It is very important that we recognise the scale of the suffering experienced by people displaced by war and national upheavals. Ockenden International has played a key role in this process.'
Sir Trevor MacDonald
Back from the Brink
The history of Afghanistan since the early 20th century has been characterised by conflict, tribal warfare, and political and ideological struggle.
Afghanistan is a territory which has frustrated invaders for thousands of years. Not since Alexander the Great and most recently the Russians and Americans (neither of whom controlled a majority of the country) has anyone been able to pacify its peoples.
A multi-ethnic society living in extremely varied and challenging terrain, Afghanistan has been in the news most recently for American-led invasion, following the attacks of September 11 2001.
Since 1973 and the overthrow of King Zahir Shah the country has been mired in conflict. A Communist coup, invasion by Russia, the rise of the Mujahidin, takeover by Taleban, and then most recently another invasion by an American-led coalition . this instability has created millions of displaced peoples.
Afghanistan is believed to be among the three poorest nations in the world and is also responsible for three quarters of the world.s opium.
It is in this environment that Ockenden provides many Afghan people with basic services and the opportunity to have a say in how their community develops. Ockenden has been operational in Afghanistan since 1995, initially focusing in the west.
The Legacy of Displacement and the birth of Ockenden Cambodia
The beginning of the 1990s saw Cambodia emerge from over 30 years of conflict. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in 1991, the mass repatriation of hundreds of thousands of refugees proved an enormous challenge to the newly-established government. In 1997 and 1999 there was a further influx of 60,000 refugees, returning mainly from Thailand. The majority of these settled in the Western provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Battambang, primarily in rural areas.
With peace, macro-economic reforms were slowly introduced and the economy began to grow. But even as the country began to stabilise, in 2000 Cambodia was hit by its worst flooding in 70 years. Agricultural production was hit and the resulting oil price rises further damaged a still-fragile national economy.
Go to the Ockenden Cambodia Internet site.
Today, the Cambodian government still lacks resources and the national finances are stretched to capacity. However Cambodia is now thankfully well into its post-conflict and emergency transition and Ockenden has responded with the successful handover from Ockenden International to a newly established local NGO of the same name 'Ockenden Cambodia'. The name reflects that it is the same management and professional team heading up operations while committed to the same high standards.
Ockenden's programme in Cambodia has concentrated on communities of returnees from Thailand and on the newly settled areas where often former adversaries have been learning to live alongside each other. Increasingly from 2005 onwards, it was evident that social integration was taking place successfully and that the priority was shifting away from activities to facilitate assimilation towards broader development to reduce poverty and build human resource capacity. It was decided therefore that Ockenden's mission in Cambodia was largely accomplished. The question was should it simply withdraw or should the new development work continue, if so how?
The Ockenden approach is to work with and through local NGO partners and emerging civil society organizations. Ockenden does not directly implement projects itself. Its nine main partners, with provincial and local officials, as well as staff agreed that the best way to preserve the approach and continue to build on past work, was to create a new local NGO.
Accordingly Ockenden-Cambodia was formally instituted as an independent local NGO in Cambodia in February 2007. A special ceremony took place on 2 May 2007 in Sisophon to mark its inception and the opening of its new offices. HMA David Reader presided alongside the Under-Secretary of State and Deputy Provincial Govenor.
A Country Displaced
Despite the problems post-Saddam, Ockenden continues to work in southern Iraq, assisting thousands of displacees rebuild their lives.
THOUGH FREE from the yoke of Saddam Hussein, pressing problems loom large for Iraq and its political leaders.
Lack of civil order, the creation of a new political system, reconstruction of a looted and destroyed infrastructure are but a few of the issues the country faces.
On the ground, US-led coalition forces have faced armed rebellions and guerrilla-style attacks. Insurgents have targeted international agencies, Iraqi security forces and civilians working for the coalition.
Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed in April 2003, three weeks into a major US-led military campaign. Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction formed the main justification for the action.
The transfer of sovereignty to an interim government took place on 28 June 2004, two days ahead of schedule.
Tragedy of Afghan Peoples
Since creation in 1947 Pakistan has struggled with a refugee problem. Now it is refugees from the Afghan conflicts that most need help.
The phenomenon of displaced people and refugees, and even illegal immigrants, is not new to Pakistan. At present there are Burmese, Biharies from Bangladesh, Indians, Kashmiries from Indian-administered Kashmir living all over the country. Most recently the earthquake in northern Pakistan and Kashimir has created millions of homeless people.
The refugee problem grew out of the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, when was India split into two separate and independent nations. A huge Muslim population opted to migrate to Pakistan. Then when Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) was formed in 1971 a large number of people fled the fighting to mainland Pakistan.
Later refugees came from Afghanistan. Historically there had been almost free movement of people between Pakistan and Afghanistan, mainly due to economic and cultural reasons, and migrations were seasonal and temporary.
But during the last three decades Afghanistan went through a period of political unrest, foreign invasions and economic degradation, resulting in almost the complete uprooting of society.
Significant migration began after it was invaded by the former USSR in 1979. More then half the population sought refuge and safety in Pakistan. After the Soviets were forced out, Afghanistan was wracked by civil war and tribalism. This, as well as other factors, resulted in the emergence of the Taliban whose strict practices and on going drought for 7 years made many leave the country.
More recent waves of refugees resulted from the US-led attack on Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban post-9/11. The US-supported Northern Alliance started targeting supporters of the former Taliban regime as well as certain ethnicities, resulting in another fresh wave of refugees.
According to a census conducted in early 2005, 3.05 million Afghans lived in Pakistan. Almost 1.3 million Afghans continue to live in camps today, while 1.7 million live in rural and urban areas outside camps. There have been up to 300 refugee settlements throughout Pakistan; today only 145 remain.
A Country on the Move
It is Africa's largest country and it has been at war with itself for almost half a century.
THAT CONFLICT has left more than two million dead and nearly four million others displaced.
It effectively created two Sudans: one controlled by the Government of Sudan and based in the north, and the other controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) in the south.
The peace agreement signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) on January 9, 2005 brings with it the hope that the country can start to recover from decades of conflict.
But the trauma of a war that has devastated the lives of so many will not be easily or quickly overcome: the conflict in Darfur continues unabated.
Nomadic Arab militias and pastoral African tribes still clash in the west, causing millions to flee their homes. The situation has been called the worst humanitarian disaster today by the UN.
Ockenden International has worked in Sudan for 20 years, from the eastern provinces to the remote southern communities. As these stories below reveal, we are working with some of the most disadvantaged groups in the country and carrying out specialised research into complex issues such as HIV/AIDS.
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