Aid workers face increased risks as they struggle to assist refugees in war-stricken areas across the globe. The United Nations refugee agency believes joining efforts may be a way to deal with challenges more effectively.
In his closing speech during the agency's annual consultation meeting with NGO representatives in Geneva July 1, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called for greater cooperation between the U.N. and civil society, particularly non-governmental organizations.
"It is indeed essential for UNHCR to keep a very close strategic relationship … with civil society in general, and the NGO community in particular, because when one looks at the present trends in humanitarian action, it is more and more clear that the challenges we face can only be overcome if we work together," he said.
According to Guterres, reducing asylum space for refugees and displaced people, and security threats to the aid workers who assist them were among the main challenges faced by UNHCR and NGOs working in the field.
"It is more and more difficult to be able to guarantee to our staff the minimum of security conditions," Guterres said.
He cited the killing of two UNHCR employees and the abduction of another in Pakistan this year, as well as the assassination of two members of partner NGOs in Afghanistan.
In June, UNHCR denounced an increase in the number of refugees and displaced people in some of the world's war-hit areas in the first half of 2009.