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UN refugee chief spotlights work with private sector to help nine million children

UN refugee chief spotlights work with private sector to help nine million children

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres underscored the importance of collaboration between the UN and the private sector by highlighting a new joint initiative during an address at the World Economic Forum today.

The campaign,, is the result of a partnership among UNHCR, Nike and Microsoft. Launched in June 2006, it strives to raise awareness for the plight of 9 million refugee children worldwide and provide them with greater access to education and sports programmes.

“Today, UNHCR is trying to give a voice to some nine million refugee children,” Mr. Guterres said at a luncheon kicking off the start of the annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. “But we can’t do it alone. If the refugee voice is to be heard and understood, we need all the help we can get. And that’s where our corporate partners and come in.”

Since its inception, the campaign has drawn 2 million people to its website and has raised roughly $1.5 million. Some of this money has already helped such non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as Toronto-based Right To Play International, which seeks to improve children’s lives through sports. The majority of donations are to be invested in Kenyan and Ugandan refugee communities to sponsor local education and sports projects.

“Refugee children are among the most marginalized people on Earth,” Mr. Guterres. “We tend to forget that beyond the 20-second news flashes there are millions of refugees, many of them children, living for years in often unbearable conditions, robbed of their chances for personal development.”

Also at Davos, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot will participate in a panel session on AIDS which will examine various scenarios of how the epidemic could develop, as well as other topics such as the effectiveness of current approaches to treat and the impact of large-scale HIV prevention efforts.

Several advances have been made in combating HIV/AIDS. Six of the most affected African countries have curtailed the spread of the virus, and money to fight it as surged from less than $300 million in 1996 to $8.3 billion in 2005. In approximately 40 countries, government leaders have taken control of their country’s efforts to stamp out the epidemic.

“Yet, for all this progress, the pandemic is growing more rapidly than the world is working to stop it,” Dr. Piot warned in a recent article in The Financial Times. “Hence the true task is not only to meet today’s needs on an emergency footing but to take on extra responsibility for sustaining the response at increasingly high levels for another generation or more.”