SUN, 31 DEC 1995 14:40:44 GMT
AIM Podgorica, December 23, 1995
Ever since the moment international humanitarian organizations began operation on the territory of the so-called FRY, international humanitarian aid to Montenegro was subject of official and unofficial discussions, criticism and discontent. State administration agencies complained that this space of former Yugoslavia got less aid than other parts, that privately-owned organizations supported activities of forces opposed to the regime, that the aid was just an integral part of the policy of "unjustified and completely unprovoked sanctions imposed by the international community", etc. Refugees from war-stricken areas complained that they were being robbed, that certain individuals grew rich on account of their misery, and that the state was resolving a part of its social obligations to the domestic population on account of aid assigned to them. Domestic inhabitants who need welfare for survival complained that the refugees were privileged, that they received aid on account of the social standard of the domestic population.
Programs of internationl organizations concentrated on the aid to local inhabitants were in full swing especially at the time of super-inflation in 1993. Later, local needy population was given priority only occasionally, as illustrated by occasion when the World Food Program, its greatest supplier in crisis-stricken areas in the former Yugoslav space, gave up the right to the Government of Montenegro to distribute more than 50 per cent of the total aid amounting to 2,756,250 US dollars which were earmarked to local users by the Italian Government. At the time, according to what the users say, 75 per cent of the aid was distributed to Montenegrin recipients of social welfare, and the rest was given to the refugees from war-stricken areas. On the contrary, when the exodus of the people from Krajina in August this year flooded the cities of Serbia and Montenegro, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFCR) immadiately filled the warehouse of the Red Cross of Yugoslavia with over a million-German-marks worth of aid consisting of hygienic material, food, drugs, powder milk and similar - and launched two appeals to international donors for about 30 million Swiss francs planned for covering the cost of needs of these refugees on the territory of Serbia and Montenegro.
Mr Cary Vanhannen, logistics officer of the IFCR, says that the fact that a large number of donations is earmarked for a special category of recipients and a special territory presents a special problem in determining priorities. Such an example is at this moment the most significant donation of more than a million-marks' worth of drugs which the Italian Government allocated to Montenegro. "We would prefer unallotted donations, because we are certainly better informed and we know better which categories need aid the most", Mr Vanhannen says.
An intensive program of supplies for the local inhabitants was interrupted in June 1995 after a distribution provided by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) for the category of local users. Mr Hervais Caivaux, logistics monitoring officer of this organization, says that 35,229 local social welfare recipients were included in this latest delivery, and that it consisted mostly of food. After this, UN agencies, ECHO and Danish Refugees Council (DRC) will intensify programs allocated to refugees, but on a much more limited basis. In the last-year's revision of humanitarian criteria in Serbia, the number of users of aid donated by international agencies was reduced by half, and according to the latest available data it amounted to about 135 thousand (as compared to the previous 350 thousand) not counting the regugees from Krajina. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided resources for this revision in Montenegro as well, although the number of users of aid donated by international organizations, reduced to refugees, was already significantly reduced. According to the data we received at the WFP, since the beginning of its operation (December 1992) in Montenegro until August this year, the number of users has dropped from about 70 thousand (refugees and social relief recipients) to about 27 thousand (including the number of the newly-arrived in August).
Guided by the intention to enable refugees to make their own living and in this way reduce the status difference between them and the local population, the Danish Council initiated a series of social programs in which only in the first six months of this year, about 7,300 refugees and 2,900 local inhabitants participated. A social program which is expected to enable refugees to become financially as independent as possible through training for certain activities is especially interesting. This program includes different forms of small-scale economic activities, such as projects of greenhouses, production of honey, eggs, chicken farms, carpentry, construction and similar. Only this year, the UNHCR, the main financier of these projects has allocated a million dollars to support them. Ralph Koepcke, expert for social welfare, says that about 160 persons already participate in these profitable projects, and that another 660 members of their families are supported from them.
Pierre Francesco Maria Nata, head of the UNHCR office which coordinates and effectuates jobs concerning distribution of aid provided by most of the international agencies, marks bad relations between republican and local authorities as one of the key problems in this job, because they lead to conflicts and failure to carry out contracts signed by all three parties. This is the case with collective centres for refugees in Rozaje, Vrela Ribnicka, Berane and Gusinje, which were partly populated by local inhabitants at the time when there was no interest for this kind of accomodation among the refugees. "The situation in Rozaje is the worst, where the President of the municipality refuses to evict the local settlers", Mr Nata says. It should be added that the UNHCR until recently had no registers of its own of users of aid and that it used primarily those supplied by the republican Red Cross organization. According to its records, there are now 43 thousand registered refugees in Montenegro, and based on data about distributed aid, only about 27,500 users are active. The need to plan future humanitarian activities, Mr Nata says, induces the UNHCR to make a register of its own.
Extreme slackness in providing permits for humanitarian goods at the borders of the so-called FRY is one of the key problems shared by all the agencies. Processes of customs and hygienic control usually last for two to three weeks, which is especially significant when dealing with food. To a question whether aid reaches users it was intended for and in adequate quantities, representatives of all international agencies answer in the affirmative and stress generally good cooperation with the authorities and domestic humanitarian organizations. From the aspect of Montenegro and Serbia, the problem is that domestic economic and social collapse can make them permanent clients of the international humanitarian organizations.
Goran Vujovic (AIM Podgorica)