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02.05.2012 - Press release
Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter opens the International Conference in Geneva on Afghan Displacement

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 on 2-3 May 2012 in Geneva in the context of an international conference. This conference, which was opened by the head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Didier Burkhalter, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António 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 Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the opening of the conference. Mr Burkhalter also stressed the need to mobilise 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 neighbouring 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 registered.

The "International Conference on the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees to Support Voluntary Repatriation, Sustainable Reintegration and Assistance to Host Countries", which is hosted by UNHCR with Switzerland’s support, brings together representatives of 60 governments and 40 international organisations. Its objective is to discuss a joint strategy to find lasting, coherent and unified solutions to the problem of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons.

Participants will be asked to support programmes 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 programmes 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 programme in Hindu Kush, concentrating on the border zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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