UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign will help refugee children learn and play

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday marked the launch of a major internet-based campaign by UNHCR and its corporate partners. The ninemillion.org fund-raising and awareness campaign will help provide education, sports and hope to refugee and displaced children around the world.

GENEVA, 21 June (UNHCR) - Under the slogan "Nine million faces. Nine million names. Nine million stories," UNHCR and its corporate partners are counting on a major new internet-based campaign to help refugee and displaced children around the world.

nine.org was launched on World Refugee Day (June 20) as a new public-private sector initiative and an example of how business partners are helping UNHCR to give refugees hope for a better future.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and his special adviser on sport for development and peace, Adolf Ogi, gave their backing to the campaign in Geneva on Wednesday.

"Nine million refugee children. That is unacceptable. We need actions. And not only words. Therefore, this campaign is very important. For refugee children and youth there are few things more important than education and sport. They can make the difference between despair and hope," Ogi said. "By helping refugee children to learn and play we will be helping them, and the world, to have a better future."

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres also stressed the campaign's benefits. "ninemillion.org is about giving the world's refugee youth a chance to see beyond their current situation and begin to rebuild their lives," he said on Tuesday.

"Once out of harm's way, the needs of refugees continue despite having moved off the front pages - and those needs far exceed existing sources of funding. All too often, the world's nine million refugee youth become the most forgotten. They are denied their basic rights to childhood and are left with uncertain futures," Guterres added. "ninemillion.org can help refugee youth by giving them a chance to change their future through education and sport."

The campaign has received key support from Nike and Microsoft, both members of UNHCR's Council of Business Leaders. The Toronto-based international humanitarian organization, Right To Play, is also a partner.

The campaign includes a 30-second TV spot featuring Brazilian football legend Ronaldo, who is supporting ninemillion.org in his capacity as a UNDP goodwill ambassador. It also features short films about young refugees in Azerbaijan, Uganda and Thailand who share similar experiences, hopes, ambitions and love of football. The films can be seen on the ninemillion.org website, along with photo galleries, stories and blogs.

"These are youth who have seen their parents killed, have fled their homes because of war, or who have been born in a refugee camp and known nothing else. Yet despite the trauma and conflict of their lives - and the harsh conditions of a refugee camp - they are connected by a universal love of sport and the desire to learn and create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities," the organisers said. "ninemillion.org is committed to giving them that chance."

Two-thirds of the money raised through the campaign will be used for education projects in refugee camps. The remaining third will fund sport and play programmes by Right to Play for refugee youth, with an emphasis on getting girls and young women onto playing fields.

Girls and young women in conflict and post-conflict situations are less likely than boys and men to have access to basic rights. Their education is often overlooked in favour of male children, and parents often expect girls to work at home.

"We're trying to find ways to reduce the obstacles that keep girls from getting into the classroom," said UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin, announcing the campaign in London.

To kick off the fund-raising effort, the Nike Foundation announced a US$1 million donation. T-shirts featuring the ninemillion.org logo will be available at select Nike retail outlets worldwide and through the ninemillion.org website, with net proceeds supporting the campaign. Nike has also donated 40,000 balls, designed for use in harsh refugee camp conditions, for distribution to refugee youth.

Microsoft's online media network, MSN, is featuring ninemillion.org on its local portal, Hotmail and Messenger sites in 10 European countries and the United States. Microsoft will also support education projects through donations of software to non-governmental organization partners, as well as the provision of curriculum and basic training content.

Other companies supporting ninemillion.org are Earth Water International, Manpower Inc., Merck & Co, Inc. and Procter & Gamble, which will donate more than one million sachets of water purifier for safe drinking water in refugee camps.