Rebuilding Mostar: Urban Reconstruction in a War Zone

By John Yarwood Mbe; Andreas Seebacher et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Work of Technisches Hilfswerk in
Housing Repair The Human Factor
ANDREAS SEEBACHER

Note by John Yarwood

The German federal emergency organisation Technisches Hilfswerk (THW) was working in Mostar before the EU arrived. It undertook many tasks, with varying degrees of success, but, in my opinion, its most outstanding contribution was the procurement and delivery of building materials to many thousands of damaged properties. Its staff worked with an extremely high level of skill and dedication. No words from me can adequately praise them. For me, and I think also for the people of east Mostar, the staff of THW are real heroes.

I signed several contracts with THW. The reconstruction agencies of the east municipal council had the task of choosing houses, scheduling work and materials, and organising labour sub-contracts, whereas THW supplied the scheduled material. The EUAM project manager was architect Vladimir Petrovi'c.

When I asked Andreas Seebacher to contribute his views, I realised that he would make points critical of the EU. There is no harm in that, and I add notes at the end of the chapter to comment on controversial points.

In April 1994, Technisches Hilfswerk (Technical Relief Agency), a German governmental organisation working in the field of disaster relief, started its second mission in Mostar. The first mission had been interrupted by the second war in 1993. This was four months before the establishment of the EUAM. The goals were the reconstruction of water and electricity supply systems and schools, the removal of garbage and debris, and, most important of all, the supply of building materials to the city. Their achievement was possible only due to the concerted efforts of THW staff in Bonn as well as Mostar.

The first months were breathless. Everybody in Mostar faced one question: ‘where, in heaven, shall we start to work?’ The most important success of the early coordination meetings was to define pragmatically the targets and to start with a common effort to realise them. The coordination among the international organisations avoided detrimental competition, reduced the likelihood of double payment for the same project and was a forum for the aid workers to cope with their own emotional problems. Through these meetings ideas emerged about new ways to help achieve our common goal.

-52-

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