UN refugee agency meets with its ‘vital partners’ – NGOs

UN refugee agency meets with its ‘vital partners’ – NGOs

Craig Johnstone
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is hosting three days of annual talks at its Geneva headquarters with some 200 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who play a vital role as partners in helping it to meet the needs of millions of uprooted people around the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is hosting three days of annual talks at its Geneva headquarters with some 200 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who play a vital role as partners in helping it to meet the needs of millions of uprooted people around the world.

“If we didn’t have this kind of dialogue, things would start to fall apart in the field and the refugees would be disadvantaged as a result,” UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone told the opening session yesterday. “So we attach a great deal of importance to the partnership with the NGO community.”

He briefed participants on “a very active reform under way at UNHCR,” including decentralization and better management of its budget. “Nimbleness is one of our objectives,” he stressed.

Mr. Johnstone outlined areas where further improvements were needed, while also suggesting how NGOs could help improve the relationship, including timely audits and progress reports on projects.

The more than 300 delegates representing large and small, national and international NGOs from around the world are focusing largely on the theme of partnership, which both sides regard as a vital part of their relationship.

“This is very important for me in my capacity as president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC),” Abdul Rahman Attar said. “This meeting has given me a chance to talk to lots of NGOs and explain to them how they can work with Syria with the cooperation of UNHCR.”

The SARC is mandated to look after all 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and has played a key role in ensuring that UNHCR programmes reach the most needy among them.

Aside from partnership, other special themes of this year’s meeting include “Next Steps in Durable Solutions” and “Special Situation Focuses.”

The talks will be followed next week by the annual gathering of UNHCR’s governing body, the Executive Committee. Since 1997, NGOs have participated in UNHCR’s Executive and Standing Committees as observers.

As vital partners for UNHCR, NGOs implement programmes for refugees and internally displaced persons in some of the world’s most remote and difficult places. In all, about one quarter of UNHCR’s resources are channelled through its partners. The agency works with more than 500 NGOs worldwide.