Dubai: Lebanese NGO Amel Association International on Wednesday won the 2019 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support for its work in improving the lives of displaced people.
The award was presented by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to Dr Kamel Mohanna, Amel’s founder, at a ceremony at Sharjah Police Academy.
During the ceremony, Dr Shaikh Sultan announced a surprise pledge of $1 million (Dh3.67 million) for Amel.
The award is organised by Sharjah-based The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) in collaboration with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
TBHF chairperson Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, also attended the ceremony.
Shaikha Jawaher said refugees should be part of the host community and enjoy not just basic rights, but the right to see their country flourish again and the right to take part in rebuilding their nation.
She added that advocacy for refugees is not a luxury but a duty, which Sharjah is recommitting itself to without hesitation, she said.
TBHF director Mariam Al Hammadi said refugees “are people, not numbers” and the Sharjah award inspires NGOs and the private sector to perceive displaced persons favourably.
The flow of refugees is increasing as conflicts worsen, warned Amin Awad UNHCR director for MENA Bureau. The region represents five per cent of the world population, but 40 per cent of all displaced people, Awad said.
“The plight of refugees has sadly become the defining feature of our times. Conflicts have recurred and deepened amid growing global uncertainty … and the consequences are great,” Awad added.
However, the MENA region is also “a source of impressive levels of solidarity and compassion — for example, the compassion shown by Gulf states and neighbouring states for the Syrian refugees is great”.
Awad said “despite all the challenges that the refugees and displaced people face … they have an unshaken resilience and desire to contribute to the future of their country and the community they are in now”.
Awad also announced that the UNHCR has accepted for another two-year term the appointment of Shaikha Jawaher as the UNHCR’s Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children.
He praised the work of Amel in improving the lives of the marginalised Lebanese as well as refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, among others.
Amel founder Mohanna said his organisation has been able to continue working because of support from Shaikha Jawaher and TBHF.
He also warned the refugee and displaced persons crises are worsening, growing from 10 million such people two decades ago to 65 million today — almost half of them in the Arab world.
Mohanna said the world needs to be asking “the bigger questions” on how to prevent the crises, rather than just focusing on “healing the wounds”.
Mohanna said Amel has managed to stay non-sectarian in Lebanon’s complex mix of various religious and ethnic sects. “This is the best value we are spreading through our work,” he added.
Among Amel’s assets today are three hospitals, 30 vehicles, as well as six mobile clinics and two mobile schools that visit refugee camps in Lebanon — home to some 1.5 million refugees and displaced people even though its own population is just around 3.5 million people, Mohanna said.