Microcredit: Bhutanese refugee women participate in a microcredit scheme, which offers loans to start small businesses. / Timai camp, eastern Nepal / UNHCR / J. Pagonis / July 2005
People who flee conflict and persecution might be fortunate enough to find security and shelter in a refugee camp. But once they have refuge, what next? Displecement can last years, even decades. Refugees need to be equiped to build a lasting future, whether they return home to help rebuild their communities, integrate their families locally or are resettled to a third country.
The difficulty of finding access to legitimate, non-exploitative sources of income is one of the most serious obstacles faced by refugees and displaced people. However, refugees and displaced people should not to be treated as passive recipients of humanitarian assistance. With the right tools and opportunities, they have the skills and resources to contribute to their own development. People with an entrepreneurial spirit can create employment for themselves and for others.
Large numbers of refugees live in camps during their entire displacement. It is therefore important that UNHCR, in cooperation with its partners, establishes projects covering activities such as computer literacy, language and vocational training, innovative farming and market access for camp inhabitants.
By doing so, UNHCR contributes to reduce vulnerability, increase self-sufficiency and improve the likelihood of successful repatriation and reintegration of refugees. When returning, their vital contribution to rebuilding peace in their countries is another factor for cooperation between humanitarian and development organizations, which has increased and grown closer over the years.
Microfinance is another way in which humanitarian agencies can provide direct assistance for income generating activities in the short–term. Since microfinance aims at both a short–term and a long–term impact, it offers a suitable field for the cooperation between humanitarian and development organizations.