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Empowering refugees the focus of UNHCR, NGO meeting


Empowering refugees the focus of UNHCR, NGO meeting

Annual talks between UNHCR and representatives of 313 nongovernmental organizations begin in Geneva, focusing on ways to strengthen collaboration.
14 June 2017
Switzerland. Global Humanitarian Lab
Paul Bristow (L) and colleagues showcase their 3D creations.

GENEVA – A project by French tech firm Pangloss Labs and its partners provides 3D printing support around the world, including areas where UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency works with refugees.

Its team of entrepreneurs have gone from creating children’s toys to helping to produce items such as stethoscopes, identification tags, tent pegs and signs – all of which could save lives in an emergency setting.

“Collaborating gets the knowledge to where it’s needed,” said Paul Bristow, one of Pangloss Labs’ co-founders, speaking at an annual gathering of UNHCR staff, non-governmental organizations and other partners in Geneva.

“The magic is not in the machines, it’s in the people. It’s about empowering people to manufacture the things they need to solve problems locally.”

“Collaborating gets the knowledge to where it’s needed."

Bristow is one of a record 574 participants from around the world attending the three-day gathering, which is held each year to discuss ways of collaborating on pressing issues of refugee and asylum-seeker protection.

This year, the talks took as their theme a “whole of society approach” that seeks to bring together UNHCR, governments, NGOs and the private sector and, crucially, the refugees themselves, to help them become self-reliant and contribute to their host communities while displaced. The approach, called the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, or CRRF, emerged out of the New York Declaration (NYD) last September.

Another collaborative response to refugee displacement was outlined by Ugandan NGO Nsamizi, which works with refugees and local firms to promote energy saving stoves in Nakivale settlement, and also provides valuable jobs to refugee women.

“The magic is not in the machines, it’s in the people."

The Nsamizi initiative is a shining example of the kind of collaboration that embodies the spirit of the CRRF, which UNHCR was asked to apply in the NYD. So far, UNHCR is applying the model in Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Delegates representing 313 organizations from 91 countries are taking part in this year’s consultations, which run from June 14-16. Highlights include an innovation marketplace that enables organizations to connect and share ideas, and a workshop to establish how a comprehensive response can better address the needs of refugee women and girls.

Other activities include a panel discussion on how working together can improve self-reliance and resilience. The talks come at a time of unprecedented displacement around the world, underscoring the need for shared global responsibility and solidarity.

“With new ideas and renewed impetus to strengthen our collaboration, we have a clearly-defined task,” said the UN High Commissioner, in his welcome note. “To produce relevant, strong and actionable recommendations, informed by practice, which will bring about improved, comprehensive refugee responses.”