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UNHCR chief seeks more international support to solve the Somali refugee situation

News Stories, 7 October 2011

© UNHCR/J.-M.Ferré
High Commissioner Guterres closes the annual meeting of UNHCR's Executive Committee.

GENEVA, October 7 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres wrapped up the annual meeting of UNHCR's governing Executive Committee, or ExCom, on Friday with a fresh call for international support to find a solution to the plight of Somali refugees.

He also told delegates that UNHCR was looking at what kind of "catalytic" role it could play in finding solutions to the long-running Somalia refugee crisis, which has been exacerbated this year by drought, famine and the continuing fighting in the south and centre of the country. More than 900,000 Somalis are now refugees in neighbouring countries and some 1.5 million are internally displaced.

Guterres indicated that areas the international community could look at included increased burden-sharing and support for host countries and communities, including economic development.

"Those communities are paying a high price supporting refugees and they need solidarity and burden-sharing in relation to their own economic and social development needs. And that is why it is so important that development cooperation becomes a key instrument in the solutions for refugee problems," he said.

But he also noted that "it is necessary to recognize that the capacity to coordinate between the UN system and international financial organizations is still in its very beginning. And the capacity of coordination of multilateral actors with bilateral forms of cooperation has also still a long way to go."

Looking ahead to 2012, the High Commissioner said: "I think we should do our best to concentrate our efforts next year on protracted refugee situations, on urban refugee problems and in addressing the protection gaps [in education, health and other areas] in this complex movement of people that we are witnessing, and develop the forms of burden-sharing that are necessary."

At a post-Excom press conference, Guterres referred positively to a new political road map on Somalia that had emerged from a High Level Consultative Meeting in Mogadishu in early September, and also spoke of the need for better equipping of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.

"I gave two suggestions. First, nurture this political process that is now being born to avoid that it has the same destiny as others in the past," he said. "Second, make AMISOM an effective and operational force according to its mandate. It doesn't make sense to approve the mandate in the [UN] Security Council and then not to provide the instruments that are needed. And the costs are ridiculous compared with the costs of military presences in other parts of the world."

The annual ExCom meeting reviews and approves UNHCR's programmes and budget, advises on protection issues and discusses a wide range of other topics. Tunisia's Acting President Fouad Mebazaa was the guest of honour at this year's meeting, which saw Sweden take over chairmanship from Egypt.




Executive Committee

The governing body meets annually to discuss programmes, budgets and other key issues.

The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presents the Nansen medal to Afghan refugee, Aqeela Asifi in Geneva, Switzerland.

Asifi, 49, has dedicated her life to bringing education to refugee girls in Pakistan. Despite minimal resources and significant cultural challenges, Asifi - a former teacher who fled from Kabul with her family in 1992 - has guided over a thousand refugee girls through primary education in the Kot Chandana refugee village in Mianwali, Pakistan.

Before she arrived, strict cultural traditions kept most girls at home. But she was determined to give these girls a chance and began teaching just a handful of pupils in a makeshift school tent.

UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced, and names Eleanor Roosevelt, Graça Machel and Luciano Pavarotti among its laureates. Speakers and performers at today's award ceremony include UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ger Duany, Unicef Goodwill Ambassador and singer Angelique Kidjo and visual artist Cedric Cassimo.

Afghanistan is the largest, most protracted refugee crisis in the world. Over 2.6 million Afghans currently live in exile and over half of them are children.

2015 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

ExCom 2015: High Commissioner's opening speechPlay video

ExCom 2015: High Commissioner's opening speech

Afghanistan President Ghani's Message to the ExCom High Level SegmentPlay video

Afghanistan President Ghani's Message to the ExCom High Level Segment

UNHCR Excom 2015: A World in CrisisPlay video

UNHCR Excom 2015: A World in Crisis

UNHCR's governing ExCom met in Geneva to review and advise on international protection and discuss a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.