Pakistan + 5 more

A Year of Progress and Challenges

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The crises and problems that Refugees International tackles are daunting. Yet, in 2009 progress was made that directly eases the burdens of people who are forced to flee their homes. Thanks to Refugees International's work, new funding was made available to help refugees survive, policies were put in place that protected displaced people from further violence, and assistance programs more effectively reached the most vulnerable. While it's important to look back on the new crises that emerged in 2009 and the people whose suffering continued, it is heartening to know that some positive changes occurred.

Below are a few highlights.

Pakistan: In May 2009, 1.4 million people fled their homes in less than 3 weeks after the Pakistani government launched military operations against Taliban insurgents. Refugees International staff met directly with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who dispatched an emergency team soon after our meeting to quickly disburse funds to distribute relief items for displaced Pakistanis. In addition, the UN followed our recommendations to improve the staffing and coordination of aid delivery and established a presence for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The UN also appointed a Special Envoy to coordinate aid programs by the Pakistani government and aid agencies. Both actions helped ensure that aid programs reach the most vulnerable people.

DR Congo: Refugees International traveled to eastern Congo three times in 2009 where two million people have been displaced by ongoing violence. After we reached out to top U.S. and UN officials with our findings, more aid was delivered to displaced people in remote and neglected regions in eastern Congo and UN peacekeepers began more effectively protecting civilians from attacks. The UN Security Council also followed our recommendations and demanded that all human rights violations committed by the Congolese army be "thoroughly investigated" and that "an appropriate mechanism" be established to assess the impact of UN peacekeeping support to the Congolese army.

Burma: Throughout 2009, RI met actively with State Department officials and Congressional appropriators to encourage greater aid for the Burmese people. Because of our leadership on this issue, Congress provided some $36 million for democracy and humanitarian programs largely inside Burma, a major shift in U.S. policy that had previously limited the amount of humanitarian funding available for people inside Burma.

Sudan: For the last few years, Refugees International has been one of the few organizations calling on policy makers to address the rising tensions in south Sudan and to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 22 years of war. Throughout 2009, more voices echoed our call and U.S. policy makers finally responded. The Obama Administration released its new policy on Sudan, and outlined the implementation of the peace agreement as one of three strategic objectives. In addition, Congress appropriated $296 million to Sudan and directed the State Department to prioritize funding for projects in south Sudan in support of the Agreement.

Iraq: Although violence has decreased in Iraq, millions of Iraqis are still displaced inside and outside the country. Refugees International has led the call to increase assistance to these vulnerable people, and was pleased when President Obama expressed his commitment to a comprehensive response to the needs of displaced Iraqis. A few months later, the House of Representatives passed legislation calling for stronger policies to protect and assist displaced Iraqis and to encourage the Government of Iraq to actively address the problem. In line with our recommendations, the U.S. provided substantial funding to the UN Refugee Agency's Iraq programs and supported programs that prevent and respond to violence against displaced women. The U.S. also continued its resettlement program, admitting over 18,800 Iraqis last year.

Colombia: Millions of people have been displaced by the conflict in Colombia and Refugees International continued to call for more support to those displaced inside the country as well as those who have fled to Ecuador and Venezuela. As a result of our advocacy, the U.S. Congress increased funding for Colombian refugees in nearby countries, including support for Ecuador's Enhanced Registration Process, a key component of that country's refugee policy reform.

These accomplishments would not be possible without the support of our generous donors. We thank them for their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of refugees. And we promise that we will not rest while some 41.2 million people remain uprooted from their homes and while the threat of new conflicts -- and new displacement - remains.

Megan Fowler's blog