• July 2011

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    July 2011

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    "The Changing Face of Displacement"

    On World Refugee Day (June 20), the Women's Refugee Commission co-hosted the Nansen Lecture: "The Changing Face of Displacement in the 21st Century." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Jan Egeland, former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, headlined the event.

    Nansen Lecture

    In his keynote speech, Mr. Egeland discussed the escalation of protracted refugee situations and the rise of displacement caused by natural disasters and climate change. The Secretary-General related how his own experience of being displaced as a child—he was forced to flee his burning village—has heightened his empathy toward refugees. The Permanent Representative to the UN from Tanzania, Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, talked about his country's experience; Tanzania has the largest refugee population in Africa. Nour al-Khal, an Iraqi refugee, spoke movingly about her experiences in Iraq and her new life in the United States. Ambassador Morten Wetland, the Permanent Representative to the UN from Norway, also spoke.

    Held in collaboration with the Mission of Norway to the UN, the Norwegian Consulate General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' New York office, the event drew 150 people to the Harvard Club in New York. The lecture is named after Fridtjof Nansen, acclaimed Norwegian humanitarian and Nobel laureate. See photos, video and other highlights here.

    Capitol Hill Photo Exhibit and Reception

    Also in honor of World Refugee Day, we co-sponsored with the International Rescue Committee a photo exhibit and reception on Capitol Hill on June 22. The exhibit and reception celebrated service providers across the country who demonstrate, on a daily basis, America's commitment to refugees and asylum-seekers. The 20 photos featured at the exhibit included five taken by IRC staff. Women's Refugee Commission Executive Director Sarah Costa was master of ceremonies at the reception; speakers included Congressmen James McGovern (D-MA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA); His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C.; and Demissie Abebe, a former asylee who is now executive director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition.

    Women's Refugee Commission in Haiti

    Jennifer Schlecht, program officer for reproductive health, recently travelled to Haiti to help lead a workshop for community-based organizations on the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for reproductive health, a framework detailing the basic reproductive health services that should be provided in any emergency situation. The workshop also focused on developing action plans for disaster risk reduction (that is, planning ahead of a possible crisis).

    Local communities are often best able to respond effectively during times of crisis. Participants for this training were drawn from organizations that serve particularly vulnerable groups (including those with disabilities, people living with HIV and AIDS, women and youth). They learned about the MISP, developed skills to assess their communities' strengths and vulnerabilities and began planning for how they could collaborate with others to reduce risk and improve access to the MISP in each of their communities. One participant noted, "After this training, I will think of the needs of all the community members, especially the ones who are powerless."

    The Women's Refugee Commission coordinated the workshop with the United Nations Population Fund in Haiti.

    World Conference on Humanitarian Studies

    The Women's Refugee Commission had a strong presence at the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies, which took place in early June at Tufts University in Boston and brought together more than 4,000 academics and humanitarian practitioners from around the world.

    • Senior Director for Programs Dale Buscher organized a panel on and presented findings from our urban refugee livelihoods research project.
    • Senior Program Officer, Economic Strengthening and Child Protection, Josh Chaffin presented at a session on innovation in the field of child protection in emergencies.
    • WRC consultant Anooradha Siddiqi spoke about the urbanization of camps.
    • Watchlist Director Eva Smets chaired a panel on children in armed conflict, and Watchlist consultant Laura Perez presented her research on children living through conflict in the Central African Republic.
    • Reproductive Health Program Officer Jennifer Schlecht discussed the innovative technology behind Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises.

    In the News

    Michelle Brané, Director, Detention and Asylum Program, published a blog on the Huffington Post on a proposed House bill that will curtail the civil liberties and due process rights of immigrants held in detention.

    InterAction magazine Monday Developments published an article about Mama: Together for Safe Births in Crises.

    The Phoenix New Times cites a Women's Refugee Commission report in an article on the dire conditions immigrants to the U.S. are often held in indefinitely.