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UNHCR chief Guterres sends message of partnership to NGO partners

News Stories, 28 September 2007

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
High Commissioner António Guterres talks about partnership at an annual meeting with NGOs.

GENEVA, September 28 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Friday called for a strengthened strategic partnership between the refugee agency and its many NGO partners.

His message came during a closing address to representatives of some 200 non-governmental organizations small and large, national and international attending annual consultations in Geneva with UNHCR.

"I do believe that more and more the UN system, the Red Cross-Red Crescent system and the NGO movements need to establish ... a partnership that is strategic, that is a partnership among equals and that is accountable to the beneficiaries, to the people we care for, because they are the raison d'être of our work," he said after his closing speech.

Guterres outlined several areas in which NGO partnership, help and feedback could help the refugee agency plan and achieve internal reforms, advocate more effectively with donors and governments, and better serve refugees and other people of concern.

"It is important to have your input in our change process," Guterres said, nothing that the streamlining of headquarter operations were aimed at freeing up resources and funds for UNHCR field operations, including those implemented by NGO partners.

He said a strong relationship with NGOs would be vital in meeting and publicising the challenges of the 21st Century, including the growing asylum-migration nexus and displacement due to war, persecution, deprivation and environmental degradation.

This year's consultations, attended by some 300 people and co-hosted by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), were opened on Wednesday by Deputy High Commissioner Craig Johnstone. The main theme was partnership, but other special debate topics included "Next Steps in Durable Solutions" and "Special Situation Focuses."

Meeting coordinator Manisha Thomas said the meeting had given NGOs a valuable opportunity to network and have frank discussions with UNHCR staff and other NGO colleagues.

"The relationships that get built at meetings like this help in terms of further work and future work. A number of ideas have come out and a number of challenges have been put to NGOs and to UNHCR that they're going to have to work on in the future," said Thomas, an ICVA policy adviser.

The NGO consultations provide an important forum to raise issues, network, and exchange views with UNHCR. They will be followed on Monday 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.

By Leo Dobbs in Geneva




Partnership: An Operations Management Handbook for UNHCR's Partners (Revised Edition)

A practical guide for those working with UNHCR in protecting and assisting refugees.

Non-Governmental Organizations

A priority for us is to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organizations.

Annual Consultations with NGOs

An important yearly forum.

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

2015 Annual Consultations with NGOs

The 2015 Annual Consultations with NGOs will take place from 01 to 03 July at the International Conference Centre Geneva (ICCG). For further information, visit our website:

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presents the Nansen medal to Afghan refugee, Aqeela Asifi in Geneva, Switzerland.

Asifi, 49, has dedicated her life to bringing education to refugee girls in Pakistan. Despite minimal resources and significant cultural challenges, Asifi - a former teacher who fled from Kabul with her family in 1992 - has guided over a thousand refugee girls through primary education in the Kot Chandana refugee village in Mianwali, Pakistan.

Before she arrived, strict cultural traditions kept most girls at home. But she was determined to give these girls a chance and began teaching just a handful of pupils in a makeshift school tent.

UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, and names Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti among its laureates. Speakers and performers at today's award ceremony include UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ger Duany, Unicef Goodwill Ambassador and singer Angelique Kidjo and visual artist Cedric Cassimo.

Afghanistan is the largest, most protracted refugee crisis in the world. Over 2.6 million Afghans currently live in exile and over half of them are children.

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

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