News Stories, 31 January 2011
GENEVA, January 31 (UNHCR) – Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit on Monday paid an official visit to UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, where High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres praised her country's steadfast commitment to the refugee cause.
Six years after her first visit, the Crown Princess received a red-carpet welcome at UNHCR's headquarters. UNHCR staff lined galleries overlooking the atrium of the building and cheered as she entered and posed with Guterres in front of the Norwegian and UNHCR flags.
The High Commissioner then took her to see UNHCR's two Nobel prizes and a bust of the first-ever international high commissioner for refugees, Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian widely regarded as the founding father of the international system for protecting and assisting refugees.
Among other issues, Guterres and his royal visitor discussed efforts to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS among Somali refugees in north-east Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp complex, currently home to almost 300,000 forcibly displaced Somalis.
"It is good to hear that protecting refugees [who are living] with HIV is a top priority during a new crisis and that refugees living with HIV have access to anti-retroviral treatment," said the Crown Princess, who was particularly interested in UNHCR's leading role in supporting refugees living with HIV as well as its work to prevent the spread of AIDS during emergencies.
The High Commissioner also took the Crown Princess to see UNHCR's Emergency Room, which is activated every time there is a new crisis. "You can be very proud of the work Norwegians are doing on the frontline of just about every refugee crisis in the world," Guterres told the Crown Princess. "When we ring the alarm bell for an emergency refugee programme, we know that without fail the Norwegian government and NGOs will respond."
Three Norwegian NGOs have agreements to provide UNHCR with specialist staff in as little as 72 hours when a new emergency erupts. This year marks 20 years of cooperation with the Norwegian Refugee Council, which Guterres described as "a key strategic partner."
"From the creation of UNHCR in 1950, Norway has been the most loyal supporter of refugees," Guterres told the Crown Princess. "Over half of Norway's funding is unearmarked, which is invaluable because it gives us the flexibility to fund programmes where the help is most needed."
In 2010, Norway was UNHCR's fifth highest individual government donor, giving US$80.9 million. On a per capita basis, Norway was easily the world's most generous donor country, giving UNHCR the equivalent of US$16.4 per citizen. Norway offers 1,200 resettlement places to refugees annually, the second highest regular resettlement contribution in Europe after Sweden.
At the conclusion of the Crown Princess's visit, the High Commissioner informed her about the agency's plans to mark its 60th anniversary. He described the UNHCR's ambitions for the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, which recognizes extraordinary and dedicated service to refugees.
"This award rewards unsung heroes who are tirelessly working to support refugees," said the Crown Princess. "It is an honour for Norway to be so closely associated with this prize."
By Sybella Wilkes in Geneva