American University of Nigeria President Dr. Margee Ensign Addresses UNHCR

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Ensign calls for adoption of AUN-API model to protect vulnerable populations.

Our collaborative model works, and we believe that governments, international NGOs and other organizations working in regions of conflict should pre-identify local peace groups such as ours...

At a meeting of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva this week, American University of Nigeria (AUN) President Dr. Margee Ensign called on governments and international NGOs to work more closely with local organizations to address humanitarian crises, stem the tide of violence, thwart recruitment efforts by extremist groups, and protect and provide opportunities for vulnerable populations around the world. Local resources not only have a greater understanding of their culture, but they also have a better ability to gather information, and respond to rapidly changing conditions, according to Dr. Ensign. At its meeting, the UNHCR brought together refugees and 500 local, national and international NGOs to find long-term solutions to global humanitarian crises.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ensign, AUN’s Adamawa Peace Initiative (AUN-API) has helped thousands of vulnerable Nigerian youth obtain an education, develop valuable life skills and nurture the fortitude to resist entreaties from Boko Haram, which has slaughtered thousands of innocent children, women and men and displaced more than 1.5 million who fled their homes. According to AUN-API members, their model has been extremely successful and should be replicated as they have no evidence of Yola youth joining Boko Haram. AUN-API has provided humanitarian assistance in the form of food, water, medicine, clothing and other supplies to more than 276,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who sought refuge from the violence.

“The international response to the growing number of IDPs has been slow and inadequate in addressing the situation at hand, nevermind in guiding a long-term durable solution,” said Dr. Ensign. “The number of IDPs grew exponentially during the summer of 2014. It was not until December of 2014 that NGOs began to arrive – and by this time, AUN-API had been feeding nearly 300,000 IDPs for six months without any outside assistance.”

In Nigeria, where helping people in need is engrained in the culture, most displaced people live with related host families and communities rather than in refugee camps. For example, an estimated 405,000 IDPs fled to Yola, yet only 15,000 sheltered in refugee camps. The international aid community is generally ill-equipped to deal with refugees outside of camps or camp-like settings.

On the other hand, AUN-API, which counts among its members prominent Muslims and Christians, traditional rulers, academic and business leaders, NGOs, and other members of the Yola community, has the capacity and nimbleness to address the challenges in real time, given adequate access to aid money, food and other supplies.

“We know our community and we are in a unique position to bring diverse resources together to find and implement solutions to crises, prevent our youth from succumbing to the temptation to join extremist organizations and bring stability to the region. Our collaborative model works, and we believe that governments, international NGOs and other organizations working in regions of conflict should pre-identify local peace groups such as ours, and evaluate and use these local networks to implement assistance,” concluded Dr. Ensign.

About the American University of Nigeria

The American University of Nigeria, located in Yola, Adamawa State, was established in 2004. Conceived as Africa’s first Development University, its mission is to promote service learning and to educate leaders who will be prepared to tackle the development issues of Nigeria and Africa. The university offers an American-style education modeled after the curriculum of American universities, using the latest in Internet technology and e-learning resources. To learn more about the American University of Nigeria, visit http://www.aun.edu.ng.

About the American University of Nigeria – Adamawa Peace Initiative

The Adamawa Peace Initiative (API) was establashed in 2012 during the nationwide fuel subsidy strikes in Nigeria. AUN-API members include prominent Muslims and Christians, traditional rulers, business and NGO leaders and other members of the communtiy. AUN-API works with IDPs, many of whom have fled their homes in northern Nigeria, by providing humanitarian relief and educational and entrepreneurial programs for vulnerable youth. To learn more about the Adamawa Peace Initiative, visit http://www.peacemakernigeria.org.

About the American University of Nigeria Foundation

The American University of Nigeria Foundation is an independent tax exempt U.S.-based 501(c)3 nonprofit. AUNF’s mission is to raise funds for the American University of Nigeria to provide education for vulnerable Nigerian youth and humanitarian assistance (including food, medicine and clothing) to more than 270,000 Internally Displaced Persons who have fled from Boko Haram. To learn more about the American University of Nigerian Foundation and to donate, visit http://www.aunf.org.

Conover + Gould Strategic Communications is sending this information on behalf of the American University of Nigeria. Additional information is on file with the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, District of Columbia.

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