|Date: 02/05/2012 Time: 01:53:00 PM
The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that has
lasted three decades has resulted in millions of Afghan refugees now living in
Iran and Pakistan. These three countries and the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have developed a strategy to find
solutions which they will present in Geneva in the context of an international
conference, May 2-3.
This conference, which was opened by Swiss Foreign Minister Didier
Burkhalter and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio
Guterres aims to implement lasting solutions.
"What we are talking about here concerns all humankind: We are talking
about the human condition and suffering on an enormous scale," declared the
Swiss FM at the opening of the conference.
Burkhalter also stressed the need to mobilize massive support for
international humanitarian action. "Here too, there is strength in unity, the
integration of different types of aid, from purely humanitarian to development
aid, as well as peace promotion."
The massive exodus of Afghan refugees since 1978 has had many effects in
particular in the neighboring countries and their populations. Today, there
are about 1.7 million refugees and displaced Afghans in Pakistan and almost
one million in Iran. Furthermore, the UNHCR estimates that there are
approximately a further 2.5 million Afghans in Pakistan and Iran who are not
The "International Conference on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees
to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration, and Assistance
to Host Countries", is hosted by UNHCR with Switzerland's support. It brings
together representatives of 60 governments and 40 international organizations.
Its objective is to discuss a joint strategy to find lasting, coherent, and
unified solutions to the problem of Afghan refugees and internally displaced
Participants will be asked to support programs in Afghanistan to increase
the sustainability of refugee returns. The new strategy also seeks the
commitment of the international community to support the host countries of the
Afghan refugees. This is the first joint action with humanitarian and
development actors and will contribute to the stability of the region.
Switzerland has been supporting Afghanistan and Pakistan for several
decades. Its humanitarian aid and development cooperation programs are focused
on rural development, reconstruction, and good governance at the local level
for the benefit of the most disadvantaged social groups. The Swiss Agency for
Development Cooperation (SDC) is also implementing a regional program in Hindu
Kush, concentrating on the border zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan.