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Geneva, Switzerland, 20 Dec 06

A bi-annual meeting of the International Shelter Center Group, jointly hosted by UN-HABITAT and CARE International, was held from 16 to 17 November 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Shelter Meetings, organized by the Shelter Centre, bring together various stakeholders bi-annually to discuss, coordinate, share field experiences and technical expertise relating to transitional settlement and shelter needs following conflicts and natural disasters.

The Shelter Centre is an NGO founded in 2004 at the University of Cambridge in England. Today, the Centre serves as a forum for UN bodies, humanitarian bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors, international organizations, NGOs, and community based organizations providing transitional shelter. The Shelter Center is also an important resource for emergency shelter training.

The most important need after a crisis or natural disaster is often the delivery of shelter that addresses the needs of the affected population. A number of inter-agency working groups have been initiated to improve accountability, quality and performance of the humanitarian community in disaster or conflict situations. In this regard, the Shelter Center is currently focusing on establishing standards for transitional family shelter. “The idea is not to design a super-tent”, explains Tom Corsellis, the Centre’s co-director, “but to get consensus on what everyone expects shelter to do.” With the standards, a shelter module for disaster and conflicts will be developed, that can be easily adapted, maintained and partly used in the early reconstruction phase as longer-term shelter. During the meeting the participants agreed on the structure of the Shelter Module project and its standards which address the logistical, physical and social performance requirements of transitional shelter such as the weight of shelter commonly used after disaster or conflict, its durability, or its environmental friendliness.   

In his speech, the Acting Director of the UN-HABITAT Geneva Office, Abdalla Abbas emphasized that despite its importance, shelter is amongst the least funded sectors in humanitarian work. He further pointed out that the shelter sector should view the aftermath of a crisis or disaster as an opportunity to build the capacity of the affected population to manage their own camps rather than just delivering shelter. He further stressed the importance of land tenure issues such as the security of and access to land of the affected population in disaster response.

Filiep Decorte of UN- HABITAT’s Somalia Urban Development Programme (SUDP) presented their ongoing work and in particular the shelter solutions developed for internally displaced communities in Bosasso, located in the Puntland region of Somalia. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in particular have a variety of needs which need to be addressed adequately by the humanitarian agencies. SUDP together with international NGOs has developed a strategy, to form an independent local shelter cluster that ensures continuity between emergency, transitional and durable solutions, and additionally creates appropriate links with other related local clusters working in the sector.

A session on Emergency Shelter Response was co-chaired by Esteban León, Disaster Management Specialist of UN-HABITAT and Carsten Voelz, CARE International, representing the co-hosts of the conference.

In addition, a Shelter Training workshop was held a day prior to the Shelter Center Group Conference. The workshop aimed to map out already existing training resources in the shelter sector, to draw lessons and identify training needs in the sector for the future as well as to agree on a policy and strategy for collaborative Shelter Training.
Training of staff that deals with shelter is essential for an adequate response after disasters or conflict. UN-HABITAT is contributing actively in the development of Shelter Training by contributing expertise, skills and lessons learned to other training participants.

For further information about the Shelter Centre Meeting and Training see http://www.sheltercentre.org, or contact Esteban Leon of UN-HABITAT at leon.unhabitat@unog.ch

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