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HIAS Heads to Geneva to Talk International Refugee Protections

Jun 29, 2018

Blog Post

Gabe Cahn,

HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield (R) attends UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 29, 2018.


HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield (center) moderates a panel in Geneva, Switzerland on major trends and developments in UNHCR partnerships, June 27, 2018.


According to the latest estimates, a total of 68.5 million people are now displaced from their homes, including 25.4 million registered refugees, 3.1 million asylum seekers, and 40 million people internally displaced in their own countries.

Every year, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, holds consultations in Geneva, Switzerland, with a consortium of global non-governmental organizations, including HIAS, to share the most up to date thinking and effective methods for protecting these populations.

This year’s Consultations, which took place from June 27 through June 29, were centered around the theme, “Putting People First.”  

HIAS staff attend UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva, Switzerland.


The Consultations were attended by HIAS’ President and CEO Mark Hetfield, Associate Vice President for Program Planning and Management Rachel Levitan, Regional Director for Eurasia and Africa Melonee Douglas, and Director for Policy and Advocacy Elizabeth Mandelman.  

During the Consultations, Hetfield moderated a panel on major trends and developments in UNHCR partnerships. And on the sidelines, Levitan co-led the 6th Annual Strategic Litigation Roundtable with UNHCR and Asylum Access, where more than 50 lawyers, academics, advocates and UN and NGO professionals gathered to discuss how strategic litigation and other legal interventions are advancing refugee rights globally. Topics included global updates, collaborative partnerships and litigating statelessness.

In addition, Douglas attended the 3rd Annual NGO-UNHCR Refugee Status Determination (RSD) Retreat, which serves a platform for agencies to focus on RSD as a protection tool within a more holistic strategy.

Prior to the NGO consultations, UNHCR held its Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR), an event that began in 1995 as a way to produce collaborative approaches to global resettlement.

At the the ATCR, Hetfield participated on a panel focused on leveraging the strategic use of resettlement, where he addressed caseloads in KenyaChad and Israel—countries where HIAS has operations—and Douglas moderated a panel on Protracted Caseloads.

And while the agenda in Geneva mainly focused on topics outside of the U.S. context, UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi did not shy away from addressing the recent events on America’s Southern border.

“Let’s avoid these restrictive, or punishing, punitive measures,” he said in a plenary on Wednesday, June 27. Instead, he advocated for “addressing problems upstream in Central America.”

“We are telling the United States, just like we are telling Europe about Africa, this is the backyard from where this problem originates,” Grandi stated.

“Let’s not invest as has always been done—only in security measures—to try and address criminality and gangs. Let’s put more resources in education, in employment, in giving opportunities to people so that they don’t unnecessarily need to move.”

To learn more about HIAS’ Global Advocacy efforts, click here.