UNHCR focuses on ties with national NGOs at annual meet

Annual consultations between UNHCR and its non-governmental organization partners begin with a focus on the refugee agency's national NGO partners.

UNHCR's annual consultations with NGO partners get under way in Geneva.  © UNHCR/P.Bertschmann

GENEVA, June 29 (UNHCR) - Annual consultations between UNHCR and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners began in Geneva on Monday with the focus on the refugee agency's national NGO partners.

More than 380 participants from 206 organizations are taking part in this year's gathering, which over the next three days will discuss issues of mutual concern during regional and thematic sessions. Topics to be discussed this year include statelessness, urban refugees, preventing sexual abuse and exploitation, internally displaced people, xenophobia and much more.

The theme this year is, "National Partners: Providers of First Resort." UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff, attending his first annual meeting with the NGOs, stressed how important the relationship was for UNHCR.

"I've been here long enough to know the important work that you do and that we do together, and that we couldn't do the work we do without you," said Aleinikoff, who joined UNHCR in February.

"National partners are the frontline of any operation," said Bernie Doyle, head of UNHCR's inter-agency unit. "We're trying to enhance our partnership, but not in the sense of them as implementing partners and us as the controlling element, but more to help them do what they are already doing, which is helping their friends and neighbours whenever a disaster strikes," he added.

Aleinikoff also noted the support UNHCR had received from its NGO partners in recent internal reforms and in the three areas where it has placed particular emphasis over the past decade: internally displaced people, refugees living in urban environments and protracted refugee situations.

Meanwhile, Daisy Dell, director of UNHCR's Division of External Relations, said the turnout at the annual gathering showed how important national NGOs were to the agency. "This year, 50 per cent of the organizations attending these consultations are national partners. Indeed, out 206 organizations that have registered for the 2010 consultations, 104 are national partners," she noted.

Dell said she hoped the consultations would lead to concrete proposals on how to strengthen the role of national partners under the various topics that will be discussed during this three-day event, including from a programme management and capacity-strengthening perspective.

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.