Americans Urged to Speak Out for Refugees

New Blue Key Campaign Addresses Growing World Displacement Crisis

Dec 01, 2010, 11:27 ET from United States Association for UNHCR

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Spearheading a new movement in social activism, the United States Association for UNHCR (USA for UNHCR) today launched the Blue Key Campaign -- the first U.S. based initiative to channel the energy of individual citizens to speak out for refugees. The campaign aims to provide a broadened base of support for the leading organization safeguarding the rights and well-being of displaced people around the world – the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

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Mounted in response to a humanitarian displacement crisis that is unprecedented in size, the Blue Key Campaign introduces a new icon – a key in the UN blue color – to inspire the public to unlock the door to a better future for the more than 43 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.  Americans who proudly display the new Blue Key will join a community of "Keyholders" working with noted celebrities and political leaders around the country to champion the refugee cause.

"Whether it is in the Somali refugee camps set up in Kenya or in communities throughout the neighboring countries of Iraq, UNHCR helps tens of millions of people rebuild their lives," said Marc Breslaw, executive director of USA for UNHCR.  "But because the need for worldwide assistance for refugees and displaced persons has never been greater, we hope Americans will learn what is at stake for refugees and become champions on their behalf.  The Blue Key Campaign is an opportunity for Americans to join an unprecedented global effort to speak out for refugees and make a difference in their lives."

Intended as a multi-year effort, the Blue Key Campaign has already secured the support of a cadre of celebrities. To date, 17 political leaders, noted authors and international celebrities are taking part in the campaign, including actors Clive Owen and Stanley Tucci, musician Peter Gabriel, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Former Governor Bill Richardson and author Khaled Hosseini. In addition, the Jimi Hendrix Foundation has endorsed the campaign and will mount a fundraising effort to encourage the more than 2.5 million Jimi Hendrix fans to become champions of the refugee cause.

"It is unconscionable to stay silent and sit idly by as innocent people flee from their homes and their countries because of civil war, ethnic strife, and political oppression," said Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, a campaign supporter.  "If our common humanity means anything, we must speak out and support these most vulnerable people in their most desperate hour."

Mobilizing Americans to Take Action

The centerpiece of the campaign is the Blue Key, a new icon to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and inspire action.  Anyone making a $5 donation to the Blue Key Campaign will receive the Blue Key (available as both a pin and a pendant) and become a member of an online community of refugee advocates and champions.  All funds raised through the campaign will go to support UNHCR's lifesaving operations in more than 100 countries around the world.  

Combined with this new symbol, the Blue Key Campaign will employ new information tools, celebrity and corporate partnerships and social networking to turn awareness of the refugee crisis into a personal cause for the American public. Campaign elements include:

  • The Campaign Web Site – - providing a hub to inform, energize and empower the public to take action to help more than 43 million refugees and displaced people find lasting solutions to their plight;
  • Unlocking a Better World – a virtual book on the campaign web site connecting the lives of refugees in different parts of the world with messages of hope and support from respected international leaders and celebrities.  To bring the refugee cause to life, the virtual book will be promoted on a national book tour and then turned into an exhibit taken to schools, communities and state houses;
  • Ongoing awareness building through the print, broadcast and online media;
  • A cadre of celebrity ambassadors who will wear the Blue Key, promote the campaign on tour and in the media, and participate in campaign events; and
  • Partnerships with concerned corporations that will generate the multiplier effect so the message and symbol of the Blue Key will reach Americans at the grassroots level.

Unprecedented Need for Emergency and Ongoing Aid for Refugees

The impetus for the Blue Key Campaign is a pervasive international refugee crisis that is more complex than ever before. As major conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo persist, many refugees remain in camps and other transient situations for many years.  In 2009 alone, some 5.5 million refugees were living in a "protracted situation" (defined as a situation in which 25,000 or more refugees of the same nationality have been living in exile for five years or longer in any given asylum country) while the number of refugees voluntarily returning to their home countries fell to the lowest level in 20 years – 251,000 in 2009 compared with the norm over the past decade of around one million a year.

Due to these disturbing trends, addressing the needs of those escaping war, persecution and violence has never been greater.  Of greatest concern to UNHCR is protecting those refugees at greatest risk for discrimination, violence and disease.  These refugees include:

  • More than 17 million children ages 18 years and younger, who represent 41 percent of the world's refugees and asylum seekers.  Besides witnessing violence and often being abused or exploited, more than 27 million of these refugee children did not have access to education according to a 2004 global survey.
  • Women and girls, who collectively represented 47 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers in 2009. They too often suffer gender-based violence such as abduction, rape, slavery and sexual trafficking.
  • Between 2.3 and 3.3 million refugees with disabilities who are often deprived of the humanitarian aid to which they are entitled.
  • Refugees over 60 years old. These people comprised 5 percent of the overall population in 2009 and are particularly vulnerable during conflict and natural disasters due to lack of mobility, weakened vision, and increased incidence of chronic illnesses.

"No one chooses to be a refugee.  Yet, any of us could unwillingly be one of the powerless and the voiceless," said Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a supporter of the Blue Key Campaign.  "As a member of the Blue Key Community, individual Americans have the opportunity to open the door to protection, to sustenance and eventually to a permanent home for millions around the world."

Of these forcibly displaced people, more than 26 million – 10.4 million refugees and 15.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) – were receiving protection or assistance from UNHCR in 2009.  This is one million more people than in 2008.

The Blue Key Campaign is spearheaded and directed by USA for UNHCR and is solely U.S. focused.  Information on how to join the Blue Key Campaign is available through the new campaign Web site –

Established by concerned U.S. citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

SOURCE United States Association for UNHCR