainability. The main objective is to decrease dependence on social care institutions and achieve full social integration.
The regular regional meetings of partner countries have contributed to better communication among the institutions in the four partner countries and have strengthened the joint resolution of outstanding issues. The most important regional initiatives resulting from the RHP are regulation of legal status, regulation of pension issues and verification of beneficiaries’ needs in countries of origin.
The Igman Initiative is one of the regional sustainability initiatives and receives funding from the EU. It was launched in December 2017 with the implementation of the CARE Project, and counting on support from the European Commission. The Project’s main objective is to support the sustainability of and civic engagement in the Regional Housing Programme in all participating countries. This is to be achieved through a sub-grant programme that seeks to improve access to data and analysis of the sustainability of the RHP and enhance beneficiaries’ livelihoods, access to rights and local integration.
In Montenegro, complementary measures to ensure the overall sustainability of the RHP and integration of DPs and IDPs are spelled out in the Government’s Strategy for Durable Solutions of Issues Regarding Displaced and Internally Displaced Persons in Montenegro. The Strategy was adopted in July 2011 and extended until 2019. Action Plans for its implementation are developed for every calendar year.
Given that the RHP targets only the most vulnerable refugees and that some beneficiaries’ needs will not be completely addressed, this good practice can be extended to similar social housing projects in the future, as well as to social integration projects. This could also be developed in other countries. The most important prerequisites are information on potential beneficiaries and their housing needs, land for construction and cooperation at the municipal level.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 11.1