Major Afghan refugee conference in Geneva seeks long-term solutions

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – US President Barack Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan 1 May has focused world attention on the country itself, but a two-day conference 2-3 May in Geneva is looking at the ramifications of 30 years of war in Afghanistan for refugees in two neighbouring countries. Some 40 international organizations and representatives from 60 countries are attending the conference, where host UNHCR (UN refugee organization) and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are unveiling their plans for “a joint strategy to find lasting, coherent and unified solutions to the problem of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons”, according to Didier Burkhalter, head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), who opened the conference Wednesday.

“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,” says Bern in a statement.