UNHCR begins annual consultation with NGO partners

The UN refugee agency begins annual consultations with representatives of some 200 non-governmental organizations who play a vital role in helping UNHCR meet the needs of millions of uprooted people around the world.

UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone speaks at the opening of the refugee agency's annual consultations with NGOs.   © UNHCR/S.Hopper

GENEVA, September 26 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency on Wednesday began annual consultations with representatives of some 200 non-governmental organizations who play a vital role in helping UNHCR meet the needs of millions of uprooted people around the world.

More than 300 delegates representing large and small, national and international NGOs from around the world will focus largely on the theme of partnership during the three-day gathering, which both sides regard as a vital part of their relationship.

"This is very important for me in my capacity as president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)," said Abdul Rahman Attar, adding: "This meeting has given me a chance to talk to lots of NGOs and explain to them how they can work with Syria with the cooperation of UNHCR."

The SARC is mandated to look after all 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and has played a key role in ensuring that UNHCR programmes reach the most needy among them.

"The main objective of the meeting is to ensure that we are working effectively with the NGO community and that the needs of the refugees and the internally displaced people in the world are being met," said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone, who opened the meeting.

Johnstone said the annual gathering was very important for UNHCR. "If we didn't have this kind of dialogue, things would start to fall apart in the field and the refugees would be disadvantaged as a result. So we attach a great deal of importance to the partnership with the NGO community."

In his opening address, Johnstone briefed participants on "a very active reform under way at UNHCR," including decentralization and better management of its budget. "Nimbleness is one of our objectives," he noted. He outlined areas where further improvements were needed, while also suggesting how NGOs could help improve the relationship - including timely audits and progress reports on projects.

The NGO consultations provide an important forum to raise issues, network, and exchange views with UNHCR. Aside from partnership, other special themes of this year's meeting include "Next Steps in Durable Solutions" and "Special Situation Focuses."

The NGO consultations will be followed next week by the annual gathering of UNHCR's governing body, the Executive Committee, or ExCom. Since 1997, NGOs have participated in UNHCR's Executive and Standing Committees as observers.

For the past two decades, the annual consultations have brought together NGOs and UNHCR managers to examine all aspects of their partnership on behalf of the world's uprooted people.

NGOs are vital partners for UNHCR, implementing programmes for refugees and IDPs in some of the world's most remote and difficult places. In all, about a quarter of UNHCR's resources are channelled through its partners. The UN refugee agency works with more than 500 NGOs worldwide.