Norway's top royals visit UNHCR headquarters in Geneva

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, welcomed HM King Harald and HM Queen Sonja of Norway to the UN refugee agency's headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday. They were accompanied by the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

King Harald of Norway (left) arrives at UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva accompanied by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.   © UNHCR/S.Hopper

GENEVA, Apr 4 (UNHCR) - Their majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway, accompanied by Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, visited UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday where they were briefed on current humanitarian challenges facing the organisation.

Staff lined the balconies to greet the royals who were met on arrival by Norwegian children bearing flowers. They were then given a briefing on the work of UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.

"This visit is a great honour for us and we had a very good discussion about our operations especially on the most difficult areas like Sudan and the Great Lakes," said UN High Commissioner António Guterres after the briefings.

"Norway is not only our largest per capita donor, it is also a very reliable partner. And, their excellent NGOs, who are our partners in the field, are very strong assets and help us immensely in our capacity to deliver protection for refugees and to find solutions in their lives," Guterres added.

Guterres said UNHCR was grateful to the Norwegian government for its excellent cooperation over the last few years.

King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway (centre and right), and Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre (left), talk to journalists at UNHCR after a briefing on current humanitarian challenges.  © UNHCR/S.Hopper

The King and Queen afterwards told Norwegian journalists covering the visit that they had found the briefings very interesting. Queen Sonja has a long involvement in refugee causes. In 1982 she was awarded the Nansen Medal for her work for refugees by the then High Commissioner for Refugees, Poul Hartling.

The first ever High Commissioner for Refugees, Fridtjof Nansen, was Norwegian. He is widely regarded as the founding father of the international system for protecting and assisting refugees.

Norway is a strong supporter of UNHCR both financially - in 2005 it was the refugee agency's sixth largest donor giving US$62.78 million to the organisation - but also as a resettlement country. UNHCR also works closely with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in many parts of the world and has an agreement under which the NRC provides staff for deployment during emergencies.