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Brazil will step up its assistance to help refugees and those affected by disasters worldwide under a new agreement reached with the United Nations refugee agency.

The pact, signed yesterday in Geneva by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Brazil's Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, formalizes the Latin American nation's financial support for the work of the agency.

As part of the agreement, young Brazilians will also gain exposure to the work of the Office for the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at its Geneva headquarters and field offices worldwide.

In recent years, Brazil has significantly stepped up its support for UNHCR's humanitarian assistance.

This year, the country donated some $3.2 million to the agency, the largest donation ever made in UNHCR's history by a nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The funds are helping refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in countries such as Sri Lanka, Haiti, Ecuador, Iran and Iraq, and are also being earmarked for areas such as education and food, with priority being given to locally-purchased products.

“Brazil has one of the most advanced legislations in the world on refugees, has welcomed citizens of more than 50 countries, and is now becoming one of the biggest donors to UNHCR,” Mr. Amorim noted.

For his part, Mr. Guterres expressed his gratitude to the country for its positive moves in relation to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers.

UNHCR was created in 1950 to protect safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees, and is a two-time recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.