UNHCR's annual consultations with NGOs look to new challenges

News Stories, 28 June 2011

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
Opening day of UNHCR's Annual Consultations with NGOs in Geneva. (From left) Julien Schopp of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies; Alice Koiho Kipre of Afrique Secours et Assistance; UNHCR chief António Guterres; UNHCR's Director of External Relations, Daisy Dell; and Acting Head of UNHCR's Inter-Agency Unit, Kemlin Furle.

GENEVA, June 28 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency's annual consultations with its non-governmental partners opened in Geneva on Tuesday with a look ahead at the growing challenges faced by relief agencies amid persisting and multiplying crises.

"Since the beginning of the year, we have witnessed a multiplication of crises, many of them totally unpredicted, with a significant impact on the displacement of people. But [at the same time] old crises seem to never die," said UNHCR chief António Guterres, referring to the recent conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, current uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East as well as the instability in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan.

The three-day meeting involves participants from 211 non-governmental organizations representing 72 countries. Delegates will discuss issues related to the assistance and protection of forcibly displaced people.

"New emphasis needs to be put on urban refugees, land and property rights, IDPs (internally displaced people), statelessness issues that were not part of the agenda not so long ago," said Julien Schopp, Senior Policy Officer for the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, which helped organize the meeting. "It is necessary to take stock and look at ways we can strengthen the protection regime."

Asylum-seekers are experiencing more limited access to countries where they can be protected while treatment of their asylum claims is becoming less fair. Guterres said this is mainly due to negative public opinions in some developed countries towards asylum-seekers, migrants and foreigners in general. He warned that a similar trend is also emerging in the developing world following recent policy changes in areas such as southern Africa.

Access is unpredictable, and this increases the level of risk for humanitarian actors. The High Commissioner noted, "The restrictions governments put on humanitarian access, based on political considerations and the assertions of national sovereignty that sometimes come at the expense of meeting humanitarian needs, is another area where there was no improvement compared to last year."

He added, "With the trend of shrinking asylum space combined with shrinking humanitarian space, I feel things will get worse before they eventually, hopefully, start to get better."

When the 1951 Refugee Convention came into being 60 years ago, there were some 2.1 million refugees. Today, there are nearly 44 million uprooted people around the world. Some 7.2 million of them are refugees who have been in exile for prolonged periods, including in some cases for decades. NGOs have been instrumental in assisting them, including in some of the most remote places. UNHCR is currently working with a network of 700 NGOs worldwide.

By Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba in Geneva

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Annual Consultations with NGOs

An important yearly forum.

2013 Annual Consultations with NGOs

The 2013 Annual Consultations with NGOs took place from 11 to 13 June 2013 at the International Conference Centre Geneva (ICCG). For further information, visit our website:

Partnership: An Operations Management Handbook for UNHCR's Partners (Revised Edition)

A practical guide for those working with UNHCR in protecting and assisting refugees.

Non-Governmental Organizations

A priority for us is to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organizations.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

Dollow: Help inside Somalia

Dollow is a dusty Somali border town with a bridge, 3 km from the Dollo Ado refugee camps across the river in Ethiopia. But many of Dollow's most recent inhabitants are internally displaced people (IDPs) who have no intention of crossing the bridge - constructed with UNHCR's help over 20 years ago - to seek humanitarian assistance. Displaced by drought and famine from the Somali regions of Gedo, Bay and Bakool, these agro-pastoralists overwhelmingly express their wish to return home if the seasonal rains come in October and it is safe to do so.

UNHCR and other UN agencies are providing aid through a variety of local NGOs. Shelter, emergency assistance packages and dry food rations are being distributed while a wet feeding centre provides much-needed sustenance to the estimated 2,000 IDPs in Dollow.

Dollow: Help inside Somalia

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

Since the beginning of this year an estimated 10,000 Somalis have crossed the border and sought shelter in Dolo Ado, a remote, sun-scorched and predominantly Somali corner of south-east Ethiopia. Most have fled insecurity, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from south and central Somalia and the takeover of these areas by insurgent elements. At the peak of the influx in early February 2009, about 150 people were crossing the border each day.

In reponse, a UNHCR emergency team was sent to help run a transit centre in Dolo Ado. In addition, UNHCR dispatched convoys carrying emergency aid, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and plastic sheets. Relief efforts are being coordinated with other UN agencies and NGOs to ensure needs are being met.

Although a number of displaced Somalis within south and central Somalia have started to return, mainly to Mogadishu, many Somalis remain in Dolo Ado in need of protection. Given the poor prospects for repatriation in the foreseeable future, a camp is now under development and refugees are being screened.

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

Lebanon: Rush to ArsalPlay video

Lebanon: Rush to Arsal

The bombardment of the Syrian city of Yabroud has driven thousands of refugees across the mountains into the Lebanese town of Arsal. UNHCR and its partners, including Lebanese NGOs, are working to find shelter for the newly arrived.