UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today, appointed HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan and the Venerable Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi, a highly respected Thai Buddhist monk, as its first two Patrons in recognition of their advocacy and awareness-raising work on behalf of millions of refugees.
A Patron is a prestigious honorary title given to those who support UNHCR and refugees by dedicating valuable time to disseminate information and knowledge about refugees. The role is to influence public opinion and change negative attitudes towards refugees and engage others to support the work of UNHCR.
The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, presented certificates to the UNHCR Patrons, officially marking their appointments at a special ceremony in Geneva.
The Venerable Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi has supported UNHCR’s Nobody Left Outside shelter campaign by hosting awareness and fundraising events to contribute to the campaign goal of raising funds to shelter two million refugees in 12 countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Rwanda and Chad. He is particularly focused on using his title to advocate for peaceful co-existence between refugees and international communities.
“Despite religion, we are human beings who can connect with each other either with joy or misery which makes us indivisible”, said Venerable Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi, named as UNHCR’s Patron for Peace and Compassion. “As a member of the global family, we are bound to make a better and sustainable living conditions. Loving kindness and compassion are the paths to bring about peace to the world”, he added.
The Venerable V. Vajiramedhi is the Director of the Vimuttayalaya Foundation, an alternative educational establishment for the promotion of World Peace. He is known for his innovative approach for Buddhist teaching and his strong advocacy for peace and compassion towards fellow human beings through the concept of “We are One, We are World”, particularly in interfaith dialogues to support refugees. He is influential among all groups in Thailand and throughout Asia. His outreach is global as he has lectured and taught mindfulness course to both Thai and foreigners around the world. His books have been translated to at least 10 languages.
HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan has been appointed Patron for Maternal and Newborn Health. She has championed the needs and rights of mothers and new-borns in fragile and humanitarian settings. Her role will also help to highlight the results of the work jointly conducted between UNHCR and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to save newborn lives.
She is also a member of High Commissioner Grandi’s Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection, and a long-standing advocate for newborn health. Since 2016, Princess Sarah has visited with UNHCR South Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda and Jordan among several other locations to highlight preventive measures that ensure healthy new mothers and their babies and to advocate for the ending of gender-based violence and other related issues.
“I am honored and proud to be working with UNHCR, prioritizing the specific needs, vulnerabilities and contribution of forcibly displaced women, girls and their children, and reducing the needless horror of preventable deaths and injury,” HRH said in a statement.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements thanked both for their relentless efforts to provide refugees with a more dignified life.
“Passionate and devoted individuals can help garner compassion and understanding for refugees” she said. “Both Patrons are committed individuals working to ensure the well-being of refugees around the world and we recognize the impact of their efforts in changing attitudes towards refugees.”
Globally, record numbers of men, women and children are being displaced due to wars, violence and persecution. Without a major increase in awareness, support and funding, millions of people fleeing war and persecution face difficult lives without adequate and safe shelter and protection.
The private sector is an increasingly important donor source for UNHCR, contributing approximately 10 percent of the organization’s funding in 2018. Individuals and companies in the private sector are stepping up to bring vital funding, technical expertise, creativity, and innovation, and are often well-positioned to drive policy change and influence public opinion.