Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
You're welcome - one thing I'm loving about my new job is the even greater impetus it gives to network internationally -so let's stay in touch.

Apologies, this is a slightly rambling response, and double apologies if I talk at cross-purposes to what you're actually doing with UNHCR. I appreciate it's a complicated world!

My initial thought in answer to your question is AUSAID - basically our government international aid and development arm. The Australian Government works closely with the UNHCR to determine where we will take our refugee intake from, and so on, so if you are doing this work under the auspices of the UNHCR, I would hope they would be able to advise of the formal channels for liaising with Australia as well. My Dept. - Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship obviously has a strong role from the "organisation of intake" perspective with UNHCR, and we also work with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in terms of services and support in the camps. But my (limited - new job!) understanding is that our interaction outside of our broad aid commitments is largely confined to looking at the services provided by UNHCR / IOM for processing refugees for potential resettlement in places like Australia.

I think though because the UNHCR organises the daily running of the camps in general, individual countries such as ours have varying influence and therefore interest in throwing resources at such things. What and how Australia provides aid for refugee camps I know little about at this stage - but if I had to take a guess, I'd assume we pay our funds to the UNHCR and entrust them with it's appropriate distribution.

For eg, your point about education and vocational education opportunities for the young people in camps. When we receive refugees here, it of course takes significant resources to provide them with english language training, and try and get them into training and employment opportunities. Social inclusion issues are also huge for the particularly teenagers who have known no other life than refugee camps. It would certainly be helpful for receiving countries of refugees if the latter had better educational opportunities, and might potentially save money at the other end.

So if I humbly step into the shoes of the UNHCR for the moment, I would be researching to see whether there is a strong, pragmatic  cost:benefit argument to be made for nations that support the UNHCR contributing to camp educational programs, because if you can show that this would save costs for countries taking significant refugee numbers to settle permanently, you could make a powerful argument. Another eg - Australia has a serious skilled worker shortage; yet refugees aren't regarded as part of the 'solution' to this, so we have a vast 'skilled migrant' intake of over 100,000/year. Yet it seems to me in a climate change world where the refugee crisis is only going to grow, that we should be looking to make refugees part of that solution. I don't think this area has been adequately explored at all.

In terms of more short-term opportunities,  I wonder actually if you might have more luck approaching major sporting organisations, either in Australia as a destination country, or internationally. From an Australian perspective, it's in the interests of our national basketball, soccer (football) and Australian Rules football (AFL) to provide sport & rec opportunities, because the amount of talent they could get from such initiatives is quite high. For eg, I'd say that half of Australia's basketball team will be from the Sudan in a few years.

So I guess I mean - don't forget the 'enlightened self interest' angle. And to be fair to the sporting organisations in my country, many of them are quite extensively involved in charitable work. It's a thought.

Hope this is remotely helpful!

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 08:39:09 PM EST
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