Date:Tue, 8 Feb 2005 10:55:44 -0000
Dear Osam Altaee,
I have just read your site at
http://unhcr.cyberfreehost.com/human-buttons.htm, and I was wondering
about a few things. Primarily, what do you expect the UNHCR to be doing?
Do you think there should be no organisation at all dedicated to refugees
in some form? Do you think it is better to improve the UNHCR or to discard
it alltogether? If the first, how would you improve it? I found that one
of your strongest points was that they could be using Angelina Jolie's
picture to collect money instead of that of the refugees. But first of
all, that could substitute one form of humiliation for another, if her
picture would only be used because she is an attractive woman: it
objectifies women the way you protest the objectification of refugees.
Secondly, she may simply not consent to her picture being used this way.
If the choice is between pictures of refugees or no pictures, and the
first of these leads to a lot more money being raised, would you not go
for the first? Remember, these people have no obligation to try to help.
Maybe they make mistakes while trying to help, but is that reason to rail
against them in this way? My point is that they are very likely not
offending intentionally, and they are making mistakes in good faith. This
brings me to my next point. You say you'd rather do without the less than
a dollar per refugee raised from private contributions with the help of
these pictures. This is inconsistent with you then accusing the UNHCR for
not providing better shelter than barns, better food than rice, and so on.
I am sure you appreciate that the UNHCR can't force governments to provide
more money than they are, all that they can do is appeal to the public to
supplement their funds, and try to maximise the resources they gain this
way - hence the emotional pictures. (As an aside, these pictures are
emphatically not used to humiliate, they are used to make people feel
guilty or sorry for refugees, and it is a lot more difficult to grab
attention and have an impact with visual representation of 'millionaires'
who are made stateless. The same style of pictures go for poor children in
Africa, Asia, Latin America or parts of Eastern Europe; for blind and
otherwise impaired people; domestically abused women and so on. It's not
that all these people are out there to humiliate everybody who is not
white, middle-class, Western and male - maybe their methods to raise
compassion are primitive and they can be objected to, but their efforts
could surely be appreciated.) And finally, your statistic is misleading.
The money raised from donations is not split per refugee, it goes towards
projects, and as such, can accomplish something, even if little. Even if
you don't see any of that money, but you know that somebody else's life
has been made better, would you say that other people should not benefit
if you are not benefiting?
I am sympathetic to your concerns and I think they should be voiced, but
in a more measured way.
Lastly, I should add that I've been a refugee myself, from the Yugoslav
All my best wishes,
Dear Anna Dimitrijevics,
You sent me an interesting message, I hope to write some comments but actually
many answers are in my ebooks.
"Primarily, what do you expect the UNHCR to be doing?" UNHCR must does
what its mandate speaks not more not less. The UNHCR now passed that
mandate (UN 51 convention) it now doing many illegal things. One of my
missions is to put the UNHCR on correct course. Now UNHCR is just charity
organization working to collect money from donors. I don't know what the UNHCR
doing with money for the moment!
"Do you think there should be no organization at all dedicated to refugees in
some form?" we need to know what 'refugee' does mean and we need to know
what he/she needs then we'll see any organization able to meet his needs or we
need action from one government or many. We need to define the problem and
then how we can solve.
"Do you think it is better to improve the UNHCR or to discard it altogether?" at
the first day when I started my mission, I made clear that my target is to improve
the performance of the UNHCR as away to improve the situation of the refugees
in the world and that exactly what I'm doing now. We must start with changing the
bad policies and procedures the UNHCR has now.
"If the first, how would you improve it?" the same as I did before and as I'm doing
now, with my campaigns. I invited the people whom working for the UNHCR to
have public discussions about our problem as refugees and they refused, so I
have only me campaigns. I helped to make many improvements in UNHCR's
office in Lebanon and I'll work for more.
About using Angelina's picture as human-button, first my idea wasn't about
Angelina only, but it was about: Pavarotti, Giorgio Armani and Angelina Jolie. I
didn't ask to use their pictures as human-buttons but I asked, "Does Pavarotti or
Giorgio Armani need these human buttons to make donations? If they need
these buttons and it's a good way for collecting money for the UNHCR, so why
don't they use their own pictures this way to bring more money in for the UNHCR.
Also about Angelina Jolie," I used 'Does and If" I think it's called conditional
speech or some thing like that. At any way I don't like any one to abuse any
human by any way.
"She may simply not consent to her picture being used this way" ok why?
"If the choice is between pictures of refugees or no pictures, and the first of these
leads to a lot more money being raised, would you not go for the first?" I'll not
agree to abuse humans for all the money in the world. We're civilized human
beings in civilized community. That way is not civilized by any mean or under any
excuse. The big problem in the world now is the misunderstanding about the
UNHCR, I feel sorry for that. You and other think that the UNHCR is there to help
the refugees but this is not true. One of my missions is to clear this
understanding with my campaigns. I'm working on 3 campaigns now and you'll
understand more. One thing sure that using these pictures to collect money is
"This is inconsistent with you then accusing the UNHCR for not providing better
shelter than barns, better food than rice" I' accusing the UNHCR with mistreat the
refugees by bad policies and procedures. The details in my ebooks.
"I am sure you appreciate that the UNHCR can't force governments to provide
more money than they are," our problem isn't the money, but we need money as
any human in this world. But money isn't our target. UNHCR thinks the problem is
the money and working to collect more money and that's big mistake. The
refugees are part of their communities and when they're living among poor
people so they're poor. Those refugees from Darfor were poor before the war
and that'll continue with them as the majority of Africans so when the UNHCR
showed a poor refugees in Darfur to collect money actually it used image of the
poverty and when people donate actually they donate because of the poverty not
because the refugee status. That action gave impression that all the refugees
are poor and they just need some money. I like to make some clarity in this point
with my campaign. In one of the pictures that they used as banner they wrote:
Nearly 20 million refugees worldwide, need you help, click here to donate. This
info isn't true not all the 20 million need money, maybe some of them; the
majority of the refugees living normally like any human being. With that banner
they made all the refugees look poor and their problem need some money to be
solved. I feel sorry for that. Why the help must be donations? Why it isn't another
kind of help? For example providing refugees with chances for work,
employment or any way enable the refugees to depend on themselves. Why the
UNHCR don't build factories for refugees? Why it doesn't help them to have
farms? I didn't hear that UNHCR asked the governments for money and the
governments didn't give.
"your statistic is misleading" these aren't my statistics, UNHCR published it not
me. I agree with you about the misleading. UNHCR published only the donations
with amount more than $100,000 and discarded smaller amounts. The reason is
like you spoke "The money raised from donations is not split per refugee, it goes
towards projects" that's 100% correct and I agree with you. It's easy for any one
to track big amounts but how possible to track $10 or $20? These human-
buttons are used to collect small amounts from $10 to $50 and it's hard for some
who donated such small amount to track or even to ask about the destination of
his money! The UNHCR didn't publish any statistic about these small donations. I
didn't find any statistic about these small donations and I hope one day I'll find.
Maybe you would ask them.
This is from the table I used with my campaign: NB: Only donor contributions
more than USD 100,000 are individually identified in this table. Strange, where
are the donations less than $100,000? Notice, these human-buttons collect
amounts les than $100!
"Even if you don't see any of that money, but you know that somebody else's life
has been made better, would you say that other people should not benefit if you
are not benefiting?" I like to see how possible for $10 or $20 came from human-
buttons to improve life of a refugee? I didn't see such thing, but even if I'll see
such thing I'll continue my campaigns to remove all these human-buttons.
"I am sympathetic to your concerns and I think they should be voiced, but in a
more measured way." What do you mean by measured way? Do you mean the
way of Saddam with Iraqis?
"I should add that I've been a refugee myself, from the Yugoslav wars." Did the
UNHCR help you by any way?
I'm happy and very thankful for giving all that time to read my article and to write
me back, I hope we will continue this discussion. I'll publish your message on my
blog but I'll hide you email, so more people will read and participate in this
Have nice time.