[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
This year, with the world economic crisis threatening to slash aid budgets and amid enormous global uncertainty, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is working to ensure refugees are not forgotten. That's why the theme for this year's World Refugee Day on 20 June is "Real People, Real Needs."
The day is a major opportunity for UNHCR, headquartered in Geneva, to spread awareness about refugees and other displaced people and to raise funds for major operations and emergencies in places like Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq and neighbouring countries, Pakistan and Sudan.
This year, UNHCR will utilize social platforms more widely than ever before to spread awareness and encourage young people to support the agency and the people it helps. Staff will send Twitter updates from global events as well as posting videos and photos on YouTube and Flickr. UNHCR's MySpace and Facebook pages will receive regular updates.
Microsoft has pledged to match dollar for dollar, up to $50,000, every donation to UNHCR made on Facebook.
On Monday, UNHCR launched its new, improved web site as part of activities timed to coincide with World Refugee Day on which some events are being streamed live. The site also includes photo galleries.
The day was set by the General Assembly in 2000 in a resolution paying “tribute to the dedication of United Nations humanitarian workers and associated personnel, the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner in the field, including local staff, who risk their lives in the performance of their duties" (A/RES/55/76).
UNHCR recently lost a staff member, Aleksandar Vorkapic, who was killed in a terrorist bombing in Pakistan.
The following is a sampling of some events planned around the world to mark World Refugee Day.
Prominent public buildings have been bathed in UN blue lights at night for the whole of this week.
ETV station will screen a 35-minute documentary on refugees as well as an interview with the UNHCR representative. Other commemorative events include a lecture series, sport contest, art display, essay writing competition and an arts and crafts market.
UNHCR will hold its annual refugee film festival in Tokyo, which has become part of the social calendar, attracting support and spreading awareness.
A photographic exhibition and a three-day film festival is planned at the Royal Film Commission in Amman. The screenings will accompanied by Q&A sessions.
A ceremony is planned for Saturday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, starting with a procession through the streets of the Kenyan capital by refugees led by a police band.
UNHCR's home city, Geneva has been marking the Day throughout the week by lighting the 140-metre-high Jet d'Eau – one of the world's largest fountains – in UN blue. Flags will be flown along the Mont Blanc Bridge.
High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has been present at several major events taking place in Washington, D.C., this week. At the National Press Club, he presented UNHCR's 2008 Global Trends – an eagerly waited annual compilation of statistics on the number of refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people and others of concern to the agency (related story).
The annual public ceremony will take place Thursday at the National Geographic Museum in Washington moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The event will also feature winning entries for a World Refugee Day poster contest under the patronage of Angelina Jolie, who has made a special public service announcement that will be seen on the Internet as well as in airports, public transport and TV stations around the world.
On Saturday, UNHCR is sponsoring a World Refugee Day concert in Washington's Kennedy Center by Congolese vocalist-bandleader Samba Mapangala. The Centre will stream the concert live on its web site.
The UNHCR office in New York is organizing a concert on Thursday at the Florence Gould Hall by the acclaimed Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, who have been very supportive of the refugee agency.