United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working together in the impoverished and conflict-ridden North Caucasus region have made “significant progress” in protecting civilians and providing humanitarian relief over the past six months, according to a report issued today which also highlights the scale of the problems involved and continuing security concerns.
The Inter-Agency Transitional Workplan for the North Caucasus, which involves nine UN agencies and 13 NGOs, has targeted recovery-oriented, humanitarian and development assistance in war-torn Chechnya and its neighbouring republics and donor support for the programmes so far this year has reached almost $35 million, although the agencies say almost $82 million is needed.
The report notes “significant progress” toward the goals of the Transitional Workplan to enhance protection of civilians, provide essential humanitarian relief, and encourage and assist recovery.
“While serious concerns about violence and insecurity remain, the security situation allows for more access and project activity than a few years ago,” it said, but added that “fighting, human rights abuses, and abductions still occur regularly in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia particularly.”
On the positive side, the report noted that there has been a “noticeable increase this year in rebuilding in Chechnya,” particularly in the capital Grozny, although the authorities there now realize how long and complex a process rebuilding will be and that more government resources need to be provided.
The report welcomes “donors’ demonstrated commitment” to meeting the basic humanitarian needs in the North Caucasus but reiterates that “full funding is still the goal, and there is reason for concern about wide funding disparities among agencies.” Yesterday for example, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned it would have to halt its operation in Chechnya in three months unless fresh pledges are made soon.
Looking ahead, the report said that one of the most “crucial” events for the humanitarian efforts in the region would be the opening of an official UN presence in the war-ravaged republic, although much will depend on the security situation.
“As mentioned in this Update, an initial, low-profile deployment to Chechnya is prepared and will go ahead as soon as the security regime allows it. Eventually, whether in 2006 or
2007, opening of an office will be a signal event and certainly will entail a review of cost plans for setting up, staffing, and securing the office.”