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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

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The High Commissioner

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

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.

2014 Annual Consultations with NGOs

The 2014 Annual Consultations with NGOs took place from 17 to 19 June 2014 at the International Conference Centre Geneva (ICCG). For further information, visit our website:

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the Colombian women's rights group, Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future, with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday night.

The volunteer members of Butterflies risk their lives each day to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse in the Pacific Coast city of Buenaventura. This city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups.

Drawing on only the most modest of resources, volunteers cautiously move through the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical care and report crimes. This work, deep inside the communities, helps them reach the most vulnerable women, but also brings with it danger and threats from the illegal armed groups.

The Award ceremony, in its 60th year, was held in Geneva's Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, and featured musical performances by UNHCR supporters, Swedish-Lebanese singer-songwriter Maher Zain and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. The Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela also performed at the ceremony.

2014 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

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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