The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday opened an
international conference in Geneva to address the humanitarian
needs of about 4 million Iraqi refugees and internal displaced
More than 450 representatives from over 60 countries and
international organizations are attending the two-day conference,
whose aim is to focus on the plight of displaced Iraqis in both
Iraq and neighboring countries.
At the opening of the meeting, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Antonio Guterres said that the humanitarian crisis in Iraq can no
longer be ignored.
"The humanitarian dimension of the problem can no longer be
overlooked ... almost 4 million Iraqis are watching us today,"
"Their needs are as obvious as the moral imperative to help. All
of us - representatives of governments, international organizations
and civil society - are now compelled to act," he added.
Guterres, who chaired the conference, was joined in the opening
session by UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John
Holmes, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq
Ashraf Qazi, and the Director-General of the International
Committee of the Red Cross, Angelo Gnaedinger.
Participants also viewed a video message from UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented by the Director-General of
the UN Office in Geneva, Sergei Ordzhonikidze.
"The scale of the problem speaks for itself," Guterres said in
his opening address. "One in eight Iraqis has been driven from
their homes. Some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced inside
the country and up to 2 million others have fled abroad."
He urged the international community to lend the necessary help
to Syria and Jordan, which are hosting the largest number of Iraqi
refugees and "are straining under this extraordinary burden."
Guterres stressed the humanitarian focus of the meeting, but
also noted that humanitarian problems are "symptoms of a disease
whose cure can only be political."
"All relevant actors are essential to that political solution.
We welcome the recent gathering of concerned states in Baghdad on
March 10. We look forward to similar initiatives," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2007)