Address by Tomáš Boček, Vice-Governor for Target Group Countries at the Regional Housing Programme Final Conference

29 November 2023

RHP Sarajevo Closing Conference

Regional Housing Programme Final Conference
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dear Hosts, Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel safe, because this is my home.”
Our lives have new meaning.”
“The new apartment will be our salvation.”

These are just a few of the reactions from Regional Housing Programme (RHP) beneficiaries upon receiving their new homes over the years. I thought it fitting to showcase these today, as no one can sum up the significance of the RHP better than the people whose lives it has transformed, after almost 30 years of insecurity. It is reactions like these which have driven RHP stakeholders to ensure, despite the challenges faced, that the RHP improved the lives of as many most-vulnerable refugees and displaced families as possible.

After more than a decade of colossal efforts by all stakeholders, my colleagues and I are delighted to be here today to celebrate the remarkable results of this unique programme with you. We at the Council of Europe Development Bank – or the CEB – are deeply proud of our contribution to the RHP. Our role within this flagship refugee housing programme has fit well with our mission to promote social cohesion throughout Europe, a mission that we have held since our foundation 67 years ago, during a period of significant displacement in Europe. Leveraging its extensive knowledge of social housing, the CEB has managed for more than a decade close to 300 million euros in donor funds and accompanied Partner Countries in the implementation of RHP projects. To this day, the provision of financing and expertise to long-term social integration projects to the benefit of refugees and displaced persons remains a pivotal element of CEB activity.

Thanks to the dedication and efforts of all RHP partners – including the Partner Countries, UNHCR, the OSCE, and crucially, RHP Donors – the programme has brought lasting change to the lives of those who need it the most. By providing a secure home after decades of displacement, the RHP has been instrumental to restore their dignity and optimism for the future. The Partner Countries in particular should be commended for their determination to spearhead the successful implementation of the programme.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the RHP has demonstrated how, by co-operating across borders and working closely together in pursuit of a common goal, even the most arduous regional challenges can be overcome. This solidarity is precisely what the CEB stands for. We sincerely hope that the close working relations forged over the lifetime of the programme will continue to have and foster a lasting impact on reconciliation in the region in future, and will help to pave the way for regional approaches to other important challenges ahead. It is fair to say that the RHP represents an important step forward for the region as a whole.

I would also like to make special reference to the RHP Donor representatives – the European Union in particular, as the largest Donor, but also the USA, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and others – who never stopped believing in this programme, even during testing times. In addition to ensuring the financial viability of the RHP, your engagement and adaptability has been invaluable, reinforcing regional cooperation and spurring us to meet our objectives.

As this demanding yet rewarding RHP journey comes to an end, there is much that we have all learned during this extraordinary experience. The RHP has proven to be a successful initiative which should serve as a blueprint for future co-operation in other post-conflict or reconstruction contexts. Likewise, during these uncertain times, it is clear that the work of organisations like the CEB to confront social challenges and safeguard the most vulnerable will be even more relevant than ever. As we close this programme, rest assured that the CEB, faithful to its mandate, will continue to accompany the four Partner Countries in future social projects as needed.

I would like to thank our hosts, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for this excellent event today, and wish every beneficiary family all the possible happiness in their new homes.

The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) is a multilateral development bank, whose unique mission is to promote social cohesion in its 43 member states across Europe. The CEB finances investment in social sectors, including education, health and affordable housing, with a focus on the needs of vulnerable people. Borrowers include governments, local and regional authorities, public and private banks, non-profit organisations and others. As a multilateral bank with an excellent credit rating, the CEB funds itself on the international capital markets. It approves projects according to strict social, environmental and governance criteria, and provides technical assistance. In addition, the CEB receives funds from donors to complement its activities.