Tuesday is World Refugee Day and the head of the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, is spending the day in Liberia. The theme of this year’s event is “hope.” High Commissioner Antonio Guterres is in Monrovia, after having visited Sinje near the Liberian / Sierra Leone border earlier Tuesday. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about his visit and the theme of World Refugee Day.
”Well, it’s very simple. Today I had the privilege to be in a convoy in a truck with several families coming from Sierra Leone to Liberia, with Liberian refugees going back home after years in exile. And they have a lot of hope. But that hope creates a huge responsibility for us all, for the international community. And that responsibility is to help these countries where massive returns are taking place, to create a minimum of conditions for the return to be sustainable. And even Liberia, for instance, I’m in Monrovia, there is no running water, there is no electricity. The schools and hospitals around the country are almost non-existent. Huge difficulties for these people, who had the courage to go home, but lots of difficulties to start a new life. It’s the responsibility of the international community to give their help, a positive response,” he says.
Asked whether it’s just a matter of more money, Guterres, responds, “I don’t think the problem is a problem of quantity. You see many times huge pledges of billions of dollars for development projects. The problem is that they come too late. The problem is the international community does not know how to finance the transition between humanitarian support and development aid. What we have seen is that in the last few years 50 percent of the countries that have gone out of a conflict slide back into conflict in the next five years, exactly because there is not enough immediate support from the international community to create conditions for stabilizing democracy and for a new life to be possible in the countries we are considering.”
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