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UNHCR seeks cooperation of foundations to help refugees

News Stories, 7 June 2007

© UNHCR/C.Hamm
Happy Reunion in South Sudan. UNHCR is working with a number of charitable foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently gave the refugee agency US$10 million to help repatriate Sudanese refugees.

GENEVA, June 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has made a fresh call on the world's major foundations to use their expertise and extensive resources to help the world's millions of refugees and displaced people.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, addressing the opening of the annual conference of the European Foundation Centre in Madrid last Friday, said that the 21st century was "the century of people on the move." He added that poverty, environmental degradation, war and persecution continued to drive people from their homes and destroy their livelihoods.

"If there is any single area in which the international community has demonstrated its lack of capacity, it is in the area of people on the move," Guterres told some 600 executives of charitable foundations and representatives of civil society from around the world. "I see a tremendous need for the engagement of civil society in this area, in advocacy, research and direct interventions to meet the needs of so many."

The High Commissioner also urged foundations to use their resources to combat the rise of phenomena such as political populism, racism, religious fundamentalism and xenophobia. He called for the promotion of "wisdom and compassion ... in order to rid our world of fear, intolerance, hatred and indifference."

Guterres said it was clear that the international community did not know how to handle the transition from war to peace and from emergency relief to development. "The international financial and development institutions work too slowly for places like South Sudan. We need new forms of intervention, including the help of foundations, because the existing system is often simply too slow to benefit the people who need help," he said.

UNHCR is already working with a number of charitable foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has recently given the refugee agency US$10 million to help repatriate refugees to South Sudan.

The European Foundation Centre (EFC) is an independent non-profit association based in Brussels. It is an important gathering point for independent funders active around the world.

A survey carried out by the centre last year on its members' current and prospective international activities showed that foundations and corporate funders were demonstrating increased activity and increased interest in going global. The EFC believes foundations have much to contribute to the global causes.

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Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugeePlay video

Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugee

UNHCR's 2012 World Refugee Day global social advocacy campaign, "Dilemmas", aims to help fight intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini and a host of other celebrities echo the same strong message: No one chooses to be a refugee.
Juanes - No one chooses to be a refugeePlay video

Juanes - No one chooses to be a refugee

UNHCR's 2012 World Refugee Day global social advocacy campaign, "Dilemmas", aims to help fight intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. UNHCR supporter Juanes and a host of other celebrities echo the same strong message: No one chooses to be a refugee.
Yao Chen - No one chooses to be a refugeePlay video

Yao Chen - No one chooses to be a refugee

UNHCR's 2012 World Refugee Day global social advocacy campaign, "Dilemmas", aims to help fight intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. Yao Chen UNHCR Honorary Patron for China and a host of other celebrities echo the same strong message: No one chooses to be a refugee.