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

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

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