NEW YORK CITY — “So often the world sits idly by, watching ethnic conflicts flare up, as if these were mere entertainment rather than human beings whose lives are being destroyed. Shouldn’t the existence of even one single refugee be a cause for alarm throughout the world?” said Urkhan Alakbarov, Azerbaijani geneticist.
A refugee is someone who has been forcibly removed from his or her country because of war, persecution or violence. Many times, religion, race, nationality or political opinion are the cause of forced persecution. The UNHRC is concerned with refugees because displacement, due to persecution, war or violence, deprives individuals of their most basic human rights. Refugees are not in their circumstances because of choice. More often than not, they have no other choice, no means of returning to their past lives, and no option other than to resettle in a foreign nation. Without a place to call home, refugees must find food, water, and other basic necessities on their own. Most of these refugees are unable to keep their jobs or source of income, which only exacerbates the problem further. To make matters worse, the majority of all refugees remain in displacement camps for months, and even years. However, these camps are not safe havens. Many experience sexual violence, torture, and forced aggression while they live inside these camps with other refugees.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations which promotes and protects human rights. The Council meets throughout the year to discuss the most pressing human rights issues and situations which require international attention.
The UNHRC was formed in 2006, when it replaced the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission on Human Rights had low guidelines for membership, and as a result, some of the world’s most repressive regimes were members of the international body responsible for setting the international norms on human rights. In an effort to legitimize the committee, the UN replaced it with another body with more stringent guidelines for membership.
The UNHRC provides food, shelter, and other basic necessities to the displaced of the world. In 2012, the UNHRC worked in 126 countries, including Syria, Mali, South Sudan, and Iraq. According to the UNHRC, there are over 34.5 million displaced people worldwide. Nearly 25.9 million of those have received assistance from the UN Refugee Agency. Since its formation, the agency has assisted over 50 million refugees as they deal with the struggles of displacement. The agency helps refugees as they restart their lives in new countries.
USA for UNHRC is a non-profit organization which seeks to build domestic support for the UNHRC. USA for UNHRC supports the UNHRC’s humanitarian work abroad through fundraising and raising awareness. In order to meet the needs of the world’s refugee population, the UNHRC requires a lot of funding. As one of the leading donors of resources to the United Nations, the United States and its subsidiary USA for UNHRC plays a pivotal role in bettering the lives of the world’s refugees.
One famous representative of the USA for UNHRC is Angelina Jolie. After filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia, Jolie began working with the UNHRC and representing them as a Goodwill Ambassador. In her time as an ambassador, Jolie conducted over 40 field missions. In 2012, she was appointed as Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. In her newly expanded role, Jolie will focus on incidents of mass population deportation. Jolie has been a great form of PR for the UNHRC because she not only promotes the work of the UNHRC, but she also advocates for the refugees themselves by giving them a voice.
The USA for UNHRC utilizes face-to-face fundraisers as a means of both fundraising and raising awareness for the organization. Donors can become apart of the ‘Emergency Response Team’ which helps the UNHRC provide shelter, food and water during emergency crises. Those on the Emergency Response Team comprise the majority source of funding for the UNHRC. Projects conducted by the USA for UNHRC include providing solar lamps for refugee students in Uganda, building water systems in the Phillipines, and installing sufficient stoves for women in Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Djbouti.
– Kelsey Ziomek
Sources: Idealist, The Blue Key Campaign, USA for UNHRC, Tides, UN Watch
Photo: UN Refugees