Refugees were at the centre of political attention for the first time in decades, the new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it began its general debate on humanitarian questions.
“Addressing their plight is truly one of the defining challenges of our time,” said Filippo Grandi, describing it as a challenge that rested on the engagement and determination of States. Presenting his report, he noted that since the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants in September, 111,000 people had fled South Sudan, bringing the total to 1.13 million. Nearly 4,000 refugees had lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016 alone.
Indeed, it had become difficult to build peace, he continued. “Moral and legal boundaries embedded in international humanitarian law are crossed every day more deliberately, and with more impunity.” The conflicts in Iraq and Syria accounted for almost a quarter of the world’s displaced people, with deep sectarian divisions, religious extremism, terrorism and governance challenges fuelling the violence. The war in Syria, now in its sixth year, had caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced and 4.8 million refugees.
Responding to crises required partnerships between humanitarian and development actors and scaled-up resources, he said, as well as improved access and a better distribution of refugees among countries so as to avoid overburdening a small number of countries. Follow-up to the World Humanitarian Summit and the elaboration of the Global Compact on Refugees by 2018 would foster more partnerships.
During the interactive dialogue, delegates – several from countries hosting millions of refugees and migrants – asked about repatriation and collaboration, as well as efforts to counter xenophobia, address internal displacement and share responsibilities.
In response, Mr. Grandi said that voluntary repatriation was the most desirable solution which must be addressed with sensitivity. Front-line countries could be relieved by relocating refugees, a strategy being pursued by European countries. He also stressed that proximity should not define responsibility in the hosting of Syrian refugees, commending Jordan for hosting the majority and providing them with employment.
When general debate opened on broader humanitarian questions, delegates expressed concerns about the immense resources required to address displacement. The United States delegate noted that UNHCR had just approved its largest budget in history, and yet the gap between what was needed and available was growing. She welcomed efforts to strengthen its internal capacity to become more agile. Thailand’s delegate said host countries – 85 per cent of which were low-middle-income countries – required additional funding to aid those in need.
Others focused on root causes, with Libya’s delegate calling for greater cooperation in that regard. Syria’s representative, meanwhile, said the war in his country had been abused for political purposes, with Syrian refugee children exploited in host countries. The recent surge in displacement stemmed from reckless policies and interference in the affairs of sovereign States, the Russian Federation’s delegate added. Kenya’s speaker said a lack of support had left his country with the world’s largest refugee camp, and he advocated for the creation of a networked database on refugees.
Earlier today, the Committee concluded its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, with Namibia’s representative, among others, calling for the realization of Palestinians’ right to self-determination and further action to implement the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.
Also participating in the debate on racism and self-determination were representatives of Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Jordan, Iran, Ukraine, Armenia, Namibia, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Bolivia, Gambia, Algeria, Venezuela, Eritrea and Morocco, as well as the State of Palestine.
Also participating in the general debate on humanitarian questions were representatives of Switzerland, Argentina, Colombia, Afghanistan, Brazil, Tunisia, Kuwait and Georgia, as well as the European Union.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Armenia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Algeria and Morocco, as well as the State of Palestine.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 3 November, to continue its discussion of humanitarian questions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and of the right of peoples to self-determination. For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4182.
Delegates were also to begin discussions on the reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/71/12), and the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme (document A/71/12/Add.1), as well as questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons, and humanitarian questions. They had before them the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/71/354).
Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq), expressing support for Palestinians, reiterated the need for an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, with complete sovereignty and control of natural resources. He condemned the rights abuses perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces, including land confiscation, settlements, violence and abuse against civilians. While the Palestinians were resilient, they lacked the most basic foundations of a dignified and free life. Recalling that Israel’s settlements and land confiscations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were violations of international law and human rights law, he called for greater respect for international humanitarian law.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) recalled that the right to self-determination was sanctified in foundations of United Nations. Yet, for countless people, the promise of freedom remained elusive. Every occupier used the same narrative and means to justify oppression: equating freedom struggles with terrorism, using brute force and blaming others. However, the spirit of a people could not be broken by brutal repression. “Might does not make right,” she said. “It never did and never will.” She was concerned by the situation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who were waiting for their rights to be realized despite numerous Security Council resolutions calling for a free and impartial plebiscite. Lasting peace could not be established in South Asia without a settlement to that longstanding dispute.
ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria) outlined efforts his country had made in combatting discrimination and xenophobia, noting that campaigns had been carried out to promote diversity, as well as fight hate speech, incitement to terrorism, violence and discrimination. He emphasized the need for inclusive policies and a culture that welcomed tolerance, stressing that migrants, and especially irregular migrants, were vulnerable to discrimination and xenophobia. He called on States to protect migrants, as well as to follow up on measures outlined in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
MAYANK JOSHI (India) said racism and xenophobia were widespread and required more concerted efforts to combat. He called for more effective follow-up and implementation of the Durban Programme of Action, recalling India’s role in advancing the right to self-determination. Palestine was an unsolved task, and he expressed India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to live in peace with their Israeli neighbours within safe borders. He also called for the self-determination of the people of Kashmir.
SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) recalled that the right to self-determination was fundamental to the enjoyment of socio-economic and political development. It was also a foundation for international law, as stressed in two human rights conventions. No pretext should deprive a people of their right to self-determination. She called on Israel to end its unilateral actions, which were leading to a new status quo that would make the conflict unsolvable in the future.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) expressed concern about attacks against refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Rising Islamophobia in western countries, and political parties with anti-migrant and anti-Muslim policies were becoming more common. The discriminatory treatment of Muslims would lead to vengeance and, ultimately, extremism. He drew attention to human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinians by Israel, which was the only apartheid regime of the twenty-first century. The silence of the “self-proclaimed guardians of human rights” was not accidental. “No amount of slander can cloud the obvious fact that this regime poses a real and urgent threat to global fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance,” he said.
DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, noted that Ukrainian legislation guaranteed full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all citizens, without distinction of their race, color or national or ethnic origin. Since the Russian Federation’s temporary occupation of the autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as its aggression in some areas of the Donbas region, the indigenous Crimean Tatar population had been living under what might be characterized as racial discrimination. She expressed deep concern at racially motivated violence against ethnic minorities and immigrants in the Russian Federation while that Government endorsed far-right movements and approved their participation in aggression against Ukraine. She urged the Russian Federation to cease the practice of stirring up national hatred.
LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), said all people had the right to self-determination, underscoring that States were responsible for realizing all human rights. Force was a tool used to deprive people of their rights, including those to self-determination and to life, she said, stressing that the human rights of people who had found themselves in conflict situations deserved special protection.
LAHYA ITEDHIMBWA SHIKONGO (Namibia) expressed concern about Israeli settlements, the wall and other restrictions imposed on Palestinians, calling on Israel to immediately desist and comply with its international obligations. She urged Israel to stop destroying Palestinian property and to allow Palestinians to participate in international trade. The Israeli occupation must end so that the Palestinian people could realize all their rights, she said, expressing similar concerns about the situation of Western Sahara and calling on the international community to carry out relevant legal obligations. The people of Western Sahara should be able to decide their fate and Namibia would accept the outcome of a referendum.
HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) expressed concern about contemporary forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and negative stereotyping of religions, particularly Islamophobia. She called for greater interreligious dialogue. For its part, Azerbaijan had hosted the meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations. She suggested that the media play a more positive role in fostering dialogue, as the use of hate speech by media and public officials was concerning. In particular, she pointed to such speech by the Armenian political leadership. Clarifying a “misinterpretation” of the right to self-determination, she said that that right applied to people of non-self-governing territories, not to secession, and could not be achieved by illegal means.
MARIE GNAMA BASSENE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said racial discrimination and xenophobia were growing and the victims were primarily people of African descent, migrants, refugees and minorities. Senegal, which was a melting pot of identities, placed a premium on interfaith dialogue and she urged Governments to foster dialogue. She also invited Member States to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers. She recalled the collective duty to protect Palestinian rights, stressing that Palestinians required international assistance to guarantee their enjoyment of their inalienable rights and to live in freedom, justice and dignity in a sovereign, democratic State with territorial integrity.
INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), stressing that her country had made the elimination of racism and discrimination a priority, decried violent acts carried out against indigenous communities by armed groups opposing the Government. Bolivia had implemented partnership agreements with civil society to combat racism and xenophobia and to solidify and foster dialogue. Reporting on discrimination had increased, thanks to laws that protected citizens and, in turn, the fact that citizens were aware that protection was available. Prevention and awareness-raising had been carried out through education programs.
MAMADOU TANGARA (Gambia), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, called on the international community to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. He expressed regret that not much progress had been made. He welcomed measures to end colonialism and rectify the injustice of slavery, stressing the paramount importance of moving from rhetoric to action on those issues, as there was no doubt about the negative effects they had had on development in Africa. He urged addressing stigmatization, stamping out modern slavery and restoring justice.
IDRISS BOUASSILA (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and noting that migrants were falling victim to exploitation, xenophobia and discrimination, said that political parties in some countries had demeaned migrants for election gains and that associating Islam with terrorism was also a form of racism and intolerance. On the right to self-determination, Algeria deplored attempts to narrow the interpretation of that right and acts of military intervention and occupation threatening it. He encouraged the Human Rights Council to continue paying special attention to rights violations resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation. He expressed regret that the right to self-determination was inaccessible to Palestinians and to all peoples in Non-Self-Governing Territories, including the Sahrawi people.
Ms. GONZALEZ (Venezuela) endorsed the statement by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, adding that the international community was far from fulfilling its commitments under the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. She expressed concern about the misuse of information and communication technology to incite racism. Pointing rising xenophobia and racist discourse in the public sphere in developed countries, she noted with alarm the cruelty with which migrants had been treated in violation of their rights and freedoms. Venezuela was committed to fighting racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, and had taken steps to eliminate it. She condemned extremist movements, whose existence threatened democracy and the rule of law, calling on States to repay the debt to those historically marginalized on the basis of race.
NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, recalled that Israel’s expansion in the Occupied Territories continued in spite of its violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Settlement activity had intensified over the past year, indicating that Israel was not interested in a just peace and security. Israel had adopted policies designed to segregate the indigenous Palestinian population and the Israeli settler population, privileging settlers and institutionalizing a discriminatory regime aimed at altering the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in East Jerusalem, and facilitating the pillage of natural resources. Israel’s failure to investigate abuses against Palestinians violated its legal obligation as an occupying Power. The blockade of the Gaza Strip was an affront to the right to self-determination and a violation of the rights of Palestinians who lived there. Moreover, more than half of all Palestinians were stateless, and she called on the international community to make “real efforts” to end Israel’s occupation and advance Palestinian human rights.
ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, expressed concern about xenophobia, racism and hostility against migrants. Their rights must be protected and States must ensure they provided protection. She stressed the role of education and mass media in changing behaviour and promoting tolerance and diversity. There was also a need to address the lingering negative effects of centuries of colonialism. Eritrea supported international efforts to rectify historical imbalances created by racism and slavery, she said, reiterating Eritrea’s commitment to the right of self-determination.
Mr. RABBI (Morocco), recalling the indivisibility and universality of all human rights, rejected selectivity and politicization in that context. The right to self-determination could not be simply a political statement; it must be realized, as it had significant positive effects in promoting independence, peace, stability and development. It was a modern and democratic concept that had not yet been achieved for all.
Ms. RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said that as the Third Committee discussed the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to suffer. The policies and practices of the occupying Power against the indigenous Palestinian population constituted apartheid. Reviewing the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, she noted that the Palestinian citizens of Israel continued to be targeted by racist laws, making them second-class citizens in their own land. The international community must pursue accountability and justice for Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation called on Georgia’s delegate to accept the reality in Abkhazia. To Ukraine’s delegate, he said that Crimea had become part of the Russian Federation after an accepted referendum and its people enjoyed all human rights. Legal protection was available and Russian authorities would react to all human rights violations.
The representative of Armenia said Azerbaijan’s delegate had misrepresented history and his country. Armenia could not forgive barbaric attacks or their glorification by Azerbaijan, the armed forces of which had violated the Geneva Conventions. There was no alternative to a peaceful settlement and Azerbaijan should adhere to the ceasefire agreement.
The representative of Pakistan said that his counterpart from India had made false claims on occupied territories, which could not be maintained. The struggle of the Kashmiri people did not constitute terrorism.
The representative of the Ukraine recalled the aggressions of the Russian Federation against a number of States in the region, noting that a Russian bank had decided not to do business in Crimea as it did not consider that area part of the Russian Federation.
The representative of Georgia, to comments by her Russian counterpart, recalled a 27 January 2016 decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court to authorize an investigation of crimes committed during the 2008 armed conflict. In that decision, the Court had noted a consistent pattern of beating civilians, looting and other acts to forcibly expel ethnic Georgians from South Ossetia, which consequently had seen a 70 per cent decrease in its Georgian population.
The representative of Azerbaijan said recalled that Armenia had launched a war on Azerbaijan and ethnically cleansed its territory. Armenia had rejected international decisions, acting as an aggressor and an occupying State. She pointed to the “well-known” promotion of hate speech by Armenia’s leadership.
The representative of Israel said she supported the two-State solution, but peace required painful compromise. It was easier for the Palestinians to speak at the United Nations than to tell their own people to end attacks on Israelis. Palestinians had exploited their work permits to kill Israelis, used access to Israeli hospitals to kill and targeted holy places. She called on Palestinians to end incitement in schools, which contributed to those attacks. She thanked the Palestinian observer for quoting Israeli nongovernmental organizations, noting that Israel was a thriving democracy.
The representative of Algeria rejected his Moroccan counterpart’s comments about communities in Algeria who wished to separate from the country. He reiterated Algeria’s support for the Sahrawis’ right to self-determination.
The representative of Armenia pointed out that the Security Council resolutions to which her Azerbaijani counterpart had referred had been adopted during the military phase of the conflict. The representative of Azerbaijan did not counter the list of atrocities she had cited because they had been well documented, including by Azerbaijan’s own servicemen, who had posted photographs of their crimes on social media.
An observer for the State of Palestine noted the Israeli representative’s refusal to address the occupation, recalling that the facts she had cited had been established by independent United Nations bodies. Hundreds of thousands of settlers had been transferred to the Occupied Territory, raising questions about Israel’s commitment to peace.
The representative of Azerbaijan said Nagorno-Karabakh was illegally occupied by Armenia and its authorities. On alleged atrocities, she recalled crimes committed by Armenia that had been carried out without regret. Azerbaijanis were simply defending themselves against illegal occupation and questioned Armenian activities in occupied territories.
The representative of Morocco said comments by his Algerian counterpart were paradoxical. The Moroccan Sahara remained Moroccan.
The representative of Algeria said States had different understandings of concepts and agreements put forward by the United Nations when it came to occupied territories. Algeria had never accepted interference with sovereignty.
The representative of Morocco said Algeria’s delegate had not shared all information about the legal status of the part of the Sahara that belonged to Morocco. He did not accept the Algerian misrepresentation.
Introductory Statement and Dialogue with High Commissioner for Refugees
FILIPPO GRANDI, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), addressing the Committee for the first time, provided an overview of the situation of refugees across the world. To illustrate the urgency of the situation, he said that since the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, on 19 September, 111,000 people had fled from South Sudan to neighbouring countries, while this year alone, nearly 4,000 refugees had lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, it had become more difficult to build peace. The Security Council and regional organizations appeared to have lost the will to be united in addressing conflicts. “The moral and legal boundaries embedded in international humanitarian law were crossed every day more deliberately, and with more impunity,” he said. The war in Syria had created the biggest humanitarian crisis, with 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced and 4.8 million refugees. Syrians had found themselves trapped in their own country, as was most evident in Aleppo.
The situation in other countries was also dire, he said, noting that in the Mosul region of Iraq, more than 20,000 people had been displaced. Unprecedented numbers of refugees had come from Yemen, Afghanistan, Central America and the Great Lakes region of Africa. Yet, there was reason for hope. In CAte d’Ivoire, for example, more than a quarter million refugees had returned home in the last five years, while in Somalia, some progress had been made towards stability and prosperity. In responding to multiple crises and challenges, he stressed the need for partnerships, cooperation between humanitarian and development actors and scaled-up resources, as well as improved access and a better distribution of refugees among countries so as to avoid overburdening a small number of countries. Follow-up to the World Humanitarian Summit – held in Istanbul in May – and the elaboration of the Global Compact on Refugees would foster more partnerships and maintaining momentum. “Refugees are at the centre of political attention for the first time in decades,” he said, stressing that a response rested on the engagement and determination of States.
When the floor opened for questions, Algeria’s representative suggested that the international focus should not be on resettling refugees permanently in other countries, but that eventual repatriation should be the norm. Norway’s representative asked how UNHCR would engage with the private sector. Japan’s representative asked whether silos had been broken down between the humanitarian and development sectors or whether there were challenges remaining. Iran’s representative pointed out that his country hosted one of the world’s largest refugee communities, while Greece’s representative said refugee flows called for global solutions and were the shared responsibility of Member States.
Responding, Mr. GRANDI said that in UNHCR’s traditional view, there were three solutions to the refugee problem: repatriation, voluntary repatriation, and local integration, of which the optimal solution was voluntary repatriation. The challenge was that voluntary repatriation hinged on a political solution to the conflict, which had caused refugees to flee in the first place. People wished to return home, for instance to Afghanistan and Somalia, but conflicts affected parts of those countries. Supporting repatriation under those conditions was difficult. Host countries’ agreeing to integrate refugees was not the number one choice, he said, adding that it was difficult from a political standpoint and must be addressed with sensitivity. To questions about development actors, he said development instruments, which were financial instruments and approaches designed for longer-term situations, could be adapted to situations of refugee crises and protracted displacement. There was work being done in that field by the World Bank.
Thanking Iran’s representative for his observation, he added that it had taken people arriving in the global North to open the world’s eyes to the urgency of displacement. Turning to the comment on global responsibility, he stressed that relocation had been proposed by European States themselves as a positive initiative meant to relieve the burden on front-line countries. But relocation was being applied neither consistently nor sufficiently, and Europe must show continental solidarity if it wanted to be a leader in refugee protection as it had been for decades.
In the first round of questions, Iraq’s representative asked how displaced women could be better included in decisions that affected them, while Canada’s delegate wondered how States could create a narrative that highlighted the positive contributions of migrants and refugees to their communities. The representative of the European Union requested details on UNHCR’s operational review of its engagement with internally displaced persons. Recalling that sub-Saharan Africa hosted the majority of refugees worldwide, South Africa’s representative stressed the need to address the root causes of displacement. Jordan’s speaker, noting that her country hosted the majority of displaced Syrians despite its limited natural resources, asked how the international community could step up its commitments.
Mr. GRANDI recalled that although Iraq had a large internal displacement problem, it still hosted refugees from Syria. “Proximity should not define responsibility,” he said, stressing the need for better burden sharing. He shared the Iraqi representative’s concern about gender equality and acknowledged that it was a challenge. UNHCR was carrying out projects to support women, who in many cases were on their own caring for children. He stressed the need to give refugees a voice in decision-making, especially women, who knew best what was good for their children and for themselves.
He commended Jordan for its efforts to provide employment to refugees. He noted that only a small percentage of those who received that support were women, a problem which he had discussed with the Government. He also commended Canada for being a leader in resettlement, calling its mixed model of public and private partnerships to sponsor refugees “forward-looking” and a model for others. By allowing communities to lead efforts, Canada had created an environment that was more conducive to acceptance and could help stem xenophobia. He also thought it was important to explain to the public that refugees did not flee out of choice, and to highlight the contribution that they made to their communities. As part of its efforts to counter xenophobia, UNHCR was working with the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to find more evidence to support the claim that refugees contributed to the welfare of host communities.
Finally, he acknowledged that it was time for the United Nations to re-examine how it addressed the situation of internally displaced persons, who comprised two thirds of the more the 65 million displaced persons. The traditional way of working involved too much bureaucracy and too many resources dedicated to upholding the system itself, rather than delivering assistance.
When the floor again opened, Morocco’s representative asked which measures UNHCR was taking to prevent the diversion of aid. Ethiopia’s representative noted that it was hosting 780 000 refugees – a number that was on the rise – and covering the costs from its own meagre resources. Russian Federation’s representative called on UNHCR to continue its focus on statelessness, while Colombia’s representative asked for advice on how to assure good practices were harnessed, disseminated and applied to similar situations around the globe.
Mr. GRANDI, responding, said UNHCR’s on-the-ground presence was not a guarantee, but rather an approach that reduced the risk of aid diversion, which could occur in conflicts where access was difficult. Responding to speakers from host countries, he underscored that working with countries hosting large numbers of refugees was a priority for UNHCR, as they were the greatest contributors of support to refugees. The cost they bore was also social and political. To the question on statelessness, he acknowledged that it was a sensitive political issue in many countries. Turning to Colombia’s question, he emphasized the importance of the debate on internally displaced persons, adding that the challenges were huge because many displaced people in Colombia had come from rural areas. It was therefore not just a problem of displacement, but urbanization, and the tools used to address that issue must be economic and social ones. A political framework must be created to solve that issue, he said, adding that the peace process had many objectives. He was encouraged to hear that resolving displacement was among them.
Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of Turkey and Algeria.
JOANNE ADAMSON, of the European Union, highlighted the scale of forced displacement worldwide. The protracted nature of displacement was a major problem, with the average person displaced for more than 10 years. Commending the generosity of States in the global South, which hosted nine in 10 refugees, she reaffirmed the commitment to support host countries and communities, while underlining the need to strengthen protection and facilitate solutions. Greater efforts were needed to prevent forced displacement, something that could not be done by the humanitarian community alone.
She said the Union was committed to resolving and preventing conflicts, and had proposed a new, development-oriented policy framework to address forced displacement, together with humanitarian assistance. UNHCR had reached its highest level of financial support, but substantial needs remained unmet, she said, stressing the need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of UNHCR operations. The New York Declaration, adopted at the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, had reasserted the validity of international refugee law and launched a global campaign against racism and xenophobia to sensitize citizens of host countries to core human values.
KYLIE HOLMES (United States) noted that UNHCR had recently approved its largest budget in history, reflecting the massive needs of people worldwide. This year, the United States had pledged $7 billion in aid to the agency, but the gap between what was needed and what was available was growing. She welcomed important events that had demonstrated the international resolve, such as the World Humanitarian Summit and the New York Declaration, stressing the need to make good on the commitments made under those agreements. Coordination was essential to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, she said, while welcoming UNHCR’s efforts to strengthen its internal capacity to be more efficient and agile.
GILLES CERUTTI (Switzerland) welcomed the New York Declaration on Migrants and Refugees and looked forward to its implementation. He stressed the need to resolve the root causes of displacement, which could be reduced through better compliance with international humanitarian law. He also called for greater engagement with youth, who comprised more than half of the more than 60 million forcibly displaced persons. Finally, He urged coordinated joint action from humanitarian, development, human rights and peacebuilding actors to address forced displacement. Those initiatives should promote local solutions that integrated refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities.
MARTA�N GARCA�A MORITA�N (Argentina) welcomed the New York Declaration as a step in the right direction and called for sustainable solutions based on the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility. Noting that developing countries were most affected by displacement, he expressed concern that the financing deficit was hindering the ability to improve the situation for millions on the ground. Institutional frameworks must reinforce national progress. For its part, Argentina’s White Helmets had provided humanitarian assistance in Lebanon and the Government had issued humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees, who were granted access to employment and education. However, only a robust political will could eliminate the root causes of conflict, which compelled women, children and men to leave their homes.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) noted the existence of 8 million displaced people in the country, a total counting since the beginning of the conflict. Colombia had shouldered its responsibility for ensuring the social inclusion of victims of internal displacement since passing a law on victims in the 2010s, noting that UNHCR had been a crucial partner through its multi-year plans. Design for lasting solutions had been ensured through development policies. Solutions required the participation of victims, as well as international solidarity and cooperation, measures which all must be mutually reinforcing.
MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said his country was still one of the leading countries of origin for refugees because of terrorism, extremism and protracted proxy wars. “Shutting the doors in their faces” was not only against the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but would also fuel radicalization. Afghanistan was addressing security concerns and endemic poverty to curb the flow of refugees. Thanking Iran and Pakistan for their hospitality, he called on those countries to support the voluntary, gradual and dignified repatriation of Afghan refugees. As the Afghan diaspora often faced Islamophobic backlash after terrorist attacks, he called for cooperation to end negative stereotyping of Afghan communities and fostering of interfaith and cross-cultural networks.
Mr. GOTYAEV (Russian Federation) said tackling the refugee issue required settling and preventing conflicts, and he urged coordination in political, socioeconomic and humanitarian areas. The recent surge in displacement had stemmed from reckless policies and interference in the affairs of sovereign States. Those countries responsible for the outbreak of crises should shoulder the burden for the displacement crisis. The Russian Federation would continue to provide UNHCR its full support, he said, noting that it was the world’s second-largest host of foreign citizens, hosting more than 1 million Ukrainian citizens. It was also accommodating citizens from Syria and Afghanistan and assisting their integration into Russian society.
Mr. ALMABROK (Libya) said his country had seen large waves of migrants fleeing Africa for Europe. The migratory flow had given rise to security, economic and social challenges. Displaced persons had fallen prey to human trafficking and other illicit activities. Against that backdrop, he highlighted the generosity of the Libyan people in granting them the right to work, stressing that the Government was cooperating with international organizations to guarantee their voluntary return. He called for greater international cooperation to deal with the root causes of displacement, stem discrimination and fight hatred.
CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), noting that the High Commissioner had appropriately highlighted the importance of compliance with the “non refoulement” principle, said departures from international protection principles had resulted in inadequate management of large-scale arrivals. Strengthened implementation of refugee law and greater responsibility sharing were essential, he said, adding that responsibility sharing should be based on the principles of increased support to host countries in the developing world and expanded admission pathways. Describing Brazil’s efforts to address the plight of refugees – including by providing universal access to employment, public education and health care – he said the country’s refugee population was growing and would increase by nearly 60 per cent by the end of 2017. Drawing attention to his region’s adoption of the 2014 Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action, which addressed displacement caused by disasters and organized crime, he said the 2018 Global Compact on refugees could serve as an important opportunity to deepen the debate on complementary protection.
TOM AMOLO (Kenya), associating himself with the African Group, said a lack of support from the international community had left Kenya with the world’s largest refugee camp, the Dadaab Refugees Complex, in the country’s most ecologically fragile region. It was a fact and a legitimate security concern that the terrorist attacks at Westgate Shopping Mall and Garissa University had been planned and executed from that camp. Despite such concerns, Kenya had embraced a liberal open-door policy towards refugees. Emphasizing the need for equitable sharing of the refugee burden, he said the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing must address the root causes of protracted refugee situations, the establishment of a comprehensive networked database on refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, the needs of host communities and financing mechanisms to mitigate environmental degradation in areas hosting large numbers of refugees.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said the situation of refugees had deteriorated. The war in Syria had been abused for political purposes by several States and Syrian refugee children were being exploited and deprived of an education in host countries. They were also being forced to marry early and abused in other ways. Turkey had used Syrian refugees to blackmail the European Union, he said, while the United States had used the Syrian crisis to keep oil prices down. He asked what could be done to stop displacement, stressing that the answer was simple: end terrorism.
KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) deplored the increase in displaced persons due to conflict, stressing that victims were mostly civilians. Financial support must be increased and international cooperation must be more efficient. Further, national authorities, international financial institutions and civil society must be integrated in the response to the refugee crisis. Tunisia had opened its borders to refugees. Progress was made to be more welcoming and efforts had been undertaken to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, she said, urging all sectors to work together for a better life for all.
Mr. AL BANWAN (Kuwait) urged the international community to seek solutions to the refugee humanitarian crisis. There was a need for more creative solutions and for countries to further accommodate refugees. He also called on international organizations to offer solutions to conflicts, stressing that there were grave challenges in Syria, where the international community had a duty to alleviate suffering. Kuwait had financed health and education programmes for refugee children in countries where they were located and also otherwise assisted countries where Syrian refugees found themselves.
Ms. BURAPACHAISRI (Thailand) said host countries, of which 85 per cent were low-middle-income countries, required funding to enable them to provide protection to those in need. Equally important was the provision of development assistance to host countries, and countries of origin, to tackle the root causes of displacement. While the prospects of return for many were bleak, Thailand was working with Myanmar to prepare for the voluntary return of displaced persons by promoting development in areas of return so people could contribute to their communities. Thailand also was working with UNHCR to issue birth certificates to all displaced children from Myanmar in order to prevent statelessness, having granted citizenship to more than 18,000 stateless people in the past three years, and improved its application process for Thai nationality, which could benefit up to 65,000 students registered as stateless.
ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said it was alarming that millions had been deprived the right to adequate living conditions due to forced displacement, nor allowed a safe and dignified return to their places of origin. She underlined the importance of the World Humanitarian Summit, stressing that Georgia had suffered the burden of forced displacement due to the occupation of 20 per cent of its territory for more than two decades. Hundreds of thousands of Georgian internally displaced persons had been prevented from returning home, even though more than 88 per cent wished to do so. Georgia was grateful for the UNHCR’s support and it was vital that its staff were given unimpeded access to territories and populations affected by the conflict in a non-political, human-centred manner.
Source: United Nations.