The Julia Taft Refugee Fund: Building Partnerships for Sustainable Returns in Bosnia
On June 30, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Patrick S. Moon marked the completion of a 2010 Julia Taft Refugee Fund grant supporting the return of 32 ethnic-minority Bosniak families to the Visegrad municipality in the Republika Srpska entity in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Taft Refugee Fund is intended primarily to support low-cost projects that assist refugees or refugee returnees by responding to critical gaps in assistance not addressed through larger, multilateral refugee programs. Before the 1992-1995 war, there were roughly 11,000 Bosniaks residing in Visegrad municipality. During the war, 3,000 Bosniaks were killed and the rest were expelled. Through the Julia Taft Fund, Embassy Sarajevo and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) proposed to assist the return of displaced Bosniaks to Visegrad by providing basic shelter repairs and agricultural assistance to returnee families.
Once the project proposal was approved by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in 2010, our embassy in Sarajevo approached the Ministries for Refugees and Displaced Persons in both the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for additional support. Each ministry contributed more than $40,000 to the project. To this was added a $20,000 contribution by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, resulting in a larger project that provided $134,000 in assistance to needy beneficiaries. The project established an important precedent for future cooperation across entity and ethnic lines and demonstrated a best practice by leveraging a relatively modest contribution from PRM’s Julia Taft Fund to secure complementary contributions from international and local donors.
The successful project improved returnees’ living conditions by supporting 32 ethnic-minority Bosniak families. Twenty-seven families received agricultural assistance and five families were assisted with the reconstruction of their war-damaged houses. In one case, a young family received sheep, a cow, and housing assistance, which is allowing them to sustain their return to their original home.