International Bulletin - Spring 1997
Dr. Ogata Addresses Leaders of Women's Organizations at a Breakfast Meeting in New York
PPSEAWA and the National Council of Women (NCW) of the USA sponsored a breakfast meeting May 8, 1997 at the Union Club to enable representatives of Women's organizations to hear a current status report from Dr. Ogata, High Commissioner of Refugees for the United Nations (UNHCR).
Dr. Ogata prefaced her remarks by saying that the greatest challenge her office faces is "how to respond, manage, solve and prevent large scale forced population movements?" Her office must manage to give as much relief as possible to millions of people with a budget of 1/2 billion US dollars. She stated that in 1996 UNHCR assisted 26 million people world wide.
The word refugee as Dr. Ogata defines it is without gender, but:
- more than half the people falling under UNCHR's responsibility are women and girls.
- women and girls face special dangers during flight, while in exile and upon returning home: rape and assault;
- there is a high number of single and female headed households, in Rwanda it is estimated that 80% are headed by women and girls as young as 12;
- there is little world wide awareness of gender-based violence as a ground for granting asylum - there is some increasing awareness in countries recognizing rape or assault motivated by political, ethnic or religious reasons as a valid ground for refugee status.
Some of the strategies Dr. Ogata suggested for dealing with refugee/migration problems are:
- emphasis on promoting prevention;
- international solidarity and burden sharing: assisting countries facing refugee influx and supporting countries in the difficult transition from conflict to peace;
- responsibility of the country of origin to address causes and identify solutions
- respect for basic principles of international refugee protection and humanitarian action (neutrality, impartiality and non-political);
- raise awareness, build constituencies in support of humanitarian activities.
Dr. Ogata focused on the status of refugees in Asia. She said there were positive developments in economic growth, relative peace and stability in the region. The end of the super-power rivalry did not unleash repressed internal conflicts as in Africa and Europe, but brought some long-standing refugee crises to a close: refugees were returned to Cambodia and all but a few Vietnamese will have been returned from Hong Kong. There are tension areas, specifically Myanmar, North Korea and republics of the former Soviet Union, like Taijkistan. Migration pressures of poverty, population growth, underemployment and uneven distribution of wealth continue. Three of the top five countries of the world facing migration pressures are in Asia: China, India and Pakistan.
Dr. Ogata pointed to the United States as the largest single donor to the UNHCR. She believes that the world watches the U.S. actions in the area of humanitarian action. The doors to immigration have been closing in the U.S., we have been less generous in the last year. This may well have global implications.
Emma Broisman asked Dr. Ogata how UNHCR works with non-governmental organizations (NGO's) like PPSEAWA, NCW and other women's organizations? Dr. Ogata stated that the United Nations as a whole was looking for closer contact with the civil society and that NGO's are best organized for this work. UNHCR has contractual relations with over 400 organizations in their international partnership. She called on international organizations to strengthen and empower their local NGO's to do the actual work with refugees.
(l. to r.) Vera Rivers, President of the National Council of Women; Dr. Ogata, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; and PPSEAWA International President, Dr. Elizabeth -Louise Girardi at the May 8 breakfast meeting at the Union Club
Last Modified: June 05, 2010