UNHCR chief reiterates partnership at annual meet with NGOs

High Commissioner Guterres reiterates the importance of UNHCR's partnership with NGOs and stresses the need to boost the capacity of national NGOs.

High Commissioner Ant&;nio Guterres closing UNHCR's annual NGO consultations in Geneva.   © UNHCR/S.Hopper

GENEVA, June 27 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres reiterated here Friday the importance of the refugee agency's partnership with NGOs and stressed the need to boost the capacity of national NGOs.

"I am deeply committed to enhance this partnership," Guterres told some 350 representatives from more than 200 international and national organizations attending the closing session of the three-day UNHCR Annual Consultations with NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

There were more national NGOs attending the annual meeting than ever before, reflecting the growing importance of these partners to the work of UNHCR in the field. "The role of local NGOs has increased in a meaningful way," the High Commissioner noted, while adding that he was "particularly concerned with increased capacity of local NGOs."

Guterres also expressed concern about human rights violations and the "narrowing of the humanitarian space." He said NGOs were important as "strong allies to make sure that human rights are respected."

He also addressed the issue of urban refugees, adding that this problem "will be our key priority ... in the near future." He specifically mentioned Damascus and Amman, where the huge numbers of Iraqi refugees had been an eye-opener for UNHCR. "This trend will be bigger and bigger."

This year's consultations were opened on Wednesday by Deputy High Commissioner L. Craig Johnstone. The main theme was human rights, but participants discussed a wide range of issues and themes.

Queen Noor of Jordan called at Wednesday's opening for renewed international support for the Iraqi refugee relief programmes of UNHCR and others. The queen's Al Noor Al Hussein Foundation is an NGO partner of UNHCR, which is facing a funding crisis for its Iraqi programme.

The NGO consultations provide an important forum to raise issues, network, and exchange views with UNHCR on 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 third of UNHCR's resources are channelled through its partners. The UN refugee agency works with more than 600 NGOs worldwide.