UNHCR signs agreement with Saudi Red Crescent Society

News Stories, 18 April 2007

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Al Saud (with tie and yellow shirt) examines a lightweight family tent in the atrium of UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

GENEVA, April 18 (UNHCR) Saudi Arabia's Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Al Saud, president of the Saudi Red Crescent Society, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres signed an agreement on Wednesday to strengthen cooperation on joint implementation of humanitarian projects. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) also calls for joint training programmes in relation to emergency preparedness and capacity-building.

"We have seen the importance of the Red Crescent movements in many humanitarian crises around the world and today we are particularly pleased to strengthen our meaningful cooperation with the Saudi Red Crescent Society," Guterres said as he signed the MOU.

The High Commissioner had invited Prince Faisal to Geneva last February during a visit to Saudi Arabia. While in Riyadh, Guterres had stressed the need for a strong partnership between UNHCR and the Muslim world and expressed his particular wish to boost ties with Saudi Arabia by creating strategic, political, financial and humanitarian partnerships.

Prince Faisal showed his commitment to the newly signed agreement by extending his stay in Geneva by a day to meet with UNHCR staff, develop a plan of action and immediately create more permanent channels of communication.

"Let's not wait until a disaster happens," Prince Faisal said. "Let's meet and think and let's start working together now."

The Saudi Red Crescent Society (SRCS) was established in 1964 as a continuation of the Charitable Relief Society. The aims of the SRCS include providing ambulance services, relief aid and carrying out humanitarian work under international treaties signed by SRCS. The society became the 91st member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Cooperation between UNHCR and the SRCS has expanded in recent years. In 2000, the SRCS participated in the UNHCR-organised Partners in Action regional meeting in Tunisia and acted as regional coordinator for Gulf non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

In 2000, UNHCR's office in Riyadh organised an Emergency Management Training Programme in Riyadh in cooperation with SRCS. SRCS is also an active member of the Gulf NGOs Network (GNN) and the main channel for Saudi governmental and non-governmental humanitarian assistance and relief aid.

Between 2000 and 2006, SRCS helped UNHCR's emergency and rehabilitation projects in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and more recently in Lebanon. SRCS cash contributions to UNHCR programmes in 2006 reached $849,038.