RHP Fund Assembly of Donors and Steering Committee strive to jointly address effects of COVID-19 pandemic on RHP implementation

23 November, 2020 – On 18 and 19 November 2020, on the occasion of the 21st session of the Regional Housing Programme (RHP) Fund Assembly of Donors and the 17th session of the Steering Committee, RHP governance bodies convened virtually to take stock of the Programme’s progress to date, and to discuss strategies for the successful delivery of targeted homes by the deadline of June 2022, including measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on implementation.

Addressing the meetings, the Chair, Mr Colin Wolfe, Head of Western Balkans Regional Cooperation in DG NEAR of the European Commission, noted that approximately 22 000 most-vulnerable refugee and displaced beneficiaries across the four Partner Countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) have received homes to date, bringing the Programme closer to its target of delivering approximately 11 800 homes to around 36 000 beneficiaries.

The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) Vice-Governor, Mr Tomáš Boček, commended RHP partners for their continued determination to ensure the delivery of all planned homes by the end of the Programme. “The RHP has profoundly transformed the lives of large numbers of the most-vulnerable displaced people across the Western Balkans,” he said. “These people are not only displaced. They typically have additional needs – due to illness, disabilities, or single-parent responsibilities – which leave them even more exposed to deprivation and uncertainty. For the beneficiaries of the RHP, a durable housing solution provides emancipation from the vulnerability of displacement, and a means to regain lost rights and confidence, as well as a lost home.

RHP partners took note of the increasing challenges posed by COVID-19 in recent months. Although – thanks to the significant efforts of Partner Countries – RHP implementation had successfully continued throughout the early stages of the pandemic, concerns were expressed that the “second wave” was beginning to slow down the pace of operational activities. Mitigation measures were consequently discussed with a view to finding joint and timely solutions.

Speaking on behalf of the United States Government, one of the main Donors to the RHP, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ms Lesley Ziman, paid tribute to RHP Partner Countries for the progress made in spite of the obstacles posed by the pandemic, and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to the Western Balkans region, particularly to those most in need.

Meeting participants also commended the unique partnership approach of the RHP, which has cultivated new professional relationships between countries, facilitating knowledge sharing and the development of common solutions. This profound regional cooperation has been further strengthened by the solidarity and commitment of the Donor community – the European Union in particular, followed by the United States and others – in addition to the contribution of international organisations.

On behalf of these international organisations, the OSCE and UNHCR, Mr Mark Fawcett, from the OSCE Secretariat’s Conflict Prevention Centre, reported that Partner Countries continued to work under increasingly difficult circumstances due to the pandemic, noting however that there had been no “critical” delays in the beneficiary selection process to date.

Finally, the Assembly of Donors unanimously elected Germany as Co-chair of the RHP Fund Assembly of Donors and the RHP Steering Committee for 2021, together with the European Commission.

  • 23 Nov, 2020
  • Milica

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