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High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges, 2012

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Faith and Protection

The fifth High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges took place on December 12-13, 2012 in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The theme – “Faith and Protection” - highlighted the important role that faith-based organizations and local religious communities play in protecting asylum-seekers, refugees, the internally displaced and stateless people.

Some 400 people attended the event, including representatives of UN member states and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as faith leaders, representatives of faith-based organizations, inter-faith experts and academics. The Dialogue was preceded by a closed half-day consultation with High Commissioner António Guterres and spiritual and community leaders as well as experts in inter-faith dialogue.

Participants strongly confirmed the convergence and complementarity between international protection and humanitarian principles as they relate to refugees, stateless people and the internally displaced on the one hand, and fundamental religious values and traditions on the other. The Dialogue also generated a deeper appreciation of how the lives of those that UNHCR serves are shaped by religion and spirituality.

During the two-day gathering, a consensus emerged regarding the key principles of humanitarian work, including humanity, impartiality, non-discrimination, respect for the beliefs of others, diversity, empowerment, equality and the protection against any form of conditionality.

Reports of the roundtables were presented in a panel discussion at the plenary session and were followed by a further exchange of views and recommendations. A number of concrete suggestions were made during the three roundtable discussions: on creating welcoming communities, durable solutions and partnerships. As in previous years, the Dialogue was not structured to elicit formal or agreed outcomes. The High Commissioner delivered a summary of the discussions and highlighted elements for follow up.