By February 26, 2016 Read More →

The Refugee Crisis: Rethinking and Strengthening Response

DPI/NGO Briefing

February 18, 2016 United Nations HQ

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.


The crisis in Syria is one of the worst in our era. The purpose of today’s briefing was to relook at the situation, review what was done, and come up with additional strategies to lessen the effects of the crisis.

There was heightened concern in the gathering when Ninette Kelly, Director, New York Liaison Office, UNHCR, showed us a video of the desperate refugee and migration situation in 2014, and said that nothing has changed since then – in fact, numbers are growing, about 4,500 daily!

Statements by the High Commissioner on this situation, visit:

The distinguished speakers urged NGOs and other civil society members to see what they can do to help, informing them that their ideas were welcome.  What is needed is a national and global response, for countries to work together to help. Predrag Avramovic, Head of the Humanitarian Section, European Union Delegation to the United Nations in New York, said, “it is our legal and moral responsibility to provide protection.”

It was pointed out that this should not have happened in the first place and we need to address the root causes of the refugee and migration crisis.

Susana Sottoli, Associate Director, Programme Division, UNICEF, spoke of the traumatizing effect being a refugee has on a child. She said children were the most vulnerable and half of the number of refugees were children!  Ms. Sottoli stated UNICEF is using technological assistance in coordinating capacity building and education for the children, at the same time, creating child-friendly spaces, and providing basic needs – water, sanitation facilities, and food.

Neil Grungras, Founder and Executive Director, Organization for Refugee, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), pointed out that many NGOs were already reaching out and helping, but more needs to be done.  He said, “we have to do this together – it is up to us. Too many people are suffering.”

Some of the challenges faced in helping the refugees are lack of clear and reliable data and the fact that migration is politicalized. It is hoped that the Social Summit due to be held at UNHQ in September will address these issues.

To hear more on current situation:

Suggestions that emerged during the meeting:

  • work precisely where the people are – create common ground for dialogue.
  • provide jobs for adults and education for the children.
  • humanitarian aid alone is not enough, the needs of the human person also need to be met.
  • those from the US have the loudest voice. Publicize your stories. The narrative of the leaders need to change.
  • more programmes for widows and widowers to be done even though UNHCR is already doing so much.
  • humanitarian principle is the root of all religions. Religion is a unifying factor. There is a need for more interfaith presence.
  • offer scholarship opportunities for refugees.
  • volunteer jobs are recommended .
  • provide help not on the basis of demography but on the needs of the people.
  • It is necessary to step out from the normal networking – we need a different perspective.

For more on the briefing, please visit:

In conclusion, I feel the needs of human beings should be met on two levels:

  1. the material level – basic needs for survival – food, clothes, shelter, health, and education.
  2. the emotional/spiritual level – safe spaces, unbiased love, sense of belonging, security.

People are deprived on both levels and they need to be healed.  One way of doing this is through the human ‘touch’ – talk with them, listen to them, empathize with them, and find ways to empower them through various tools so they can contribute to their own future.


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