Geneva — In the past 18 months, the UNHCR has faced one of the busiest periods of its history, with crisis after crisis keeping the agency at full stretch, but over the next week staff across the globe will take time to commemorate World Refugee Day and the millions they help.
The focus for UNHCR this year will be in Brazil, where High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will be spending World Refugee Day (June 20) in Rio de Janeiro at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. He will be attending and addressing Rio+20 after visiting refugees in Ecuador.
Two days before World Refugee Day (WRD), UNHCR will be releasing worldwide its eagerly awaited Global Trends 2011 report, which updates the number of people of concern to the organization, including refugees, asylum-seekers, the stateless and internally displaced people.
UNHCR will start marking World Refugee Day by rolling out a striking new campaign, "Dilemmas," which is a development of the award-winning "1" campaign launched last year. "Dilemmas" depicts some of the tough choices facing refugees, helping the public to empathize with, and understand, their dilemma.
The new campaign is being supported in special TV spots by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and other celebrities, including UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors Barbara Hendricks, Julien Clerc and Osvaldo Laport as well as Chinese actress Yao Chen, author Khaled Hosseini, Colombian rock star Juanes and Italian actress Fiorella Mannoia. UNHCR has also developed a free smartphone app, a role playing game called "My Life as a Refugee," to support the campaign on various digital platforms around the world.
Meanwhile, as has become custom, Rome's Colosseum will once again be illuminated in UN blue, one of many monuments around the world to be spotlit to mark the occasion, including Sweden's national indoor arena, the Ericsson Globe, which is the world's largest hemispherical building, and the Pristina National Library in Kosovo.
UNHCR staff have been planning for months for WRD and have prepared a wide range of activities, including light shows, film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, food bazaars, fashion shows, cultural performances, concerts and sports contests. There will also be competitions, tree planting, speeches, panel discussions, poetry recitals and photography exhibitions. UNHCR once again has an ambitious social media campaign to promote the day and spread awareness about the "Dilemmas" campaign.
The agency's partners, including governments, donors and non-governmental organizations, also be doing their part to help, and refugees around the world will participate while enjoying much needed recognition.
In an event co-organized by UNHCR, The Soweto Gospel Choir will perform for free on World Refugee Day at the Orlando East Community Hall in the Johannesburg district from which the Grammy Award winners take their name. Several other WRD events in South Africa will promote tolerance of refugees in the country. Art exhibits, featuring work by refugees, will be held at the Holocaust Museum in Cape Town and the Alliance Française in Durban.
The UN refugee agency and the Walkers Club of Kinshasa will stage an annual 10-kilometre walk through the hot streets of the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo this Sunday. About 700 people are expected to turn up for an event that attracts refugees, UNHCR staff, diplomats, government officials, aid workers and more.
In North Africa, the UNHCR office in Tunisia and the Ministry of Women will on June 17 co-organize a day of recreational events for refugee children and their families in central Tunis. Three days later, UNHCR will both celebrate World Refugee Day and inaugurate its new Tunis office. In the Choucha camp in southern Tunisia, a special meal will be offered to the refugees on World Refugee Day and ice-cream vans will be parked around the camp, handing out 3,000 free ice creams in cones. On June 24, Palestinian singer Reem al Banna, who is known for her modern interpretations of traditional Palestinian songs and poetry, will perform at Choucha.