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Lubbers lauds NGOs' work for uprooted Darfurians

Lubbers lauds NGOs' work for uprooted Darfurians

Just back from a Sudan-Chad mission, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has praised the preparedness of non-governmental organisations in assisting Darfur's refugees and displaced people. UNHCR also works closely with NGOs on longer-term issues, he noted at the close of the Pre-ExCom meeting.
30 September 2004
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers addressing NGO partners at the end of the Pre-ExCom meeting in Geneva.

GENEVA, Sept 30 (UNHCR) - Non-governmental organisations are crucial to UNHCR's work in refugee emergencies like the Darfur situation and in the search for longer-term solutions, said UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers as he closed annual consultations with NGOs on Thursday.

The High Commissioner was addressing a record-high turnout of 330 participants from 222 national and international NGOs, UN, donor and governmental organisations from 80 countries who had gathered in Geneva for three days of consultations. The meeting is also known as Pre-ExCom because it precedes UNHCR's annual Executive Committee meeting and allows NGOs to strategise interventions at ExCom.

One of the highlights of this year's meeting, which ended on Thursday, was the news that starting next year, NGOs will be able to offer their perspectives and expertise to the drafting of Executive Committee conclusions on refugee and asylum policies.

Just back from a donor mission to Chad and Sudan, High Commissioner Lubbers lauded the "remarkably positive" partnership between UNHCR and NGOs in helping Sudanese refugees in Chad and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Sudan's Darfur region.

"When it comes to effective protection for the Darfurians, I see enormous potential and preparedness from NGOs to work with us," said Lubbers. "UNHCR, without NGOs, can do nothing. And NGOs cannot do much without UNHCR. But if we bring our competencies together, then we can do great things."

He noted that in Chad, UNHCR and its partners "have reached a mature phase of the operation," assisting not just the refugees in camps, but also taking into account the impact of this influx on local Chadian communities who host them. "We're working with local NGOs to see what we can do for the local population," said Lubbers.

Describing the situation in Darfur, the High Commissioner said, "Most of the IDPs are living in clusters. They're scared to death, they don't have the courage to venture beyond their clusters for fear of gang rape, looting.... So protection is very important."

He added, 'UNHCR is there, but we have to scale up our operations further. Not just to register protection incidents - which are often preventive when reported - but also to rebuild trust and confidence among the people. We need to organise and energise the people in the camps."

The High Commissioner emphasised the need for a collaborative approach with partners like the African Union and the International Organization for Migration in Darfur. "To build the trust of the people, we must give the same signals to Darfur's refugees and IDPs. So it's good that we accepted the Sudanese government's invitation to join them in villages of return to see the conditions of return," he said.

Besides emergency situations, UNHCR also works closely with NGOs, consulting them when making plans and drawing up budgets in the field "to try to diminish the gaps between the needs of the people and the resources we have," noted Lubbers.

Some of the issues had been addressed earlier in greater detail in smaller, less formal roundtable sessions to encourage more exchange of ideas among participants. Topics included protracted situations, refugee education, HIV/AIDS awareness, IDP protection, the detention of asylum seekers, and building NGO capacity.

A special session was held on the final day in which representatives of Asian and Islamic NGOs shared with all participants their perspectives on the humanitarian work of NGOs and the challenges and opportunities of collaboration with UNHCR.