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08.03.2005 General News

Japan supports UNHCR's Liberia peace-building programme

By GNA

Accra, March 8, GNA - The Government of Japan on Tuesday signed a three million-dollar grant agreement with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to support the UN Agency's programme of repatriation and reintegration of Liberian Refugees.

Mr Kojiro Uchiyama, Charg=E9 d'Affaires of the Embassy of Japan, and Mr Golam Abbas, Acting UNHCR Representative in Ghana, signed the agreement document. The money is under "Japan's Peace-Building Grant Aid".

The Government of Japan established the "Peace Building Grant Aid" in 2002 and UNHCR received two million dollars for reintegration activities for Angolan returnees in 2003. Another one million dollars was given for the UNHCR's operations in Liberia in 2004.

The Peace-Building Project launched last year is to create a viable environment for returning refugees and internally displaced peoples, ex-combatants and receiving communities to cohabit peacefully by supporting the restoration of basic services and empowering the people to begin rebuilding their livelihoods at the individual and community levels.

Mr Uchiyama said the fund was intended to provide shelter and agriculture inputs, enhance the absorption capacity by helping to build infrastructure and basic services and to promote the culture of reconciliation among war affected people through peace, education, human rights principles and the implementation of community empowerment projects.

He said to date, 1,100 community empowerment projects had been implemented in the main areas of return across Liberia.

Mr Uchiyama said the Japanese Government believed that supporting smooth transition from relief to development was an enormous task but necessary to sustain the progress on the ground so as not to allow the situation to go back to chaos and end up in a new conflict.

He said the Community-Based Reintegration Programme was designed based on their lessons learnt in the past which suggested that the communities needed to be empowered in absorbing capacity for integrating returning refugees, displaced people or ex-combatants.

Mr Abbas said the fund was one step closer in meeting the challenges of sustainable return in Liberia and he expressed gratitude to the Japan Government for its continuous support.

He said the greater chunk of the amount (1.25 million dollars) would go towards the development of Community Empowerment Projects with view to promoting peaceful co-existence.

"One million dollars will be used on shelter and agriculture interventions and 750,000 dollars for emergency rehabilitation efforts aimed at increasing the absorption capacity of receiving communities," he explained.

Mr Abbas said since the commencement of the voluntary repatriation on October 1, last year, over 7,000 refugees had been facilitated to return home from countries in the region and the exercise would continue until 2007.

He said an estimated 100,000 had also come home spontaneously, mostly to Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Montserrado, Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties.

He announced that the peace-building project would focus mainly on counties that had the highest concentration of refugees registered in neighbouring countries.

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