Norwegian Refugee Council - History


-1990, Norway: after Eva Dunlop, Trygve Nordby becomes NRC’s general-secretary. Before he leaves the room to Gunnar Andersen in 1994-1995, he decides to extend the organisation’s activities to internally displaced persons, and not only refugees who crossed an international border.
-1991, Norway: as a result of the Gulf War and the humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan in Iraq, NRC establishes an emergency preparedness force, NORSTAFF, for the United Nations. Financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this roster consists of 300 women and men, ready on 72-hours' notice to be deployed anywhere in the world to assist in relief operations. Later, a NORDEM and NORAFRIC rosters are also established. The first one observes elections, monitors crisis and investigates human rights violations; the second one provides African personnel that represent the most-requested professional categories of local humanitarian workers.
-From 1992, ex-Yugoslavia: on the demand of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NRC begins to work in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a country where it supervises food aid supplies and which takes up half of its budget and missions in 1995. Later on, the organisation extends its operations to Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo. In Serbia, it provides legal assistance to refugees from 1997 onwards. In Kosovo, amongst other things, it builds houses in co-operation with KFOR (Kosovo Force), the NATO’s (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) troops sent in the region after the bombing and the eviction of the Yugoslav army of the nationalist Serb regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 1999. One NRC employee dies in Macedonia in 2001.
-1993, Mozambique: following the peace agreement signed in Rome in December 1992 by the FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Mozambique) government and the RENAMO (Resistência Nacional Mozambicana) guerrilla, NRC funds and sets up in February 1993 a short-lived NGO coordination body, LINK. The objective is to organise reconstruction programmes with the UN, improve relations with the FRELIMO government and avoid the duplication of projects, especially the establishment of parallel structures in RENAMO areas. Yet authors like Sam Barnes notice that NGOs fail to coordinate their activities and deliberately avoid working with corrupt authorities.
-From 1994, Georgia: NRC intervenes to help the victims of a conflict which killed over a thousand people when South Ossetia tried to get independent in 1990. The organisation also supports the official peace negotiations that are mediated by Russia and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) from 1995 onwards. Sponsored by the Norwegian government, several workshops are organised in Oslo, Massachusetts and Barcelona between high-level Georgians and South Ossetians. But the project does no settle the issue and is terminated in 2000 due to a lack of funding. The situation compels NRC to go back to humanitarian programmes in favour of Chechen refugees. For the Georgian displaced people who ran away from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 1991-1993, NRC builds some forty houses in 2003 and thirty others in 2005 on communal land bought to the city of Kutaisi or the regional government of Samegrelo.
-March 1997, Norway: NRC becomes a non-profit humanitarian foundation grouping 16 NGOs. This new status enables it to benefit from fiscal exemptions. But, as the Norwegian legislation is stricter for foundations than for charities, it also compels NRC to be accountable to the County Governor of Oslo and get his approval at the end of every financial year.
-1998-2008, Georgia: in Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia, NRC opens in 1998 an office to help the victims of the struggle for independence in 1990. But its projects fail to achieve their ends, unlike similar programmes in Abkhazia, another secessionist region. South Ossetia is very corrupt and houses built for returnees are used as holiday resorts by displaced people who stayed in Georgia and who can easily cross the “border”. Moreover, NRC offices in Tskhinvali are attacked by the local secret services and armed robbers. Under the pressure of the Norwegian government, which does not want to annoy Tbilisi, they must eventually close when the fighting resume in August 2008. In any case, South Ossetia, which proclaims its independence with the support of Moscow, now refuses to accept aid coming from Georgia and tries to compel all humanitarian organisations to work from Russia.
-1999, Norway : NRC starts to develop a data base on internally displaced people throughout the world.