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UNHCR hosts Environment Workshop in Geneva

Briefing notes

UNHCR hosts Environment Workshop in Geneva

23 October 2001

This week (Oct 22-25), UNHCR is hosting a workshop in Geneva on 'Practising and Promoting Sound Environmental Management in Refugee and Returnee Operations.' The workshop is bringing together over 40 NGO and government partners from some 20 countries to share their experiences on environmental issues in a refugee setting and make recommendations on putting these lessons into practice. Opening the workshop on Monday, Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane said "UNHCR has a clear obligation to ensure that environmental degradation in refugee hosting communities does not now, or in the future, undermine the core element of UNHCR's mandate - the institution of asylum. In other words, UNHCR needs to protect the environment to protect refugees."

The workshop covers five themes: Natural Resources Management; Household Practices; Camp Establishment and Management; Environmental Education and Awareness Raising; and Environmental Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation.

Some specific root causes of environmental damage in refugee hosting countries to be covered during the meeting include diamond and gold mining, deforestation, and desertification.

The workshop aims to identify what works and what doesn't work in different phases of operations and under different environmental, social and economic conditions. The results are intended for immediate and practical use in the field and will be made available on the Internet.

UNHCR is also currently preparing three new handbooks on environmental issues - environmental assessment, promoting sound agricultural practices, and domestic energy - which are expected to be finalised within the coming month.

All day Thursday at the Museum of the Red Cross, UNHCR will host an open day to share the results of the workshop with all interested parties. Journalists are welcome to attend and interviews can also be arranged.