Norwegian Refugee Council - History


-Since 2000, Indonesia: NRC assists people affected by various conflicts in Aceh, the Moluccas, Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi. With, amongts others, the IRC (International Rescue Committee) and DRC (Danish Refugee Council), the organisation registers in January 2001 a coalition, CARDI (Consortium for Assistance to Refugees and the Displaced in Indonesia), which takes the name of Consortium for Assistance and Recovery towards Development in Indonesia in order to coordinate and improve relief operations as well as development initiatives. Local employees are thus able to carry on their work in Aceh despite the state of emergency and subsequent violence in May 2003. When the tsunami of December 2004 hits the island, NRC can also bypass the cumbersome and time consuming process of getting registered as an NGO in Indonesia. But CARDI, which loses two employees in the disaster, is not operational because its office in Banda Aceh is devastated, it does not have a country director and the consortium is in a transition phase from relief to a development mode. Unlike IRC’s far greater response capacity for emergencies, NRC cannot use the consortium to deploy teams quickly on the ground. It circumvents it as CARDI gives up attempts to coordinate so many foreign NGOs.
-Since 2001, Burundi: following the Arusha peace agreement signed in Tanzania in August 2000, NRC facilitates the return of refugees to their home country. But the continuation of the fighting does hamper the programme. Following the example of the Jesuit Refugee Service, NRC denounces in 2002 the forced repatriation of Burundese refugees from Tanzania, who openly stated their reluctance to return to a war-torn country. On July 10 2003, the organisation has to suspend its operations in Makamba province of Burundi after the kidnapping of an employee who, with two colleagues from GTZ (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) and IRC (International Rescue Committee), is set free on July 18.
-Since 2003, Liberia: in the suburbs of Monrovia, NRC reopens on 21 August 2003 a camp for displaced persons that the organisation had to leave because of the looting of its offices in May and the fighting of the rebels around the capital in June. After the collapse of Charles Taylor’s regime, the signature of a peace agreement, and the arrival of blue helmets of the United Nations in the following September, the organisation then decides to facilitate the return of refugees and to participate to reconstruction. For instance, it helps to mediate in deadly land disputes in Bong, Nimba, Margibi, Montserrado and Lofa counties, negotiating a compromise settlement between traditional leaders, villagers and returnees. In the same vein, NRC provides free legal assistance to refugees who cannot afford to mount legal battles to reclaim their land or to approach a fund set up by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2009 to compensate returnees forced to relocate. NRC also launches a land registration project when the government establishes a Commission to tackle conflicts over land sales, secure people's land tenure and modernize the country's land laws with the support of the World Bank.
-2003, Iraq: at the bequest of the American Occupying Power and the IOM (International Organisation for Migrations) after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in March, NRC starts in April to work amongst Kurds in Kirkoûk and Irbîl provinces to handle land and property claims. On the following 5 September, it then decides to evacuate the country because of the poor access to local populations, the restrictions to free movement and the incapacity of the Coalition troops to guarantee security, as shown by the bomb attack against the headquarters of the United Nations on 19 August 2003.
-From 2004, Sudan: while the conflict in Darfur goes on, NRC takes the responsibility to manage the largest camp for internally displaced people in Kalma, just outside Nyala. It then expands and provide aid in Gereida and Otash. But the government obstructs humanitarian work. From September 2004 until April 2006, the organisation is evicted from Kalma three times, as the authorities want to get rid of embarrassing witnesses, especially the Scandinavian countries after the publication of caricatures of the prophet in the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands Posten in September 2005. Norway also irritates the Sudanese government because it supports the proposed deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur to relay the troops sent by the African Union, who could not be effective. In the absence of the NRC coordinator, who was expelled a month before, a visit to Kalma of the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Norwegian Jan Egeland, ends up in riots on the 8th of May 2006. The organisation eventually closes down its relief operations in November and is officially expelled when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, on 5 February 2009.
-From 2005, Sri Lanka : NRC, which is not normally involved with natural disasters but armed conflicts, decides to help the victims of the tsunami of December 2004. The problem is that the organisation has no preorganised teams trained for acute emergencies, no appropriate contingency plans, no adequate systems for information collection and no clear strategy on where and how to contribute. It needs too long time to take decisions. As the NRC headquarters maintain planned activity, such as Christmas holidays, the first implementation of projects in the field starts only five weeks after the tsunami. On the longer run, Bjørn Ivar Kruke et al. note « a lack of available experienced personnel in the initial phase of the tsunami operation, but also later in the process, causing a requirement for temporary solutions » and a high turnover of staff. The organisation gives priority to action and even improvisation : it thus has to reduce from 2,000 to 1,100 the number of temporary shelters it initially planned to construct with funding from the British Department for International Development. Insecurity and the fighting with Tamil rebels also impact its activities. A NRC driver is killed in August 2006 because he refused to transport governmental soldiers.
-January 2006, Congo-Kinshasa: NRC suspends its activities in Rutshuru when one of its drivers is held captive for almost a week and its trucks are forced by the army to transport military personnel, their dependents, weapons and ammunitions.