Mercy Corps has won a $10 million grant for an Economic and Community Revitalization Activity to address the crucial and evolving needs of war-affected communities in Croatia and facilitate minority refugee return to Bosnia.
While the return rate of ethnic Serb refugees to Croatia has increased by 35 percent in the year 2000, 230,000 additional Serb refugees are thought to remain in exile. Obstacles to the return of these refugees remain great. Not only do they face a lack of economic opportunities in the return community, but fear and resentment remains high between the majority Croatian population and minority Serb population. Much of the housing that these Serb refugees left behind is now destroyed, damaged, or occupied by refugees from elsewhere in the region.
Mercy Corps will facilitate the return and reintegration of these refugees by following these principles:
Active community involvement is crucial to ensure broad support for all of the activities of the project. Thus, the community must be engaged at every level of project design, implementation, and evaluation.
Economic issues play a primary role in helping rebuild both Croatia’s economy and society. Lack of job opportunity deters younger refugees from returning to their communities and encourages ethnic competition for scarce resources and discrimination. One of the central goals of the Economic and Community Revitalization Activity will be increasing and expanding economic opportunities to partnership communities and municipalities.
Implementing community-based solutions will involve utilizing local non-governmental organizations. Wherever possible, Mercy Corps will encourage implementation through, or in partnership with, talented and motivated Croatian non-governmental organizations such as associations, cooperatives and formal and informal women’s and youth groups.
Along with proven expertise in umbrella grant management, economic development, and community mobilization, Mercy Corps has also implemented large-scale, successful minority return programs in Bosnia for over four years using a proven strategy of integrating housing, economic development and community building activities. Mercy Corps will implement the Economic and Community Revitalization Activity in concert with the Urban Institute, which supports market-oriented housing solutions in transitional countries across Eastern Europe and around the world