Annual NGO-UNHCR consultations start tomorrow

Briefing Notes, 24 June 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 June 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The 2008 annual consultations between UNHCR and its non-governmental partners will begin tomorrow here in Geneva, bringing together some 200 NGOs for three days of talks on a variety of issues ranging from the protection of refugee women and children at risk to the monitoring of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in detention.

In total, 360 delegates are expected to attend the consultations at the International Conference Centre in Geneva. The event will be opened tomorrow by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan and closed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Friday 27 June at the Palais des Nations.

The consultations provide an important international forum for the non-governmental sector to raise issues, to network and exchange views with UNHCR. Many of discussions later materialize on the agenda of the Executive Committee UNHCR's governing body.

On a more artistic note, if you're interested in discovering the world though the lenses of refugee children photographers, you won't want to miss a stunning photo exhibition, "Do You See What I See?" which will be launched tomorrow (June 25) at the Palais des Nations by Mr. Guterres.

Through this unique project, two dozen refugee children in Yemen and Namibia had the opportunity to attend a two-week photo workshop and learn how to take pictures under the supervision of a professional photographer, Brendan Bannon. A selection of 30 pictures, showing the daily lives of these refugee children, their dreams and concerns, will also be shown in Namibia and Yemen in the presence of the children themselves. It will also be exhibited in other centres around the world.

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Many of the people arriving from Mosul at checkpoints between Ninewa and governorate and Iraq's Kurdistan region have limited resources and cannot afford to pay for shelter. Some people stay with family, while others are staying in hotels and using up their meagre funds.

In the village of Alqosh, some 150 people from 20 families, with little more than the clothes on their back, have been living in several overcrowded classrooms in a primary school for the past week. One member of the group said they had lived in a rented apartment in Mosul and led a normal family life. But in Alqosh, they feared for the welfare and education of their children and the presence of snakes and scorpions.

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In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

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In reponse, a UNHCR emergency team was sent to help run a transit centre in Dolo Ado. In addition, UNHCR dispatched convoys carrying emergency aid, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and plastic sheets. Relief efforts are being coordinated with other UN agencies and NGOs to ensure needs are being met.

Although a number of displaced Somalis within south and central Somalia have started to return, mainly to Mogadishu, many Somalis remain in Dolo Ado in need of protection. Given the poor prospects for repatriation in the foreseeable future, a camp is now under development and refugees are being screened.

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