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In a recent speech to his governing board, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres made an intriguing but little-noticed proposal - that the humanitarian response to major emergencies should in future be partly funded by assessed rather than voluntary contributions.

But what exactly did he mean by that?

The country of Sudan has been plagued by war since it was granted independence from Britain in 1955. Conflict originated from the merging of the northern and southern regions of Sudan by the British colonial government, and religious differences and conflict over resources resulted in the outbreak of civil war from 1955 to 1972, and again from 1983 to 2005. During the second civil war, around tens of thousands of boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17 were forced from their homes.

According to Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “eighty-six per cent of refugees in the world live in developing countries, and the truth is that many of these host countries that have so generously opened their borders, often more generously than the developed countries, are not receiving adequate solidarity from the international community.”

Michael Boyce's picture

Five months ago, I visited a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) near Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The people living there first arrived in 2012 and 2013, having fled from armed groups who destroyed villages and killed civilians. As the chaos continued back at home, many IDPs had no choice but to remain in the camps. But the longer they stayed, the less aid they received from the United Nations and other organizations.

Daryl Grisgraber's picture

In the center of Erbil, northern Iraq, just next to a highway overpass, we met Yezin and his family – refugees from the fighting in neighboring Syria. Nasser himself didn’t get up to greet us. He had been wounded in a mortar attack on his Syrian hometown of Aleppo. The field surgery he had received left a metal plate in his leg that doesn’t allow him to stand or walk on his own any longer. He and his family of seventeen are now living in an abandoned construction lot in Erbil, where it has been hard for humanitarian agencies to find and help them.

Sarnata Reynolds's picture

When I met Amir two years ago in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, he had just graduated with a degree in Physics from Sittwe University. He was a fluent English speaker and planned to pursue a career as an engineer. Amir lived in Aung Mingalar, the only neighborhood in the capital city of Sittwe where the Rohingya still maintained a residence after 140,000 had been driven out of the city by mobs assisted by the police.

Marcy Hersh's picture

Next week, I will be traveling on mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with several RI colleagues, where we will be undertaking an in-depth assessment of the challenges that the humanitarian community is currently facing in keeping women and girls safe from gender-based violence (GBV). 

"Thailand’s pledge to repatriate 100,000 Burmese refugees sparks concern.” “Refugees fear forced return to Myanmar.” “Thai and Burmese armies to discuss refugee repatriation in August.” According to these recent news reports, the 140,000 refugees from Myanmar who are currently exiled in neighboring Thailand are about to go home, whether they like it or not. 

Refugees International traveled to Myanmar’s Kayin State to test the validity of such assertions, and found the reality of the situation to be quite different.

When Faud al-Shiekh Sanaa, a gaunt master teacher from Aleppo, made his way to Turkey with throngs of other refugees from Syria in July 2012, he immediately set about registering children for school. Classes back home would have started in September, and there was little time to waste.

By November, with backing from international and Turkish charities, the governor of Kilis Province had presided over the opening of the “Culture Center for Syrians.”

Daryl Grisgraber's picture

The humanitarian situation in Iraq is once again deteriorating. The siege of Amirli, the humanitarian airdrops to Sinjar – with people so desperate to get out that they fled into Syria – and now Western and Arab airstrikes, have kept all eyes on this tumultuous part of the Middle East.

Sarnata Reynolds's picture

Since a wave of violence displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya in June 2012, RI has visited Myanmar four times to document their humanitarian situation, publicize their persecution, and demand that the international community pursue a remedy for them as part of the normalization of relations with the Myanmar government. Now RI is returning to the country to push again for progress.

Alice Thomas's picture

On September 21, thousands of people will come together in New York City to demand action on global climate change. The People’s Climate March, which comes in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, will not only be the largest climate march in history, but also the most diverse.

“This policy calls for UNHCR to pursue alternatives to camps whenever possible. Compliance with this policy is mandatory.” Those words are taken from a policy statement prepared by UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Approved by High Commissioner António Guterres on July 22, 2014, the document has curiously not been placed in the public domain, nor have UNHCR’s key partners – donor states, other UN agencies, and NGOs – been informed of its existence. But Refugees International has gained access to a leaked copy.

“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” In just 15 words, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights makes it very clear that people whose life and liberty are at risk in their homeland should be able to leave it and find safe refuge in another state.

But as with many other rights that are spelled out in the Universal Declaration, the right to seek asylum is routinely denied to many people who should be able to benefit from it. 

Thailand’s migration and refugee policies have shifted since the military’s coup d’état in May. The Thai junta has initiated a policy of labor reforms, including a crackdown on undocumented migrant workers to allegedly combat corruption and human trafficking.

In December 2013, in Juba, South Sudan, fighting broke out between soldiers of the Nuer and Dinka ethnicity within the presidential guard. This fighting quickly spread throughout the country, as many Dinka aligned themselves with the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and many Nuer aligned themselves with the former vice president, Riek Machar. Since then, 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

In November of 2013, the government of Saudi Arabia began expelling large numbers of foreign nationals, including some 550,000 Yemenis, 180,000 Ethiopians, and 36,000 Somalis. While there has been little international attention or condemnation of these deportations, the returning individuals and their countries of origin have suffered many logistical, economic, and social ramifications due to this decision.

Dawn Calabia's picture

This year Afghans surprised the world when seven million of them participated in a generally peaceful presidential election, despite threats by armed groups including the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Daryl Grisgraber's picture

During RI's recent visit to Lebanon, the conflict in Syria leaked over in one of the most dangerous ways yet: militants out of Syria clashed with Lebanese military forces in the border town of Arsal. The humanitarian community in Lebanon frantically tried to think of every possible way to get aid to those trapped there.

Michel Gabaudan's picture

During the past two weeks on Mt. Sinjar, we have seen both the worst and the best of what humanity can do.