UNHCR pays special tribute to women on World Refugee Day
19 June 2002
GENEVA - UNHCR staff from Afghanistan to Zambia are marking World Refugee Day Thursday (20 June) with a variety of events focusing on the contributions of millions of refugee women worldwide.
In his annual World Refugee Day statement, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers noted that women and their children make up the vast majority of the world's nearly 20 million refugees and others of concern to UNHCR.
"We must ensure that their voice is heard, that their potential is developed, and that their role is fully recognized," said Lubbers, who was to be in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday to present UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award. This year's award is going to the owners, captain and crew of the Norwegian container vessel "Tampa," which rescued more than 400 asylum-seekers, including women and children, in the Indian Ocean last August.
Lubbers said World Refugee Day should "prompt us to redouble our efforts to find lasting solutions for the millions of refugees and displaced people who are still searching for a future. My goal as UN High Commissioner for Refugees is to help them find it. To do so, we focus on three so-called durable solutions - repatriation to their homeland; possibilities to live in the country of first asylum; or resettlement to a third country."
But to provide those solutions, UNHCR requires international support, he added. "Frankly, we need a lot more help than we have been getting. The reluctance of donors to support the work of UNHCR is shortsighted. If we cannot offer adequate protection and programmes for refugees, as well as some hope of durable solutions, refugee camps can become breeding grounds of despair. Desperate refugees often go on the move, falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers and fuelling criminal networks. Providing solutions for them halts rising crime, prevents new violence and can be crucial for global security. Thus, we must work together to find solutions for refugees."
For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most popular is Africa Refugee Day, celebrated on 20 June. As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which traditionally has shown great generosity to refugees, a special UN General Assembly Resolution was unanimously adopted in 2000 which designated 20 June every year as World Refugee Day.
To celebrate the event, staff in the Albanian capital of Tirana are staging a festival of folk songs and dances in cooperation with the Theatre of Opera and Ballet. In Zambia at the Kala Camp at Kawambwa, Congolese refugees are holding sports competitions and sale of items made by refugees. Similar activities, including photo exhibits, radio and television interviews, tree-planting and concerts, are being held by staff in 114 countries where UNHCR has offices.
In Dili, East Timor, a plaque will be unveiled at Jesus Christ statue, a seaside landmark, in memory of the three UNHCR staff members who were killed in September 2000 while working with East Timorese refugees in the Indonesian province of West Timor.
In Washington, D.C. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie will participate in an event at Union Station with other celebrities and dignitaries, including US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On the internet, until June 20, eBay is auctioning memorabilia offered and signed by celebrities from around the world, including Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Naomi Campbell and Michael Schumacher. Proceeds from the sale of these items will go to refugees.
To highlight its concern for refugee women, this year's theme of the celebrations and as a follow-up to the ongoing Global Consultations on International Protection, UNHCR and partners have issued a new handbook on gender-related persecution and membership to a particular social group. This complements the existing guidelines on refugee protection and is meant to guide decision-makers, including UNHCR staff, in carrying out refugee status determination.