10 June 2005

Courage, Perseverance of Refugees in Overcoming Adversity Inspiration, Says Secretary-General in Message on International Day

NEW YORK, 9 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on World Refugee Day observed 20 June:

Most of us go about our daily lives never having to confront the terror, fear, conflict and persecution that have forced millions of refugees around the world into flight. We easily forget that most refugees are people just like us, with homes, families, jobs and dreams -- all of which they must abandon in a desperate search for safety in unfamiliar surroundings. Faced with an uncertain future, these ordinary people must summon extraordinary courage to survive, and to rebuild their shattered lives.

On this World Refugee Day, we honour the indomitable spirit and courage of the world’s millions of refugees. Many endure enormous suffering without losing hope, and find the strength to overcome despair and start a new life against seemingly overwhelming odds. We can see their courage every day in the sprawling refugee camps of Asia and Africa, where entire families attend classes to learn new skills while they anxiously await the day they can finally go home and begin rebuilding their lives and countries. We see it in Afghanistan, Angola, Sierra Leone and dozens of other countries, where millions of refugees are returning to their war-shattered homelands with new hope for the future. And we see it in towns and cities throughout the world where resettled refugees, unable to go back to their own countries, have brought new life, prosperity and rich cultural diversity to their host communities.

Over the past five decades, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has had the duty and the privilege to help more than 50 million uprooted people rebuild their shattered lives. Today, in 115 countries, including many of the world’s most difficult and dangerous places, UNHCR staff are helping 17 million refugees and others of concern. In their noble work, they, too, demonstrate courage –- courage that is undoubtedly inspired by the very people they serve. As one UNHCR field officer said in the midst of a crisis, if refugees who have lost everything don’t give up hope, how can we?

Every refugee’s story is different, and every loss is a personal one. But on this World Refugee Day, all of us can draw inspiration from their shared courage and perseverance in overcoming adversity and building a better future.

* *** *