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UNHCR and Barcelona Football Club launch partnership to help refugee children through sport

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UNHCR and Barcelona Football Club launch partnership to help refugee children through sport

22 January 2008

22 January 2008

GENEVA - The UN refugee agency signed today a partnership agreement with FC Barcelona, one of the world's most renowned sport associations. The agreement, signed in Geneva today by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Joan Laporta, President of FC Barcelona, will help provide refugee children with necessary life skills through sport.

"For us, this partnership is of huge importance," said High Commissioner António Guterres during the signing ceremony at the UNHCR Headquarters. "FC Barcelona has the capacity to communicate to society such important values as tolerance, which is crucial for society's acceptance of refugees and other people in difficult and vulnerable situations."

Joan Laporta, President of FC Barcelona, known to its fans as "Barça", added: "As a football club, our most important asset are our football stars. They are the ones who can give that touch of happiness to the most vulnerable people. At the same time, our fans are also very proud that Barça is more than a club, precisely because of this kind of initiatives in which we are participating."

The agreement has been signed for an initial three years but it is expected to signal the beginning of a long term relationship of cooperation between the two institutions.

The main objective of the new partnership is to raise public awareness of the protection needs of refugees and other uprooted people around the world and to promote the role of education and sport in the development and well being of refugees, particularly children. As a first step, UNHCR and FC Barcelona will jointly identify and design a number of education and life skills projects through sport activities which will benefit refugees in Ecuador, Nepal and Rwanda.

The partnership will gain from the UN refugee agency's mandate, expertise and field presence and from FC Barcelona's experience in assisting children in need in several countries through educational, cultural and solidarity activities. This partnership will also assist UNHCR's to reach its goal of providing education, sport and technology to nine million refugee children by 2010.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, is one of the world's principal humanitarian agencies, with some 6,200 employees working out of 278 offices in more than 110 countries. During over half a century of work, the agency has provided assistance to well over 50 million people, earning two Nobel Peace Prizes in 1954 and 1981. Today, UNHCR helps almost 33 million people around the globe.

FC Barcelona is one of the world's best known sports clubs, with more than 156,000 registered members. As part of its commitment to social issues, the club contributes a percentage of its income to development, educational, social and cultural initiatives through the FC Barcelona Foundation.

The partnership agreement with UNHCR follows other initiatives signed with UNICEF in September 2006 and with UNESCO in November 2007.