Humanitarian Affairs and Migration Issues

  • Flyktingläger i Libanon

    Refugee camp in Lebanon Photo: Katarina Clifford

Geneva is the global center for international humanitarian affairs and migration issues where the most prominent organizations within these fields have their headquarters. Organizations based in Geneva include the UNs High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (ISDR), Doctors without Borders (MFS) and International Organization for Migration (IOM). It is also the birthplace for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement as well as the residence of  the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).

Humanitarian Affairs
Sweden is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance and an active stakeholder in the humanitarian field. In 2014, the humanitarian assistance reached a total of 5,2 billion SEK making Sweden the fifth largest bilateral donor of humanitarian assistance. About 40% of the Swedish humanitarian assistance is allocated as core contributions to the large humanitarian organizations and the UN Central Emergency Fund (CERF) through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The remaining amount is channeled via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in response to humanitarian appeals in specific country situations.

The Permanent Mission in Geneva represents Sweden at the international organizations in Geneva and our aim is to ensure that the Swedish assistance to humanitarian organizations is used in the best, most cost-effective way possible in order to maximize the impact of saving lives and alleviating suffering. Sweden has therefore invested time and effort into ensuring that the resources are allocated in an efficient manner, and that the aid reaches those most in need. An important priority for Sweden is to strengthen the humanitarian system as a whole, for example by improving coordination, leadership and accountability among humanitarian agencies in collaboration with NGOs. 

The Mission also works with issues of international humanitarian law, refugee law and related protection issues, as well as matters regarding internally displaced persons (IDPs).
2015 is a significant year with many important multilateral processes that will affect the global humanitarian arena. The 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in Sendai in Japan during March where a post 2015 framework on disaster risk reduction is expected to be adopted. Preparations for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 in Istanbul are under way. Meanwhile, the negotiations on the new UN development agenda are under way which will culminate in a high-level event in New York in October. 2015 ends with the 32nd International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference that will take place in Geneva in December.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is globally mandated to lead and coordinate international efforts to assist the needs and protect the rights of refugees, as well as to work for durable solutions of refugee situations. The organization is one of the largest humanitarian actors, and acts as the guardian of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol. UNHCR is also mandated to assist stateless persons in accordance with the 1961 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and can assist internally displaced persons after requests from the State concerned. The organization is led by the Executive Committee, which approves the budget and programs of the organization. The Committee also provides the organization with advice on protection and policy issues. Currently, Italian national Filippo Grandi is leading the organization as High Commissioner.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a part of the UN Secretariat which is mandated to lead and coordinate international humanitarian interventions in collaboration with national authorities and other relevant international or national actors. OCHA is also tasked to support efforts to mobilize resources for humanitarian purposes, highlight the needs and rights of vulnerable individuals, promote prevention and preparedness strategies and facilitate durable solutions for humanitarian crises. In crisis situations, OCHA works in close collaboration with interested governments and other humanitarian actors to rapidly deploy humanitarian resources, analyze the situation and assess the needs for relief, as well as to facilitate coordination between civilian and military actors and to mobilize international resources for relief efforts. In addition, OCHA leads the work of strengthening overall humanitarian coordination within the so-called cluster system. The current head of OCHA and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator is British national Stephen O'Brien.

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and was established in 1999. The current mission of the office has its origins in the Hyogo Framework for Action from 2005, which established a ten-year plan for the global work on minimizing risks and damages following from natural disasters. Some of the central issues for the organization are to ensure a DRR perspective within the climate change debate, to work for increased investments in DRR issues as well as strengthen synergies in the international work on DRR. An important challenge for the office since 2012 is to assist in the development of a new framework for disaster risk reduction (often referred to as HFA 2) for the period after 2015. UNISDR is led by Australian Robert Glasser, who acts as the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusive humanitarian mission is to protect and assist victims of war and armed conflict. As the guardians of the four Geneva conventions, the organization is mandated to visit detainees, and act in other humanitarian operations. The ICRC continues to work to assist people who have had to leave their homes, to raise public awareness about the dangers of landmines and explosive material from armed conflicts, and to trace missing persons. About 30 percent of the ICRC's operational activities are carried out in cooperation with national Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies. Swiss national Peter Mauer is head of the ICRC since 2012.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian network, assisting over 160 million people worldwide through 189 national societies and more than 17 million volunteers. IFRC and the national societies act before, during and after crises in order to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable individuals. The work of IFRC combines humanitarian efforts with development efforts through four key areas:  promoting humanitarian values, crisis response, preparedness for emergencies and health and social care. The highest decision-making body of the Federation is the General Assembly, composed of representatives of all national societies. The General Assembly meets every two years and decides on direction and policy for the organization. The Secretariat is responsible for the daily management of the organization. The Swedish National Red Cross Federation is a committed actor in the work of the Federation.

Sweden has a longstanding engagement in supporting an international dialogue on migration and development. Sweden’s policy for global development provides that Sweden should contribute actively to the global cooperation which aims to create better means and frameworks for orderly migration, and support the efforts to strengthen the effects of migration on development. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading global organization on migration and works closely together with governments, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations in order to support orderly and humane global migration. IOM is working for increased international cooperation on migration and contributes with capacity building and practical solutions in different migration contexts. In later years, IOM has become an increasingly important actor in the humanitarian field, partly through assisting migrants in need of assistance, and also as CCCM Cluster lead on natural disasters, shelter and cooperation during such disasters. The current Director General of IOM is American national Willam Lacy Swing.

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) , was established after the first High-level Dialouge on Migration and Development in the UN General Assembly in 2006. The GFMD has become an important platform for inter-governmental discussions on migration and development. The Forum is a state-led, informal intergovernmental platform for dialogue outside the UN system, but open to all UN Member States. Sweden has been an active participant in the GFMD, including as chairman in 2013-2014. Turkey is the current Chair of the Forum until December 2015.

Conflict resolution issues
Sweden is a large donor to several independent organizations working on conflict resolution and based in in Geneva, such as Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD), Interpeace and Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF). The mission closely monitors and evaluates the work of these organizations, and maintains a close information and policy sharing as regards current conflicts.