UNHCR opens annual consultations with NGO partners

News Stories, 25 June 2008

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
Queen Noor of Jordan addresses the opening of the UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva.

GENEVA, June 25 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency's annual consultations with NGO partners opened on Wednesday with a call by Jordan's Queen Noor for renewed international support for the Iraqi refugee relief programmes of UNHCR and others. She also urged resettlement countries to take in more Iraqi refugees.

Queen Noor and her Noor Al Hussein Foundation were among some 350 participants and more than 200 organizations from around the world taking part in this year's three-day UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs (non-governmental organizations). There were more national NGOs attending than ever before, showing how vital these are to the work of UNHCR in the field.

Referring to the "terrible pandemic" of forced human displacement, Queen Noor put a spotlight on the Iraqi refugee crisis and the threat it posed to the region. "The Middle East is particularly vulnerable as ongoing tensions are further strained by such large-scale displacement," she said, adding that one in five Iraqis had been displaced by the conflict in their country.

The queen said Syria and Jordan were struggling to cope with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, adding that the population of her country had risen 10 percent. At the same time, only a tiny proportion of Iraqis were being taken in by industrialized countries.

"We must support the Iraqi government in providing a secure environment that will allow their citizens to voluntarily return home as soon as possible," she stressed, while urging resettlement countries to "dramatically increase resettlement."

Queen Noor, who noted that UNHCR had been having difficulties raising funding for its Iraqi programme, said the scale and duration of Iraq's emergency "requires a renewed commitment of international support to the UNHCR, its NGO partners and other organizations in their critical relief work."

Meanwhile, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone stressed the importance of UNHCR's partnership with NGOs. "We need to have partners or else we will fail as an organization," he told delegates at the opening session.

Johnstone then spoke about the reform process under way at UNHCR and aimed at cutting costs, directing more resources into the field and improving the organization's efficiency.

He said these reforms "We're about halfway through the process" would also further improve ties with NGO partners. They included more decision-making in the field, better evaluation of total needs and ratcheting up budget requests to more realistic levels.

Delegates will be discussing a wide range of issues during the gathering. Issues to be tackled include human rights; urban refugees; the shrinking of humanitarian space; refugee law; post-primary education for teenagers and youth; internally displaced people; protection of women and children at risk; and monitoring of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in detention. There will also be regional sessions.

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 internally displaced people in some of the world's most remote and difficult places. The UN refugee agency works with more than 600 NGOs worldwide.

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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non-Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within Iraq itself.

Posted on 10 January 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."
Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced Iraqis

This week UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is visiting Iraq to meet with families displaced by conflict in recent weeks. After listening to accounts of their difficult journeys to safety, Guterres called for more support to help deal with the crisis. He will also visit some of the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in camps in northern Iraq.
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UNHCR and partners are training scores of Syrian and Lebanese women in traditional fabric printing – helping to sustain centuries-old techniques and provide livelihoods for refugees and host communities.