The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme continues to demonstrate its ability to meet contemporary development and peace challenges. In 2016, UNV’s response to the refugee and migrant influx showcased this flexibility and rapid action capabilities through the deployment of hundreds of UN Volunteers who support humanitarian and development initiatives benefiting Syrian refugees and their host communities.
Responding to the refugee and migrant influx in Europe
UNV Deputy Executive Coordinator Toily Kurbanov participated in the joint Jobs Make the Difference side event at the Brussels Syria Conference. He offered valuable insight on the value of UN Volunteers and online volunteering in the reconstruction of Syria and the livelihoods of refugees in the region. The full transcript of his remarks is below.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is a global programme and a common service to the UN system administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As we meet there are 4,200 UN Volunteers contributing to peace and development under various UN agency programmes around the world. This includes 350 volunteers in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt most of whom contribute to the regional response to the Syrian crisis.
An international meeting of United Nations representatives is underway today and tomorrow, January 23-24, in Helsinki to discuss and agree on a comprehensive relief plan to provide aid in strife-torn Syria. UN Volunteers are an essential part of the response to this humanitarian crisis. Highly qualified and largely from developing countries themselves, they provide relief and ensure the delivery of basic social services to refugees, as well as their host communities, and promote peace-building.
In 2015, I got the opportunity to become a UN Volunteer Child Protection Officer with UNICEF in Sudan. In a country severely affected by armed conflict, displacement and food insecurity, the humanitarian needs remain critical. In addition to an estimated 2.2 million people displaced internally, Sudan has received over a quarter of a million refugees fleeing the war in South Sudan. Approximate 70 per cent of these displaced people are children.
Etab, Rachel and Khaled are Palestinian refugees born and raised in Lebanon. They have been assigned as national UN Volunteers teachers of English and Arabic to Syrian-born Palestinian Refugees (PRS) pupils. Fleeing the Syrian conflict, the pupils are temporarily settled with their families in Lebanon.
Uganda is home to over half a million refugees residing in settlements and urban centres all over the country. Earlier this year the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recognised Uganda as one of the best countries in the world for refugees to live, since they are given opportunities to work, freedom of movement, access to education, health care and a secure environment.
Thessaloniki, Greece: People from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the region are fleeing war and desperate situations in their home countries, and making their way to Europe in search of safety. Many of these people now remain in refugee camps in Greece, where they live in very difficult conditions.
Maroua, Cameroon: Jimmy Henry Nyingcho, 31 years old, is a national UN Volunteer, married and a father of one. He is assigned with UN Women Cameroon as the gender, women empowerment and social cohesion expert, and he is helping women refugees gain skills to generate income. These women are based at the Minawao refugee camp in Maroua, that hosts close to 60,000 refugees from Nigeria.
Jasmin Sander, from Germany, recounts her experience as a UN Volunteer in Serbia.