The most important thing. Portraits of an escape.
What is the one thing that is most important for you and that you would take if you suddenly had to flee from your home and your country?
Although it may seem an unthinkable dilemma, that is the question that thousands of people are forced to answer every day. Over the last three years, conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali have given rise to grave humanitarian crises. Persecution, generalised violence and the violation of human rights have led to more than 12 million individuals being forced to abandon their homes; a third of these have fled to other countries, thus becoming refugees.
The exhibition The most important thing. Portraits of an escape, organised by ”la Caixa” Foundation in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), features images by the photojournalist Brian Sokol that comprise a gaze at the life of such people. The main purpose of the show is to reflect on what is most important to all those who are forced to flee from their homes. The exhibition will be open to the public at CaixaForum Madrid and CaixaForum Palma.
The aim of this project is to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and displaced people, leading visitors to reflect on how being forced to flee their homes changes the everyday lives of refugees, and the important decisions they have to make. In short, we are asked to put ourselves in their place.
Based on portraits by the American photojournalist Brian Sokol, The most important thing… features the testimony of 24 people who, at the time of being photographed, had just been forced to flee their homes, taking with them what is most important to them. These are testimonies that invite visitors to think about what they would do if they found themselves in the same situation.
From 2002 to 2013, ”la Caixa” Foundation and the UNHCR rolled out 11 humanitarian action projects in developing countries, nine in Africa (Chad, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia) and two in Asia (Afghanistan and Sri Lanka). These projects were engaged in delivering articles of basic necessity, improving access to water and sanitation, combating malnutrition, and assisting with refugees’ repatriation and reintegration in their countries of origin. In all, help has so far been given to some 914,000 of the world’s most vulnerable people. Through its International Cooperation Programme, ”la Caixa” Foundation maintains its commitment to helping eradicate poverty amongst the most vulnerable populations of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
The Programme promotes actions to protect and assist victims of emergencies, natural disasters and armed conflicts, with particular emphasis on humanitarian crises brought about by the inability to gain access to food. This humanitarian action is focused on providing support in the fight against child malnutrition and for emergency campaigns, helping those affected by natural disasters or displaced by conflicts.
For its part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is one of the most important humanitarian organisations in the world. Present in 125 countries, its mission is to protect and help refugees, and to seek solutions to their predicament. The UNHCR coordinates response to emergencies and mass exoduses; it sets up refugee camps, distributes drinking water and food and provides blankets and humanitarian aid materials. Offering legal protection and maintaining a refugee registry also fall within its remit. Once a conflict ends, the UNHCR cooperates with voluntary repatriation initiatives, facilitating the return of those refugees who wish to go back to their country of origin and setting up programmes aimed at providing education activities and generating income.