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Aug-13-2010 00:22printcomments

Refugees International Welcomes Dedicated Humanitarian Michel Gabaudan as Their Next President

Michel Gabaudan's career with UNHCR spans more than 25 years.

Michel Gabaudan
Michel Gabaudan photo courtesy: Michel

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Refugees International (RI), the leading advocacy organization on refugee crises worldwide announced Michel Gabaudan as its new president, beginning September 7.

“He has shown a dedicated history of service to refugees, most recently as Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)” RI told

"In my twenty-five year career with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees I have seen first-hand the incredible challenges humanitarian actors face trying to serve families forced from their homes by conflict or crisis," said Mr. Gabaudan. "Refugees International has played a tremendously important role in advocating for more effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection, which has made a real difference on the ground to some of the world's most vulnerable people. I am very proud to have the opportunity to help RI continue with its vital and life changing work."

More than forty million people are currently displaced by conflict; Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Colombia and the D.R. Congo. In addition, tens of millions of people could be displaced by climate change over the next 50 years. RI welcomes the arrival of Mr. Gabaudan, his dedication comes at a pivotal point in time in which determined work is needed to promote solutions to a growing number of refugee crises around the world.

"I share our entire board's enthusiasm in welcoming Michel to Refugees International," said Eileen Shields-West, Chair of Refugees International's Board of Directors. "Michel's experience on the ground as a physician and UNHCR field officer and his subsequent leadership in the UN's refugee agency, position him to propel Refugees International forward in its mission to bring attention and action to refugees and displaced persons worldwide."

Michel Gabaudan's career with UNHCR spans more than 25 years, a career that took him to field operations in Cameroon and Pakistan where he witnessed thousands of people displaced without access to health care, water and food. He spent several years at the agency's headquarters in Geneva, where he served as the first public health advisor to the organization and later oversaw the agency's donor relations service. His global experience includes service in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific and Beijing. Prior to joining UNHCR, he utilized medical and tropical public health training to serve vulnerable populations in Guyana, Zambia, Brazil, London and Yemen.

"The board was particularly impressed by Michel's mix of deep personal compassion and dedication to refugee issues, and his breadth of experience and skills," added Shields-West.

"Michel has spent his career delivering critical assistance on the ground, leading wide-reaching humanitarian programs and negotiating politically sensitive agreements to secure refuge for families uprooted by crisis. We couldn't have found a more qualified or dedicated leader for RI."

In a statement to UNHCR staff regarding Mr. Gabaudan's retirement from the agency, António Guterres said "Michel represents the very best of UNHCR: multilingual, exceptionally politically and diplomatically able, a natural leader and excellent team builder. He has served our organization on every continent, heading offices in several of the world's most politically challenging and exacting environments. Betraying his training as a medical doctor, Michel has combined an insistence on precision in diagnosis with a deeply humanitarian commitment to relief."

Sources: Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding:

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.